Home > Blogs > Robert Study Abroad, Spring 2007 > 15 March 2007 - Antwerp & Brussels, Belgium

15 March 2007 - Antwerp & Brussels, Belgium

Posted by admin on March 15, 2007

Brussels hosted the World's Fair in 1958. The stainless-steel molecule behind me (the Atomium) was the centerpiece of the exposition and has become a popular tourist attraction. But more about Brussels later. Telling stories is much easier when one starts at the beginning, so let me back up a few hours, to the beginning of my trip.

The tour bus departed Amsterdam shortly before 10 am, meaning that I had to be at the Delft train station by 8 am to be sure I got to Amsterdam early enough (the tour company asked for everyone to be 15 minutes early). So much for sleeping in on a Saturday...

The ride from Amsterdam to Antwerp (our first destination) was uneventful, but very scenic. Maybe this is a case of the grass' being greener on the other side of the fence/ocean, but I think that the interstate-like highways here are more scenic than in the states. They're definitely more picturesque over here. The two hours on the road is also about the extent to which Europeans can sit in a vehicle. I suspect that the reason is psychological, rather than physiological, and I found the situation somewhat comical. Most cities/towns are close together and pretty dense, so I can understand how long car trips aren't part of the normal European experience. For those of us in the Midwest, it takes a minimum of 3 hours to get anyplace "cool". These Europeans wouldn't be able to handle it.

The name "Antwerp" literally translates as "to throw the hand"...as in to throw the hand away (like trash). Legend has it that a giant (I'm officially in Europe now; they're whipping-out the mystical-giant stories) controlled the river running through the city and charged exorbitant tolls to the boats passing through. Eventually a young boy refused to pay the toll and ended up fighting with the giant. During the fight the boy cut off the giant's hand and threw it into the river, hence throwing the hand away.
We only had about an hour in the city to do some exploring, but that was plenty of time to find a chocolate shop (we were in Belgium, after all) and tour the cathedral. The cathedral was pretty interesting, and I took a lot of pictures.

Around 1 pm everyone piled back onto the bus and we rode the 45 minutes to Brussels. Along the way we passed by an old Nazi concentration camp from WWII. I forget the name of this camp, but the tour guide said that it was a "transition camp", meaning that prisoners were only there for a short period of time before being transferred to the more-famous camps such as Auschwitz.
When we arrived in Brussels the bus driver spend about a half hour taking us around the city. This is when we stopped at the Atomium (see the picture at the top of this post) and saw the royal palaces. We got off the bus a couple blocks from the train station and the guide took us to the main square. Once there we could either follow him on to one more attraction or part ways and return to the bus in a couple hours. Those of us who stuck with the guide got to see Manneken Pis, a famous monument in Brussels:

 




The stories behind this fountain vary widely, so I'm not going to try and elaborate since I'll most likely pick the "wrong" story to tell. Plus, I'm sure the stories you come up with in your imagination will be much more entertaining than what actually happened.
After spending a couple hours browsing through the shops in Brussels, everyone got back on the bus and we returned to Amsterdam. Being as Amsterdam was almost 3 hours away, we of course had to stop partway so that the Europeans could survive the trip.