Usually, my research before a trip serves me well. I look through guidebooks and then surf the net, writing down addresses of places I want to go and looking at maps to see how far each place is in relation to the other since I usually just walk. It has served me well in the past. Not so in Antwerp.
I had one day to myself on this trip to Belgium, so I decided to take a train to Antwerp and explore. I knew it was considered the World’s Diamond capital, and wandering through the Diamond Museum on a cold winter day sounded like a good choice. But when I got there, the museum was closed for renovation. I wandered down the streets of diamond retailer after diamond retailer, hoping I would at least see members of the Jewish population that I’d read about in my guidebooks, too. It was written that many of them walked around with briefcases handcuffed to their wrists. I hoped I’d at least see that. I didn’t.
So I kept walking.
I’d jotted down the address for the Freitkot Museum – a tiny museum devoted to the history of Belgian fries. I thought I might learn once and for all whether the French were erroneously credited with creating this delectable treat. But when I got there, I pointed up the stairs to the museum and the shopkeeper shook his head no. “Closed.”
I kept walking.
The Apothecary Museum was on my list, too. I wasn’t sure I was all that interested in seeing it, but I would at least be able to get in from the cold and see something. Except, of course, it was closed.
I didn’t have to walk too much farther to reach the square and the Cathedral of Our Lady, which housed several Rubens masterpieces. This will come as a shock: it was open! So I walked in and first lit a candle for my step-father. It was the fourth anniversary of his death. I’ve been lighting a candle for him whenever I visit a cathedral, but this time, emotion overwhelmed me and I burst into tears. It took a while for me to collect myself and by then I was too embarrassed to turn around and buy my ticket to continue on to see the paintings. I left instead and kept on walking.
There was no place left to go but the harbor. I walked down and looked at the only ship there and then saw the Steen Castle. I recognized it from my guidebooks. So I wandered over and thought, “At last! I’m going to do something in Antwerp!” But it was closed. Apparently has been for years. I circled around it, and headed back to the train station.
In the end, the only thing I found to do in Antwerp was walk.
Have you been to Antwerp? What did I miss?