The municipality of Olen, in the province of Antwerp, Belgium, has been my home for the past week or so.
Olen is quite small compared to its neighboring cities of Antwerp, Mechelen, and Brussels, and except during rush hour, you wouldn’t see a lot of people or cars on the streets.
One of the most interesting things I’ve seen in Olen, though, is the sculpture in front of its town hall. Consisting of three huge copper mugs (which they call De 3 Potten Van Olen), they serve as fountains during the summer season. According to my friend K, in whose home I’d stayed in, there’s a good legend associated with the copper pots.
An emperor called Charles visited Olen a long time ago to hunt. After a tiring day, he went inside a pub to buy beer (there are over 700 beers in Belgium!). The serving woman gave him a mug of beer, but as she was holding it by its ear, the emperor had a hard time getting it from her. “You should give me a mug with two ears next year,” he told the woman, and she promised to do so.
The following year, Charles came back, and true to her word, the woman served him beer in a mug with two ears. Unfortunately, it was heavier, so she held the mugs in both handles and Charles had again some difficulty getting it from her.
“Buy a mug with three ears next time!” he told the woman, and again, she agreed.
A year later, Charles again went back to the pub and asked for beer. The serving woman had, true to her promise, gotten him a three-eared mug. Unfortunately, when she gave it to him, she had the third ear facing her chest, and the emperor couldn’t get hold of it again. He left the pub, but the three mugs used to serve him are said to still exist until today.
It’s a funny story, but it totally captures the impression I had of Olen when I first arrived—innocent and yet with plenty of hints of its naughty nature. In the next few months when it gets warmer, I hope to discover more of its charms!
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