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Winging it “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” - Martin Buber, Philosopher

Belgium

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 25 January 2011 | Views [561]

Antwerp

Why is it that I have never tried Waffles? Maybe I have but they have never tasted so mouthwateringly delicious! Warm, light doughy texture with a delicate honey glaze melting on the tongue, this is truly a taste sensation! What a welcome to Antwerp. Actually, perhaps I should say the train station was a breathtaking welcome, it was as if the train had arrived in a magnificant palace. So much room and light in the streets as well, I felt as if the city could breathe, particularly after coming from Amsterdam.

I had high expectations for the oldest zoo in the world, being in the shadow of the glorious Centraal station and all and even scored the winter price ticket for E12.50 instead of the usual ~E20. After wandering around for an hour I was very glad of the discount as it was a bit on the lame side; small with few animals in shabby cement enclosures. Antwerp is, however, a good wandering city; fascinating operating port, fantastic neighbourhoods with unbelievable mixes of gothic, Nouveau and classic architecture thrown in together, super stylish people, diamond banks and an area densly populated with Orthodox Jews. When it rained they (the Jewish men) donned plastic bags over their hats which was quite a sight as you can imagine.

Brugges

Brugges is certainly a petite city but it feels more social than Antwerp and the people here are so friendly. I ask a group of girls I asked for directions to the hostel and they virtually grabbed my hand and walked me to the front door. Even the drunk guy the next evening made sure I was not lost while stumbling on the curb. Not all had the same reception, one of the other backpackers said that someone spat on him the minute he got off the train (gross). The vast central square is well used by locals and tourists alike and the horse drawn carriages are doing a reasonable trade even in this cold weather with patrons hiding under thick rugs for warmth as they trot through the streets. I was sitting in the square people watching when I heard a commotion coming from one of the side streets. As I turn around, about 10 teenage boys explode from the mouth of a street. Reaching the square, they split up and sprint up other streets followed by an older man in heraldic livery sporting a muscateer moustache . He faces a moments indecision at the intersection before deciding on one group to chase, holding his pants which were in danger of falling down and puffing mightily, they disappear in a flurry of confusion. Everyone watched their progress then continued on about their way as if this kind of thing happened all the time.

I walked around the town about 10 times then came to the conclusion that Brugges is probably a good place to do your laundry and have a quiet one.

 Hostel Antwerp: Hostel Boomerang. Reasonable location, fantastic if you are a smoker (but at least there were non smoking in the bedrooms). Cons - poor lighting in bedrooms, awful mattresses (I had to position my bones inbetween the springs) dimly lit smoky common room.

Hostel Brugges:

Lybeers Travellers' Hostel. Lovely staff, great location (a little difficult to find, but got there in the end), comfy beds, clean, industrial washers and driers available (yay!) Cons: none (yay!)

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