When I decided to spend the Christmas holidays at the Netherlands, I did that knowing full well that I would have due assignments and an exam on my return. I’ve got an exam in three days, and the distinction grade that awaits me in that module would top up what has been an amazing holiday. After enjoying the awesomeness of the Dutch cities, we decided to stroll across the border into the famous city of Antwerp in Belgium.
Before I continue on this final article in the series about my vacation, let me bravely state that “Briggs graciously took me around Antwerp”. The preceding true lie in quotes was a requirement by Briggs, the same person who commissioned me to write an article for every city visited. You see, this guy would be hard pressed to win a fight against my left index finger, but somehow has the courage to issue orders because some persons call him “Brigadier Briggs” in his daydreams. That’s by the way. Let me talk about Antwerp.
The beauty of the Schengen area visa is that one can move around the countries in the region without needing another visa. Without this provision, I would have had to apply for a visa to Belgium. Luckily, Schengen exists, so we took a train to Antwerp Central Station. The two-hour train ride included a wait at Roosendaal to switch trains. When we reached Antwerp, the spirit of the station forbade us to step outside its doors without taking pictures of the interior grandeur. I can assume that anyone who enters that station for the first time would be annoyed if he or she were to have no camera nearby.
After taking pictures inside the station, we moved across the road to the diamond district in Antwerp. Let’s just say I have never seen that many diamonds in one location. Scratch that. I’ve never seen that many diamonds in my entire life. Since Femi had other issues to handle in Delft, it was Briggs and I alone on this trip. By the way, future wife please note this. Having learned from the Paris attack on Madame Kim, I would not risk your life by buying you any diamond trinkets. Thanks for understanding.
When we were done taking pictures of diamonds we cannot currently afford, we moved on to the main shopping district. The Meir shopping street is the centre for much of the shopping activities in Antwerp. We entered one imposing guild building to see its fascinating interiors. As in the train station, we couldn’t decide whether the decorations were real gold, gold-plated, or merely painted gold. For a city famous for diamonds, anything is possible. From there, we went in search of the Grote Markt, a square housing the city building and other guild buildings. Before reaching there, we came to the Cathedral of our Lady, an imposing catholic church. Just up ahead was the Grote Markt.
In the middle of the square is Brabo’s Monument, a sculpture of a certain Brabo who saved the people of Antwerp. The sculpture shows Brabo throwing an amputed hand, with the giant-like owner of the cut hand, likely dead, lying at Brabo’s feet. The hand throwing incident gave Antwerp its name. After taking pictures with Brabo, we went in search of Steen Castle, then St. Paul’s Church, then Rubens House, a museum containing the works of a famous Belgian painter. Unfortunately, the museum and some other sites we visited were closed for the observed new year’s holiday.
After crisscrossing Antwerp, Aquatopia was next on our list. Aquatopia, unlike some other aquariums, recreates the natural habitats of the animals it displays. The major highlight for the visit came when we reached the enclosure for reptiles. In there, after receiving assurances from an attendant, I carried a boa constrictor on my shoulders. One look at the picture Briggs captured of me and the snake, and I knew that every penny spent on this vacation was worth it, even if all I did was to take that picture. A friend saw that picture and said the smile “looks like fear, anxiety and uncertainty in a cocktail”. At that time instance, my vacation officially ended.
From Aquatopia, we continued our crisscrossing of Antwerp, noticing the police officers and soldiers positioned across the city due to the high terror alert level in Belgium. We finally found our way back to Antwerp Central Station to catch a train back to the Netherlands. Tomorrow, I’ll return to England. Two days later, when I write my exam on Risk and Reliability Engineering, I’ll make a note in my answer booklet that I took a risk to spend Christmas with the Dutch, and my lecturer should blame the Dutch for any question I don’t answer correctly. Or maybe the lecturer should thank the Dutch for providing an inspiring Christmas environment for me to read, since I know the risk exam is going to be sweet.