|Location: Utrecht, Holland (back from Belgium)|
|Local time: Thursday, 7:30pm|
Belgium. Only visited Antwerp (or, more correctly, Antwerpen), but wow, what a beautiful city, with amazing old cathedrals, wide, cobbled streets, fashion stores everywhere, and the obligatory takeaway Belgian waffle shops (more like a hole in the wall) - but oh boy, such a great smell coming from those places! And the biggest damned central train station building I've ever seen. Very grandious.
I didn't try the standard Belgian fare of chunky fries with mayo ("Vlaamse Frites"), or even have a Stella Artois (it was waaay too cold for that) (instead I was wired on coffee, trying to keep warm), but I got some great photos and saw some great history and architecture. Even stumbled into Antwerpen's red light district last night (I wasn't aware that Belgium had such a thing). It doesn't really compare to Amsterdam's, but still very very bizarre and intriguing to see nonetheless - for this kiwi lad anyway.
Once, when entering a large cathedral, just inside the main door, a pitiful-looking middle-aged Turkish woman squatted on her haunches in a corner, cradling a blanket-wrapped baby in her arms, a small tin in front of her containing a few meagre euro cents. It was a startling site to see when entering such a magnificent, priceless, and overwhelming cathedral. It was kinda ironic and depressing. Saw the same thing again the next day on a city street.
Stayed at the NH Docklands Hotel, which was right beside the main Porsche dealership, so that added another fine aspect to my Belgian experience! Oh those 911 GTs!
The weather throughout my time in Europe has so far been exceptional, with bright, clear sunny days, averaging about 10 degrees C. But man, the wind whistling down those wide Antwerpen streets cuts right to the bone!
The Belgians speak Dutch, but with a twist, including accents on different syllables, and a soft G. I think I prefer the Nederlands accent to be honest. Apparently the Dutch think Belgians are a little dim-witted, whilst the Belgians believe the Dutch to be cheap or tight. Sounds similar to the love-hate relationship held by NZ and Aussie. Although here, it also includes the French and Germans!
My Dutch is improving little by little, day by day, to the point now where I can work out the subject of a conversation in Dutch, but not yet the details. (And I'm told I have a good grasp of the accent, so, lekker!).
HOLLAND, BEFORE THE BELGIAN TRIP
These pic files are on the heavy side, but it's all about quality right? Stay tuned for the Belgian photos in the next few days.
The Oudegracht, old canal, in Utrecht (very much a student town, like Dunedin).
and yet again. Pretty cool huh?
't Neude. Another square in Utrecht. (no, not me)
Het Koningsplein (King's Square) in Amsterdam. There's a hook/pulley system extending from the very top of each building, which is used to haul furniture etc up and down, since the stairs (in Dutch, "trap", funnily enough) are too small. It's hard to tell in this shot, but most of the buildings here lean forward slightly, so things don't scrape the building or break windows on the way up or down.
Rows of "fietsen", the primary mode of transport in the city
The Grasshopper, another of Amsterdam's coffee shops, with restaurant on top
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