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So last week me and my roommate Mariana decided we should go on a trip during our “spring break” (this week) as a lot of other people were doing the same. Other people wanted to go to Paris but Mariana and I have already been so we agreed on Belgium. We rounded up 5 other people to come with us and boy was the planning process a headache, haha. When you get 7 people together who are all from different backgrounds and have different personalities, be prepared to agree to disagree. After the lengthy hours of planning we finally came to consensus and departed on Saturday, February 6.
Some of you who follow me on Facebook are probably wondering how in the world I managed to go on a trip and have school at the same time. Well, school actually hasn’t started yet, haha. It officially starts on Monday, February 15, but I did have a class that started last Thursday. Last week (February 1-4) HAN organized an International Week for all exchange students. We received our timetable, sat in on various lectures and visited the city of Nijmegen where the other campus is. This month in the Netherlands, and several other countries in Europe, a holiday known as carnival takes place where people dress up in costumes (similar to that of Halloween), parade down the streets, and get drunk, basically. However, we did not partake in these activities while we were travelling in Belgium, even though it probably would have been fun nonetheless!
The Antwerp central train station
We left for Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday, February 6 via FlixBus. It cost us around €13 and took us 3 hours to reach our destination. The coach itself was super nice and I was surprised at how cheap it was. The train would have cost us more so this was the easiest option for all of us. When we reached Antwerp we decided to check into the hostel which was pretty close to the city centre. The hostel was also very inexpensive and was comfortable for our 1 night stay. After checking in we decided to make a trip on foot to the city centre where all the monumental buildings were.
I’ve done my own research of the city since I wanted to know more about its history and what not. Geographically it is located in the northern most part of Belgium, specifically the Flemish region (or otherwise known as Flanders) in the province of Antwerp. The primary language spoken here is Dutch but it is a softer version compared to that of Dutch in the Netherlands. Like any language spoken in various regions of a country there are different dialects. Apparently the spelling and grammar is pretty much the same. The Port of Antwerp is known as the biggest in the world and was a target for the Germans in WWII. The Germans failed to destroy the port but did damage parts of the city which were rebuilt in a more modern style (pictures to come). Now, before I bore you with any more history, pictures!!!!
Left to right: Mariana (my roommate from Spain), Safon (from Kazakhstan), Juan (from Mexico), Paola (from Mexico), and Falk (from Germany)
Juan (left); and Falk (right) trying to figure out where we are on the map. Falk wasn’t the best at directions so Juan mostly led the way, haha.
Paola (left); and Mariana (right) also trying to figure out where we are. Everything is in Dutch so we actually have no clue how to pronounce any of the street names!
Safon in his Kazak accent, “I want to explore new territory”. Well we certainly did!
Just some pictures of streets in Antwerp…
A look inside the St. Carolus Borromeuskerk baroque-style church. It was built from 1615-1621 and finally completed in 1626. The church was known for its ceiling paintings but they were lost in a fire in 1718.
We then walked closer to the old city quarter where all the other monuments were and to eat some lunch.
We went to some Turkish restaurant for lunch and we all ordered a kumpir which is a giant stuffed baked potato. It was cheap too, around 8 or 9 euros and it was HUGE! I had one with chicken in tomato sauce and cheese. It was so good, and totally worth it. Haha.
This is the Cathedral of Our Lady. It is a gothic-style cathedral that began construction in 1352 and finally completed in 1521. According to research it was actually supposed to include two towers of similar height, but due to delay in construction, it was never completed to its original plan. The north tower (the tallest one seen in the slideshow) is 123 meters high and supposedly points to God as if it resembles a finger. We did enter the cathedral, but I did not take any pictures because there was a mass that was going to be taking place shortly after our arrival there.
If you’re like me and you have seen multiple cathedrals all over Europe they all start to look the same after a while. Nonetheless they are all still very different and beautiful!
This is the Grote Markt, or in English, “Great Market Square”. It is the main town square which features guildhouses, shops, and the town hall. The guildhouses are very picturesque in old cities like this, something I have ever seen before.
These are pictures I took that evening when we went back downtown in search of good waffles.
A beautiful looking building.
Modernization in Antwerp. As I mentioned before I am guessing this is one of the many buildings that was constructed after missile damage from the Germans in the Second World War.
The Steen castle (Het Steen)
“Het Steen” translates to Stone in Dutch. This fortress is Antwerp’s oldest building which was built from 1200 to 1225. The Het Steen was used as a prison up until 1823, and after, a residence, a sawmill, and a fish warehouse. It was once home to the Maritime Museum for several years but the collection has since been moved to another museum facility.
We stayed one night in Antwerp and explored most of the city ourselves the day we arrived there. The weather was okay and thankfully it didn’t rain while we were here. The next day we decided to go visit the fashion museum, or otherwise known as Mode Museum. It was basically a museum about shoes through history. It was interesting for some of us, but boring for others (yes we dragged the men to this).
To finish off this blog post here is a picture of a delicious waffle I devoured! It had melted Belgian dark chocolate with fresh strawberries 🙂
The rest of our journey in Belgium will be posted in a few days, so stay tuned!