Friday, September 14, 2012

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp brought a welcome sense of unfamiliarity. The streets were empty at 10am and few places were open when we stepped off the ship to wander the streets. Locals stay up late and open up late. Dutch, French, and some German were heard in the streets. Mostly everyone also spoke English and delayed my eventual immersion in a country where I would truly be a foreigner in an unfamiliar country. Realizing people spoke at least 3 languages made me feel quite inadequate with my reliance on speaking English. I somehow managed to resist the first stop for waffles but my self-discipline quickly faded at the second waffle stand. (I proceeded to eat 3 more waffles during the week.) Wandering the narrow alleys of Antwerp, discovering a chocolate shop that served melted chocolate in coffee, and a big group of friends gathered together out in the streets for dinner and drinks before we all went different ways the next morning to explore different cities, some to Paris, others to Amsterdam, and some within Belgium, left me feeling charmed, fulfilled, excited, grateful, and on a slight sugar high. When we returned to the ship after dinner and drinks in the alleys of Antwerp, I sat out on the deck of the ship with my friend Claire, overlooking Antwerp on its way to sleep, and I felt a sense of peace about the journey, knowing I was where I needed to be, learning and growing. I have always wanted to get out of the box I might be putting myself in, or others might put me in, and this trip is helping me in both ways. The Antwerp experience continued later in the week after my trips to Bruges and Amsterdam, which brought a renewed level of excitement as friends returned to Antwerp with stories from traveling to other cities and countries. We shared our travel experiences with each other while wandering through narrow alleys and enjoying melted chocolate, frites, waffles, and Belgian beer. We discovered several restaurants and bars with magical interiors, including statues from cathedrals, large wooden tables, often tucked away in dimly lit nooks, and live music, where I discovered how good Trappist beer truly is, especially when served in the holy grail glass. (In Europe your beer is served in the brewer’s specific glass, a practice the United States needs to adopt.) Antwerp gave us the opportunity to get to know a less familiar country, explore beyond the port and travel by land rather than sea, and feel the welcome weight of multiple countries adding up, offering comparative thoughts, varying experiences, and more than enough memories for significant reflection on world travel.

1 comment:

  1. The mere fact that you are means you always have been and cannot stop being.