Friday, May 15, 2009

Belgium 2- Antwerp

View from outside the Hilton

Day 2 began for Sara and I when we woke up at 10am.  We were elated when we opened the curtains and saw a blue sky.  

In one of the main squares of Antwerp

We were only walking around the church when we heard that an English speaking tour would be beginning soon.  We jumped on that opportunity and were in a group of about 5.  Originally, we weren't planning on staying very long, but, the tour was so interesting that we stayed for the whole hour.  Much of the church is famous for the paintings that it houses.  There are three paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, painted in the early 1600's, that are the most famous.  

Our tour guide explaining Ruben's most famous painting

Another thing I thought interesting was that Napoleon was here and he wanted to move the church to Paris, brick by brick, because he thought it was so beautiful.  Although that never got completed, he did have all the artifacts moved to Paris (including the paintings).  Luckily, they have been returned.  In that period that it was not a church, it was a barn for animals.  

These oak walls seperated the two parts of the cathedral.  The carvings were incredible.

After the great tour, Sara and I were getting hungry.  Nearby we found a good looking restaurant advertising a 20% student discount.  Yeah baby!  We jumped on that and had a wonderful lunch outside in the sun.  It was very enjoyable.  Sara ordered a personal pizza and I got veal cooked with ham in a cream sauce.  We both agreed the food was delicious.


From there, we continued towards the river because we wanted to see the castle that houses the maritime museum.  This was a legit castle.  It looked like it was built for war.  We didn't get to go inside because it was closed for some reason.  However, we did get to walk around the outside of it. 

With the castle in the background

Infront of the castle

After the castle, we went and explored the city on our own a little.  We saw some spears in the distance and we headed for them.  The first turned out to be a government building, but the second was another church called Saint Paul's.  This church wasn't as large as the first one we saw, but, it was just as beautiful with its Gothic style.

As we entered, we saw a tour guide opening a door leading outside.  It seemed like he was doing it as an exclusive favor for someone.  We tagged along and what we found was one of the coolest things.  This excerpt is taken from another site:

"Inside the church gate, the Mount Calvary is situated, surround by houses from the beginning of the 16th century. It's a peculiar, spectacular open-air theatre of statues, built between 1700-1734.

It depicts the trial, torture, death and burial of Christ.

The Calvary garden was built from 1700-1734 and has 63 lifesized statues made of sandstone.

The idea came from two Dominicans who went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and came back with the plan of making a "little Jerusalem". 

The "road of angels" shows ten archangels that show the artifacts with which Christ was tried and brought to death: sponge, thorn crown, whip, cross, ladder etc.
There are 4 great prophets and 12 small prophets. It is very rare to see so many prophet statues together.

The old houses on the right hand side show the 4 Evangelists.

The Calvary itself shows Christ on the cross and also as being mourned by Mary Magdalena. 

Four pastors of the St. Paul’s church are buried in this statue garden."

Here are some pictures of that.  It was really cool and Sara and I felt lucky to get to see it.  It was almost as if it isn't regularly open for viewing. 

It is actaully built into the side of the church.

From there we proceeded to tour the inside of the church.  It was equally as magnificent as the first.  We didn't get a professional tour guide this time.  It was ok though.  The splendor of these churches just blows my mind.  I love the Gothic style.  I think that is the coolest style for a church.

After leaving this church, we went towards the train station because we wanted to go to the ZOO!  We had heard that Antwerp has a great zoo, but, first, we had to get homemade ice cream. It was delicious.

After the zoo, we went back to the hotel room to meet Chris for dinner.  He had sent us a message that said he was going out with his work for dinner.  We were on our own again, but, that was not a problem.  Sara and I went back the square in front of the nearby church.  There, we found a nice little Italian restaurant again offering a 20% student discount.  

We decided to eat here and it was one of the most relaxing atmospheres I'd ever been in.  We were eating great food outside in the sun, looking at a 600+ year old Gothic church, where Napoleon and other famous people had been, WHILE a violinist played near the entrance!!!!  It was like paradise.

The violinist playing outside the cathedral.

Our dinner.  In the upper right hand corner is the violinist.

After the wonderful meal, we went back to the hotel for a little while and relaxed while waiting for Chris to turn up.  It got to be like 9:30 so we decided not to wait for him any longer.  We went to a convenient store down the street and grabbed some good local beer that we brought back to the room.  We drank and watched TV.  An hour later, Chris came home and he joined us.  We ordered Pineapple Express and watched that.

Afterwards we went to bed.  We all got up at 7am or so and Sara and I caught a bus to the airport at 8am for our 10:40 flight.  We were debating between taking the 8 or 9 am bus and it was good we chose the 8.  The bus got stuck in traffic for a while and then getting through security at the airport took a long time.  However, after that, we made it back to Copenhagen no problem.

Belgium was a great trip.  I enjoyed Antwerp more than Brussels but that could have been due to the weather difference.  Either way, Sara and I had a blast touring the cities together.  We are great travel partners.  I'm glad we got to explore Belgium before leaving Europe.  Now, it is crunch time.

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