Sint Niklaas - The hometown of Santa Claus

Sint Niklaas - The hometown of Santa Claus

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2017-01-03 11:03 Fountain at walberg-castleTill I visited Belgium, I did not know that a town named Sint Niklaas existed. I knew that a town called Santa Claus is situated in the State of Indiana in the USA, but had not known that the Flemish town in Belgium is considered to be the hometown of Santa Claus!Located near the Diamond City of Antwerp, Sint Niklaas, skirted by river Schelde, has been existing since Roman times. It is said that consequent to the establishment of a church dedicated to Sint Niklaas in 1217, a town in Waasmuster came to be known as Sint Niklaas. The city flourished for almost 100 years. In 1381, a major fire destroyed the city, but the city limped back to its glory.From Ghent, I took a train to Sint Niklaas, and during the half-hour journey, I saw colourful tulip gardens.  During the journey, I met a Sardarji, who lived in Sint Niklaas. He informed me that the town has the largest market square in the entire country. He also said that in the past the largest Christmas tree and the largest Easter Egg in entire Europe would be erected in the market square.Naturally, my first place of visit was the Market Square, which is also the city centre. The cobblestoned square is known as Grote Market. In the 17th and 18th centuries, this market was famous for linen and wool textiles. This square is reportedly as big as Red Square of Moscow and St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. All the important tourist destinations are located around the square.   At the one corner of the square is the Church of Sint Nicolas. The church was built in 13th century, destroyed in the 16th century, and rebuilt in Baroque style later. Like all churches of Europe, this church has extremely beautiful paintings and architectural pieces.Walberg CastleTown HallSt. Mary Statue, Sint Niklaas Located in another part of the square is the Town Hall. The stately building with a bell tower and Carillion was built in 1878. The clock on Town Hall chimes beautiful music every hour. The hall hosts many city offices and at its entrance is a huge statue of Santa Claus. During my visit to Town Hall, I saw the beautiful hall where city councillors meet. It has lovely paintings.To the back of Town Hall is the Holy Mary Church. This church is also called Our Lady’s Church.  Built between 1840 and 1896, this church is famous for its 6-metre high gold gilded statue of Mother Mary. The church’s interiors are adorned with magnificent murals.There are two other buildings located on the grand place called Old Parish House and the Cipierage. Both were constructed in 17th century when Sint Niklaas became capital of the province of Waasland. The Parish House was the first town hall and the Cipierage was the first court hall of the city. The town’s Tourist Information Bureau is now housed in this building.Another attraction of Sint Niklaas is Mercator Museum. Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594), who was born near Sint Niklaas, was a renowned cartographer. The City Museum, where many instruments related to map making are displayed, was built in his memory. This museum has two globes said to have been used by Mercator. A giant statue of Mercator is located in the Town Hall.Santaclaus statueMarket Square It is said that emperor Napoleon visited Sint Niklaas in 1803 and gave the town its title. Every September, a hot air balloon festival is organised in Sint Niklaas. The festival commemorates the liberation of the city by the British troops from German occupation on 9th September 1944. Hot air balloons in various shapes such as motorcycle, car, beer glass and various animals compete in the race. A large number of tourists from all parts of Europe congregate here during this time.There is a beautiful castle called Walberg in the town. Built in 16th century, the castle is within a beautiful park which also hosts a huge pond.A quaint little town, which can be covered by walk, Sint Niklaas is worth a visit, especially by lovers of Santa.Author:Author in front of St Nichols  church Dr.Guruprasad joined the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1976. Before that he worked for a short while in Steel Authority of India as Management Trainee and Canara Bank, Bangalore as Vice Editor of the Bank’s house magazine.During his 35 years of Police Service, Dr.D.V.Guruprasad worked as Superintended of Police of districts, Commissioner of Police, Hubli-Dharwad, Head of State Intelligence, Head of CID, Head of Police Recruitment