Saturday, January 19, 2008

Belgium Adventure Part 2 - Antwerp

After leaving the Grote Markt, I started to walk toward the port direction to view the river. In addition, "the Steen" was there too. 'Steen' is the Dutch word for 'stone'. It was the name of the little castle on the border of the river Scheldt. The castle is called that way because it was one of the earliest buildings in Antwerp constructed with stones. The Maritime Museum was next to the castle but I did not have time to go inside the museum.

As I described before, Antwerp is the second largest harbor of Europe (after Rotterdam). There were quite a lot of ships along the piers. After walking through the "Steen" castle, I saw a big cargo ship docked right next to the wood walking path extended from the castle. I could see the staff of the cargo working on the docks. It was really quite interesting to see different a working cargo ships in that close distance.

The weather was really nice and sunny even though it was a little bit windy and chilly. But at least it was not rain so I could have a great view of everything. After the visit of the river, I walked back toward all the Grote Markt directions since there were lots of old beautiful churches worth visiting.

I specifically picked some back alley roads to avoid the tourist traffic on the main routes. From time to time, some houses would have an interesting statue on the attic or so.

I finally got to the famous Carolus Borromeus church. Due to the lighting in the church, my cell phone really did not take good pictures of the interior of the church. It was said that Rubens played an important part in the decoration of the facade and the pinnacle of the tower but especially of the interior. However, thirty-nine ceiling paintings, the work of his studio, were lost in a fire in 1718. The present interior, sculptures and wood carvings were all created much later.

It has started to get dark when I came out of the Carolus Borromeus church and it was almost dinner time. Since I was told that Belgium chocolate was one of the best in the world, I was wandering all the market place to sample and compare delicioys hand made chocolates from different shops. After some hard "shopping efforts", I finally bought enough chocolate for all friends, family and co-workers back home in Wisconsin.

And I was very hungry then as well. The lady who worked in the chocolate shop recommended me to try to the restaurant, "de Pottekijker". It had this cool candle stand cover with all the old melting wax that made it look like a water fall. I ordered a cup of hot chocolate first then fennel butter salmon. It was declious. Of course, the dessert was even better - the black berry, green apple, and passion fruit sorbets. That great dinner concluded my visit to Antwerp. I walked back to the hotel after the dinner to get some rest for the visit to Brussels on the next day. be continued.

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