Antwerp: The Art of Getting Lost

The morning was gloomy and messy, and I got off the ship quite late. I crossed the road and stepped into the web of little cozy paved sidewalks, with cafes and bars yet to be opened, and dark ivy wrapping some of the walls. The Church of Our Lady, which is the main reference point here, was luring from the distance with its airy gothic features.

There were sidewalks wide and narrow, covered with pavement and tile, with graffiti and ivy and cracks in the walls. On one of the crossroads they had a fashion shooting; the bikers whizzed by like ghosts; the air was full of fresh river scent. Rare glimpses of sunlight underlined the age of the buildings, lighting out the medieval patterns and gothic features.
This city is full of smells, never ceasing to amuse the nostrils – of wet stones in the pavement, green from the little gardens, smoke and coffee from nearby cafes, perfumes of the people passing by, and something else, hardly intelligible, but very-very local. Antwerp drags you into the endless sidewalks, crossing and interrupting each other.
I started out when – at 10? 11? It was 9 pm when I came home to the ship. I made a huge circle around the city. Went into that famous cathedral and spent a couple of hours exploring MAS, a weird 10-stored museum of, generally, everything. Although the first exhibition I went to freaked me out a lot: the lady opened the door for me, closed it behind my back, and I found myself in complete darkness, accompanied by whispers and moans and rustles.
Some people are quite okay in the darkness. I am not. I stood there like an idiot, because my sense of orientation totally switches off in the dark. Gotta appreciate the flashlight on my iPhone… Right, left, right, left – uff, the light. The exhibition was about the perception of death in different world cultures.
Done with the museum, kept walking somewhere, found myself on the main shopping street. It was raining, and quite chilly in general, and I didn’t bring a scarf to SAS, which was not very smart of me. Popped into some store and got out with a nice woolen scarf. Life got way better.
May I just tell you that the train station, with which the street ended, is truly remarkable.
Kept walking and soon found myself in a naturally Jewish neighborhood which led me to a park. Now, can someone explain me what was that: the lake in the park was separated by a fence. Here and there orthodox Jews – men, women, and children, stood still, facing the water and reading something from little notebooks and books. All in total silence. And it’s Thursday!
Kept walking, anyway. Found a cute little restaurant that offered Armenian&Syrian cuisine (interesting combination). The waitress turned out to be Russian, studying finance at the local university…
Went on walking, now with serious concerns about my whereabouts. But the sense of orientation worked just fine that time and finally led me to the Church of Our Lady. The circle closed.
I crawled back to the ship, popped a double doze of multivitamins into my cup (everybody’s getting sick), and settled at the piano lounge to write this post. But, having an upset baby to the left and a loud movie from some guy’s laptop to the right, I think, I’m going straight to bed. Night.

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