60 days… 11,000 miles… I am finally in Europe. I love Europe. For its small cars, its strange boxed fluids, for the myriad of languages (that I do not understand) heard in every corner and many, many other things.
We arrived in port on the 21st at about 1pm. I spent the morning consolidating the contents of the small duffel into the big backpack. After visiting with the immigration officers that came aboard around and showing them my passport, Eurail pass, and proof that I wasn’t broke, I was welcomed to Belgium.
I was able to call Yves, my host, from the ship and arrange for a time to meet at the Antwerp Central station.
30 minutes by cab and 41Euro later I was at the station. The timing was great and Yves walked up just a few minutes after I arrived.
Yves is an amazing and generous host, I can’t imagine a luckier turn of events than those that put me into contact with him. The first night he made me a traditional Belgian dinner complete with Belgian beer and then took me on a walking tour of the city center. Along the way we stopped into several pubs to sample more of the tasty famous ales.
There is no better way to see a place, especially a very old place, than with a local that truly enjoys it.
The next day I ventured out on my own. When exploring a city for the first time I tend to walk more than anything else. It gives you a street level view of many things and situations you would never see if you hopped on the underground and went directly to your destination. By virtue of my uncanny ability to head in the wrong direction I completely botched the directions Yves gave me and went for a very long walk. Instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken me to get to the Central Station I discovered a route that took me a little over 2 hours, which is absolutely fine by me! We figured out later that night that I probably logged somewhere in the range of 5 or 6 miles for the day.
Even though the weather has been overcast and wet, it is still a beautiful place. I’m incredibly happy to not be able to read the signs or the menus or understand what anyone says to me – until I make my quizzical “I’m sorry?” at which point they deftly switch languages to English.