Our transfer from Brussels to Antwerp by train was not as simple a matter as Belgium’s extensive rail system and modest geographical area might suggest. It is true that the trains were frequent, but we had to wrestle with our luggage when elevators were out of service and some escalators between levels traveled only upwards. Once we arrived at Antwerp’s Central Station, most of the taxi drivers in the curbside queue disdained our patronage. They were reluctant to take us to our cruise ship because the docks were not very far away. We were rebuffed several times before we found a Senegalese fellow who agreed to drive us to our ship, albeit for an exorbitant sum.
Our guide, Karel, greeted us at the dock where the M/S Harmony was moored. Several broad-shouldered crewmen relieved us of our suitcases in order to deliver them to our cabins. Then they directed us the dining area so that we could have lunch, accompanied by our choice of wine. White-clad waiters beamed at us. I had relished our autonomy as we wandered around Brussels, but I was ready to relinquish control to our Grand Circle tour guides. After lunch, a shuttle bus took any passengers to Antwerp’s historic central district. Miri, HL and I joined them. The winding streets were dense with tall, step-gabled townhouses, many topped with the gilded figures of beasts, people or objects identifying guilds and other medieval enterprises. Within a few blocks, we found Baroque and Gothic churches, plazas with elaborate fountains, and even a castle beside the River Scheldt.
Tomorrow morning, our guide will lead us on a formal walking tour, so I anticipate learning more about all that I have noticed so far.
The River Scheldt, viewed from our cabin
This sculpture depicts Nello and Patrasche, from the maudlin novella, “A Dog of Flanders”. The ingenious piece is by Flemish artist Batist Vermuelen.
Antwerp's Grote Markt (Central Square), with the clock tower of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady) behind it
Het Steen (The Rock), a fortress completed around 1225, is the oldest building in Antwerp.