Day 1: Antwerp
Since my Visa situation is still not resolved, we are trying to get me to see as much of Europe as we can in case I might have to go back to Australia in a few weeks.
On the long weekend of 2nd to 4th of January, Fem and I toured Antwerp and Maastricht. Antwerp is in Belgium so now I can say I have been to at least 2 countries in Europe 🙂
We took the train to Antwerp. The train system is pretty good here, although they have a first and second class. We were in second class which was not really any different. The first thing that hit me once we got out of the train at Antwerp was how massive the train station was.
There were 3 levels of trains arriving at the station. There was a glass cylindrical dome over the entire station. But the best part was the main concourse. It is one massive room, with very detailed and stunning statues on the walls and a gigantic dome for a ceiling. It would easily be about 12 stories high. Absolutely stunning.
So off we go to our hotel for the night. We learnt our first lessons for travelling by train: Always make sure the hotel is close to the train station.
We walked and walked and our baggage became heavier and heavier. We ended up in the Jewish section of the city. I have never seen so many Jews all dressed in black trench coats with black hats. Interesting to see. With our bags finally dropped off at the hotel, we walked back north into the main city to check it out. Naturally we were drawn to the main church in town. It was a massive one, as shown below.
It was pretty impressive inside. But again all these churches are very dark inside which make it rather tricky to get sharp photos without the aid of a tripod.
There were a lot of paintings inside this church. Some are rather well known. the most famous (according the church guides) is the one below. These are truly massive artworks. I have included a second photo with some people in it to give you a sense of scale. I personally know very little of artwork!
For afternoon tea we had some genuine Belgian waffles. They were yummy!
In one of the main city squares they had a medium sized ice skating rink. There were plenty of people skating away around inside it . I was not game enough as it was too packed and fast flowing and I knew I would be shit at it. The city itself is more densely packed that your typical Dutch city. Plenty of narrow alleyways and side streets and shops really clustered together. It was very pretty though. I did enjoy it.
It started getting very cold, so we decided to go and see a movie. We saw “Australia”, which I thought was ok. The battle scenes on Darwin could have been a lot longer.
One thing I didn’t like was you had to pay to use the public toilets at all the places we went to. About 40 cents a go. This is something I am not to happy with as everyone “needs to go” at some stage. It’s not like you have a choice. Although at restaurants or McDonalds you didn’t have to pay. Ah well.
Afterward we caught a taxi back to the hotel as we we didn’t feel like walking in the freezing dark night.
Day 2: Antwerp to Maastricht
We had a relaxing morning, followed by our free buffet breakfast in the hotel. We then headed back into the city to get some Belgium chocolates before we headed back to the train station. It was frighteningly cold. We had to be rugged up big time and walk at a brisk pace to keep warm. My face which was the only exposed area was going numb and I found it a little hard to talk.
The chocolates were very nice and cheaper than I thought. We slowly ate them over the next two days. Yummy little treat 🙂
It was a very sunny day, so the train station looked a lot better than the previous day so I got a few more shots while waiting for the train to take us to Maastricht.
This was definitely the most impressive train station I had ever been in!
The train ride took 3 hours and we had to change trains at a small town in the French section of Belgium. We were there for only 30 minutes but saw a lot of French complaining and whining so we were glad to get out of there and back into Holland.
Maastricht is the southern most Dutch city and is very close to both the German and Belgium borders. Our hotel was right next to the train station so we avoided any long difficult walks! Once we were set up we then head into the city.
We crossed the Maas river and into literally thousands of people shopping. Maastricht to me seems like a very stylish city with old architecture and lots and lots of shopping.
There was a carnival in the main city square so we browsed around there. There was a rows of restaurants and I felt like spare ribs again so we went to a place that apparently specialised in them. The dinner was yummy and afterwards we walked through the carnival again. There was another ice skating rink and yet again the temperature dropped like a rock. Luckily the 50D has very good high ISO performance so I was able to get these handheld shots with out too much motion blur.
Day 3: Maastricht
Yet another very cold day. We woke up and packed up and left our bags with reception and went back into the city again. Being a Sunday morning the city was deserted.
We didn’t have a free breakfast this time so we just had a cheapie feed at McDonalds. After getting some more shots of the bridges over the calm river we then explored the old fortified walls to the south of the city.
We went back to the Carnival and went on the Ferris wheel to get some higher view shots of the city.
Then it was off to the main church in town for some shots and sightseeing.
While it was indeed an impressive church, we both found ourselves quickly becoming “churched out”. So we didn’t spend as long as the other churches.
There were some interesting things though. I could swear the statue in the image below left has horns on him. Click on the image to zoom in and see if you if you agree!
Below you can see the main chamber of the church. There was a rather macabre image of Christ on the cross and for most of the stained glass windows in these churches are the traditional type. I noticed that one of them was rather modern. You can see the differences yourself by clicking on the two images below on the right.
After that and some more looking around, we had had enough. After a short walk back to the train station we caught a train and then a bus back to Waalwijk. Overall it was a great weekend away. Plenty of churches, cold weather, Belgium waffles and chocolates and fine food. A great time!
This weekend we are off to Amsterdam for the weekend. Stay tunes for more soon!