Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ET 2.04 - Antwerp, Belgium

Actual date of this event: 3 January

While staying in Brussels, the second of our day trips was Antwerp. By looking at a map, the town is about half the distance from Bruseels as Bruges is, but the train makes more stops and isnt as fast. It still took us about an hour to get to our destination. Antwerp isn't a very big city and we did not have too much to see, so we figured we could just wonder around. Unfortunately, the weather was the worst we had all trip.
The sights we wanted to see. This all changed because of bad weather.
One of the most impressive things about Antwerp is its central train station. It is an extremely large four level building. Three of the levels include platforms for a total of 14 tracks. In 2009, a flash mob was performed to the Sound of Music's Do-Re-Mi (click for video).

We headed down De Keyserlei which turns into Leysstraat which turns into Meir which is all a major shopping drag. I think we saw four H&M's along this street. We passed by the KBC Tower which is considered to be the first skyscraper built in Europe, but I wasn't able to get a picture without my camera getting soaked.

We wandered by the Cathedral of Our Lady. We entered to get out of the rain for a few minutes, but were unable to fully visit because we did not want to pay the entrance fee.

Next, we walked into Town Square which was empty. Usually, the main square is packed with people, but there were only a few hovering under umbrellas and hoods like us. City Hall is located in the square and there is also an impressive sculpture.

We walked just a few blocks west which put us right on the river at Het Steen (Antwerp's major castle).

After walking along the river for a few minutes, we decided to eat lunch at a restaurant rather than eat the sandwiches we packed. The rain was really bringing us down, and we needed a break. It was a huge mistake that I chose to bring my short rain jacket rather than my long one! Anyway, we ate probably the best meal over our whole trip in Antwerp. My burger was a double patty (which I was unaware of when I ordered and a group of business men stared at me when it was brought to the table). Luke ate a yummy pasta dish and was unable to eat the second patty of my burger because he was so full. Now, that's a good meal!

After bumming free wifi off of In De Gloria, we were able to devise a plan for the rest of our time in Antwerp. Our usual wondering around concept was not working for this trip due to the weather. And Luke put me in charge! Muuuahahahaha!!

Red Light District - This is probably the main reason I wanted to visit Antwerp. Reading about Antwerp's red light district sounded like nothing I had ever seen or heard of. Taken from Wikitravel:
"Like other cities such as Amsterdam and Hamburg, Antwerp also has its own red light district. If you want to visit, consider going during the day. When Villa Tinto setup, Antwerp's little red light district became Europe's most High Tech Brothel. If you intend to be a patron of the Red Light District, be wary of women who beckon you towards their kamers and invite you in without discussing a price. In many cases, these women will charge a greatly inflated rate once they have you inside their kamer. Even if you have no intention of partaking in the festivities, it is worth while just to actually see the spectacle that the district is. 200 women all in their own window dressed for action. It is also worth being wary of beggars in the Red Light District. While few of these are particularly hostile, they can be bothersome and should be ignored. Antwerp keeps a constant Police presence there, expect to see them. With the constant Police presence there is very little illegal activities..."
The area is like a three street triangle (click here for a website that has a map). Exactly as wikitravel said, every window displays women wearing very little clothes. I was the only female walking around outside. The streets were not packed, but there were a few men walking around. It was a little bit creepy, but I wasn't too uncomfortable due to the fact that Luke was by my side. We have yet to visit Amsterdam, and its RLD is apparently similar, even larger and in the middle of the tourist area. I didn't take any pictures because I wanted to avoid getting into a fight.

Next we headed by St Paul's Church was not open. So we headed toward St Anna's pedestrian tunnel. To get down to the tunnel, we took two escalators. Since it was built in the early 1900's, everything inside looks really old... nothing has been updated. Click here for quite a few more pictures.

One thing I had read online prior to our trip was an area that held legal graffiti art. Unfortunately, it was put to a stop a year ago and many walls had been covered up, and it is fenced off to make it more difficult to access.

We were pretty much finished with our trip, so we walked through the diamond quarter of Antwerp. It is the largest diamond center in the world with about 84% of the world's rough diamonds passing through the quarter. Most of the dealers are Jewish and Indian, but about 80% of Antwerp's Jews are in the diamond business. When we reached the quarter, it was very obvious that we were in the diamond district. Use your imagination since I was unable to take any pictures - sorry!

The central train station is right along the diamond quarter, so we determined the time of the next train to Brussels and made our way back to Brussels. We were very unlucky with the weather during our visit to Antwerp. I was glad I got to see the one thing I wanted to see, though.

Antwerp has a hidden street called Vlaeykensgang. We walked through it, and it wasn't that impressive.
entrance and exit


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