Doel is a small village in Belgium, on the border of the river Scheldt. It is an old village, with a rich history. Crumbling under the pressure of their ever-expanding neighbour, Antwerp Harbour, it is now heading towards a devastating end. But for as long as it is still there, it will be my favorite place for a lomowalk.
The story of Doel is a rather sad one. It is located right next to the river Scheldt. This is the same river on which the Port of Antwerp depends for all its activities. Being located so close to the largest harbor in the country eventually led to its downfall.
Doel used to be a lovely quiet village, in a very rural environment. That is, if you ignore the nuclear power plant on the left, and the harbor creeping its way in on all other sides. The village still has several historic buildings, including the oldest stone windmill of the country (constructed in 1611).
As is often the case with economically important sites, the port of Antwerp is ever growing and all consuming. Years ago, the Belgian government granted the harbors’ request to expend and claim new territory. Everything that was blocking the way would have to go, including the village Doel.
People were forced by the government to sell their houses and leave. Though many resisted for years, most inhabitants eventually caved under the pressure and left. But some stayed, that is, until a riot squad was sent and basically forced everybody out. For many years we tried to save the village, but to no avail. Today, this once so lovely town looks like a warzone, with houses knocked down and ruble everywhere.
Though the harbor of Antwerp got what they wanted — the expropriation of Doel — they never proceeded with their expansion plans. So after all inhabitants were forced out, and some of the houses were knocked down, the village was left abandoned and partly ruined. As such, it became the perfect habitat for two groups of expats: squatters and graffiti artists.
Though I have little love for the former, the graffiti artists are why I keep going back there. They seem to have taken over the entire town and have claimed every wall that is still standing. They gave some color to this broken village and though it is still sad, it makes for a great lomo-location. Every time I go back I find a new piece.
Hopefully some day the government will come to its senses and allow for us to reclaim our village!