Had a lazy day today waking up late, having breaky at the hostel (which was very good as has been lately with cold meats and cheese, cereal, bread – no toaster also as usual lately, hagelslag-yay, and fresh fruit), packing up and doing a lot of blogging. At around midday I left for the train station to get my train to Antwerp. It's about a 1hr ride all together with one change however for me it took 3 hrs with 2 long changes. I made it in the end though and found my way to the hostel which is in an old chocolate factory which is cool.
It’s a small hostel which was nice and quiet but with a big lounge and kitchen area and a tv where I got to watch some Friends. After checking in I headed out for a quick wander around the neighbourhood. It’s an interesting area with a lot of 'asian-african food and cosmetic shops’… weird. Anyway I did some grocery shopping for dinner, headed back to the hostel, watched Friends while blogging, made dinner and headed to bed.
Woke up early ish today to a help yourself to the kitchen breakfast, which for me was the usual vegemite toast and hagelslag. Mmmm. After breaky got ready to head out for the day. Today was mostly walking around the city looking at the sights and going to museums. Antwerp is small enough to walk but its not a short walk across the town. It has very different areas from the old town which is the European cobble streets and old buildings to the newer area with ugly buildings and strange people, to the African-asia area run by arabs as well as the jewish area, and of course there’s the diamond district and the fashion streets.
Very diverse you could call it. So my ‘self-guided tour’ today began at the hostel where I walked through the African-asian-arab area all the way to central station. Their train station is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, probably the most beautiful so far, too grand to be just a train station! Near the station was the ‘diamond district’ which includes the ‘diamond square mile’, an area full of diamond traders as well as the diamond museum which I visited. Almost 80% of ALL diamonds distributed anywhere for any purpose pass through Antwerp usually more than once in their lifetime. Antwerp is the biggest diamond trader in the world and it also has one of the highest rates of diamond cutting and polishing, with thousands of employees in the diamond business in the small city alone. The museum was very interesting and went through the stages of diamonds, the history of Antwerp and diamonds as well as finished products etc. After the diamond museum and the diamond mile I walked through a ‘rabbit park’ without seeing any rabbits at all, and to a big market square where there were markets yay! I wandered through the markets for a while where there was fresh fruit and vegies, cheese, meats, antipasto stuff like olives, tomatoes, nuts, dried fruit etc, chocolate, clothes, junk, and more!
After the markets I wandered up towards the old town and on the way went into the Ruben museum which is actually Ruben(the famous painter)’s old House. It was huge and gorgeous both inside and out – he was obviously very wealthy. After that I wandered up to one of the main shopping streets in town where I followed the people to a waffle store on the side of the street.
I was very excited – my first real Belgian waffle – I got the type from Leige that was rounded and a bit harder (compared to the soft ones as these ones have sugar inside them) and got it covered with melted chocolate – omg delicious! After I scoffed my waffle I popped in to have a look at a famous chocolatier which is in the kitchen of one of their old kings’ houses. They had an assortment of delicious looking chocolate but the best part was in the back you could watch them making it.
There were two guys making easter eggs while I was there which was really interesting as now I might know how to make big hollow eggs from stupid plastic moulds as that’s what they were using! (except they got their chocolate from a not stop chocolate tap and I have to use a microwave and attempt not to burn it!).
Anyway after that I walked down the shopping street, past the ‘farmers building’ which is actually the first skyscraper in Europe (obviously not very tall now comparingly), past the groen square with a big church, and to the fashion museum. Now I should probably mention an awesome thing in Antwerp – anyone under 26 gets entry into almost every museum for 1 euro (compared to the 5-10 euro everyone else has to pay) which I think should be everywhere! So I went into my 3rd
museum for today for another euro and wandered through the ‘living fasion – womens daily wear from 1750 to 1950’ exhibition by Jacoba de Jonge. It was a small exhibition with a large range of gorgeous oldenday clothing including beautiful big puffy dresses that people used to wear for doing the housework! It was very interesting and I loved all the clothes.
After the fahsion museum I made my way towards the main river that runs by Antwerp and I walked through the long pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath the river. It’s quite interesting to go through as it’s very long and actually quite old. On the other side of the river there’s a lovely panoramic view of the town of Antwerp which is what I went to see. I then walked back through the tunnel to the other side again and wandered along the river till I passed a gorgeous old little castle.
I then went back in towards the city to see the city hall which was pretty amazing not only because of the old building but also because of the numerous flags that hung all over the front of the building, and the big fountain statue sitting right out the front (however I was not impressed that they had a NZ flag up there yet no AUS flag – grrr). I then walked about 50m and was in another square with an even more impressive building. It was the city church that towered above every other building in the city (including the first ‘skyscraper’) and reminded me of the ‘duomo’ in Milan due to it’s architectural design.
By this time I had seen almost all of Antwerp and decided it was time to head back to the hostel. I walked to the nearest tram line (my feet were too sore to walk that far again) and after passing another old, smaller, but more beautiful on the inside church, I got the tram right back to the hostel. Here I watched some more tv, did more blogging, reheated last nights leftovers and had another early night (to attempt to stop this cough from turning into a cold :S ).