I think every Filipino dreams of going abroad for work, may it just be for a week or for months. Being sent somewhere to attend trainings, meetings, or even work also meant a chance to travel at the same time. That’s exactly what happened to me last year when I flew to the Netherlands and decided to visit the land of Belgian waffles. LOL.
I’ll be honest — I completely forgot to try Belgian waffles! So stupid, right? HAHAHA! But in my defence, I didn’t actually see any food stand selling waffles, or maybe I wasn’t just really looking hard enough. 😛
Antwerp, Belgium or Cologne, Germany? It was a tough decision to make because even though I can visit both, I knew it wouldn’t be wise because I’m pressed for time. I picked Antwerp just because I have a crush on this vlogger who happens to be a Filipino-Belgian. LOL. How silly of me! As soon as I made up my mind, I went ahead and booked a seat through FlixBus which is Europe’s largest intercity bus network.
I took the 7:30 AM bus to Antwerp and arrived 2 hours later. I do not know a soul, and I literally cannot see a single person in the streets, even the houses and establishments were all still closed — I started to freak out! I just thought that maybe it’s one of the many obvious difference between Asia and Europe. Asians start to hustle as early as 5 in the morning, while it’s the total opposite on the other side of the earth. But then I realised it was Sunday, and maybe that’s why everyone’s still indoors. I don’t know — I simply panicked and I’m no stranger to being so anxious when traveling solo, yet still travels solo.
I got off the bus and I didn’t expect it to be that chilly. You know when it’s super cold and windy at the same time that it gives you goosebumps? Yep. That’s how it was that time! And as usual, I was wearing the wrong garments and I thought, “Will I be able to stand the cold for the next 11 hours?” I didn’t let the cold bother me and thank goodness, it started to get warmer as time went by.
First place I checked out is the Antwerp Central Station – or ‘de Middenstatie,’ as the locals call it – since it’s few meters away from the drop off point. Now look at the details! It doesn’t look like a station, but more of a castle! I think every central station here in Europe is so on point, even the one in Amsterdam. I love how they put effort to infrastructures like this making commuting a whole lot more bearable.
I was supposed to get the Antwerp City Card, but it was sold out. I got super disappointed because having one gives you free access to their public transport, free entrance on some attractions like the museums and churches, and you can get discounts on some experiences. Having said that, I ended up paying for museum entrances which can cost up to 10 Euros or more. I also ended up walking the whole day which actually turned out really well. This is when I started seeing more people which really helped me feel more comfortable the whole trip. 🙂
There are a number of museums to see in Antwerp. Some of the best known are The Rubens House and the MAS | Museum aan de Stroom, which of course, I did not miss. There are also plenty of others which may suit your taste: historical houses, a fashion museum and several art museums. Here’s the list. A whole day is not even enough to visit all of them! And if you plan visiting each one of them, it’s best if you secure the Antwerp City Card so you can save a lot. 😉
“In the heart of Antwerp is the home of Peter Paul Rubens, the famous 16th-17th–century Baroque painter. For four hundred years, he and his work have been a source of inspiration and a reference. And to think that he created the bulk of his work in this house.” You may find the contact, schedule, rates, and some more details about The Rubens House here. Some areas are under construction since some parts of the house are being restored.
I’m not a savant when it comes to art and history, but those two never fail to fascinate me — and that is why I always try to visit local museums because there is no better place to learn about a city’s history than its own historic furnishings and sites, and objects of arts, right? It may never instil to me what I would learn in a day, but it will definitely make my visit more worthy and meaningful, just like the time I spent at the famous MAS | Museum aan de Stroom.
The MAS is around 9+ floors high, if I’m not mistaken, and was designed by the Dutch architetural firm Nuetelings Riedijk Architects. “It is the sum of many experiences: the museum rooms, the Visible Storage, the boulevard, the rooftop panorama, the museum square, the pavilions, the catering, etc. The MAS is alive outside of the building as well as inside.” I haven’t even entered the premises of the museum yet, but I was already amazed ‘coz imagine the stories each gallery holds in this place! And my friends back home came to mind during my time here, because they are more avid viewers and readers of history. They will absolutely love The MAS! More details here.
I was seriously having a good time until I realised that I’m lost, and I didn’t mind because walking towards nowhere actually lead me to these beautiful spots and to this open Sunday market. I’ve always wanted to experience one (the European version! LOL) as I only see it in photos or movies! It’s just so nice to see how locals are on their normal days — having beer in broad daylight, eating food that is new to the eyes of Asians like me, and selling lovely crafts which I can’t afford to buy. Kidding. LOL. This charming city is full of surprises and I love it!
And just when I thought that Philippines have the nicest Catholic churches, Antwerp showed me that they’re not just all about museums, but they have these timeless-looking churches as well! I’m captured by its beauty especially after seeing the St. Paul’s Church! Just WOW! Can I get married here? No kidding! HAHAHA! 😀
Antwerp, Belgium holds a special place in my heart. Aside from the fact that it’s the 2nd European country I got to see, it gave me this curiosity that urges me to pursue my travel around this region. I hope things work out for me so I can tick off more countries from my list. For now, this is where my European experience stops. See you soon, United Kingdom! Oops! I spilled the beans! 🙂