Hidden Belgium: Einstein at the beach

Hidden Belgium: Einstein at the beach

The little beach town of De Haan is dotted with reminders of its most famous visitor. In 1933, the German scientist Albert Einstein stepped off the coast tram here to spend six months at the Belgian coast.

Einstein was in the United States when Hitler seized power. He returned to Europe on the Red Star Line ship De Belgenland, but decided, as a Jew, that Germany was too dangerous.

After the ship moored in Antwerp, he stayed briefly with an uncle and then with a professor who lived in Mortsel. The professor’s wife found Einstein a modest villa in De Haan (then known by its French name Le Coq-sur-Mer). He stayed there with his wife Elsa, his stepdaughter Margot and his secretary.

Einstein stayed for a few months in the romantic Villa Savoyarde at Shakespearelaan 3. The villa has an information panel outside with brief details of Einstein’s visit. Look up and you can see a photograph of the German scientist at one of the windows.

In 2006, the town installed a bench with a sculpture of Einstein in a little park at the end of the Normandiëlaan. It shows Einstein as he looked during his stay at the coast.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day. 

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