"" Writer's Wanderings: A Day In Antwerp

Friday, April 21, 2023

A Day In Antwerp

 The day started gray and a bit menacing. All during breakfast we weighed the possibility of staying in or torturing our already sore knees and legs and feet by walking some more to explore Antwerp further. There were some excursions offered by the Uniworld guides but we didn't want to commit and cover much of the same ground we'd been over the day before.

There were two things left on our GPS My Walk app that we wanted to see and hadn't so we took a deep breath and donned warm jackets and started out. The first stop was the St Anna Tunnel. It was a bit of a walk and we'd actually been past it once before but didn't realize what it was. 

Reading the commentary we found that the tunnel was the preferred option in 1931 to building a bridge over the river Shelde to connect the two banks. Since a bridge would interfere with river traffic and navigation, the city decided to build a tunnel--under the river. I don't know about you but I'm imagining the engineering feat it took 92 years ago to construct such a tunnel. 

The tunnel is for pedestrians and bicycles and scooters of course. It extends almost 1900 feet from one side of Antwerp to the other connecting the old town with the developing new one. At a depth of 100 feet, I expected that it was safe from the ship traffic above.

We entered the building housing the escalators that take you down two levels to the tunnel. They are wooden and original to the building and are still in working order--well three-fourths we discovered were. Once at the bottom of the escalator, we entered a white tiled tunnel with a concrete floor. The tunnel was well lit and reminded me of a long hospital corridor.

Even in the tunnel you had to be careful of the fast moving bicyclists and scooter-riders who seemed to come in groups. We discovered that a large elevator would take groups of them down to the tunnel and back up again and at one end of the tunnel where we found that one set of escalators was out of order, it was the only way up or down. Of course at the working side, the bikes rode the escalator up and down. Not sure that was supposed to happen.

At the other side of the river we emerged into a whole different world. It was much quieter, less traffic, and there was a nice little park area behind the entrance building where we could look across the water to see our boat, the River Empress. We sat for a few minutes and pondered the skies that were still gray. There was no rain in the Weatherbug forecaster so we decided to set out for the Rubenhaus when we returned through the tunnel.

The house where Peter Paul Rubens lived and worked and had students who studied in his studio was a little farther walk than I'd anticipated. I knew it was closed for renovation. I'd searched it out before our trip. But I did not know the renovation would cover most of the front of the house. We found it, took our required picture to document our find and started back for the boat. Not bad digs for an artist.

On our way we discovered lots of very nice clothing stores and jewelry shops and other types of retail you would find in a nice shopping district. We had to stop a couple of times and rest weary legs that threatened to give out but eventually we made it back and collapsed on the bed for a few minutes before getting lunch. 

After lunch, Bob took a long nap and I caught up on some of my blog posts. Then came a seminar on Belgian beers by a local guide who explained how some of the breweries operated, including the monasteries who made special beers. Each beer also has a special glass that their beer must be poured into to drink. That means that a bar has to not only stock the beer but the glass it is served in as well. By the time he was done, I understood that not only are there wine connoisseurs, there are also beer connoisseurs. And I was wrong. There are not 300 different Belgian beers. It is more like 3000. No way are we taste testing them all. 

We sailed away from Antwerp as the sun was setting and we were having dinner. Dinner is a bit late for us starting at 7 and we're never done until 9 but it was nice seeing the sunset as we ate and made our way on the water. Sleep however was interrupted shortly after we went to bed when we felt several strong bumps. Bob jumped up and looked out our window to discover we were in a lock. I heard the water rushing in as it lifted the boat and then fell asleep as we sailed out of the lock hopefully to sleep through the rest of the night.

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