Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alluring Antwerp

Day 127
I got my act together pretty early and was out of the hostel and at the train station waiting to get to Antwerp in no time. It wasn’t a long ride. I had also managed to pick up a map in advance and soon had no problems getting to my hostel.

Right off the bat I loved where I was staying. It was completely laid back and the people were super friendly. The building was old and had definitely seen better days, but that was part of the charm. Someone had decorated it in witches and fairies. There was a painting of Adam and Eve with backpacks on. This is just what a hostel should be. The only thing I didn’t like was the beds. My mattress overhung each side of the top bunk that didn’t have bars. I was a bit worried that I would fall off.

Antwerp is bigger than Bruges, but there doesn’t seem to be as much to do. This is a town where people live much more so than Bruges, which was intentionally built to attract tourists.

On my way to my first site I stumbled upon a bookstore with tons of second hand English books. I could have bought half of them, if only someone else would carry my bags!

After my detour I easily found the Rubens House. Peter Paul Rubens was born in Germany in 1577. He moved to Antwerp when he was only 11. After apprenticing in Genoa and Rome he returned to Antwerp as the court painter to the archduke of Brussels. He also opened up his own studio at this time. For unknown reasons (to me anyway) he also worked as a diplomat. Rubens died in 1640.

The museum is in his actual house and where he had his studio. He created about 2,500 works here. Well, he would do the outline and the final touches, but his apprentices would do most of the actual work. A the house they gave me a massive booklet to read and I loved being able to learn about each of the paintings and much of the furniture. The paintings had either been in his personal collection or painted by him. Some of Rubens original furniture was there. This was pretty interesting because after his death the house had been cleaned out.

After dropping off my books at the hostel I headed to the T’steen, a fort on the river. It looks very much like the 11th century structure that it is. The museum in the fort was about boats, boring, so I skipped it.

After checking my email at a rather rude internet cafĂ© I took a short nap back at the hostel. I didn’t fall off of the bed. Eventually I got up and made my culinary masterpiece of spaghetti.

After dinner I headed to a nearby Irish pub to meet up with Karlien, a fellow bootie and a local. We spent a couple hours talking travel. Karlien has been to some pretty far flung places on her own. I will definitely be getting in touch with her in the future for advice.

When I got back to the hostel the people who worked there invited me out to a local jazz bar. I went, but was really quite tired and didn’t stay long. It had been a good day, just a rather long one.

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