7 Countries in 30 days. Step 5: Antwerp (Belgium)

Nei parchi di Bruxelles spuntano torrette pseudo medievali
In the parks of Bruxelles pseudo-medieval towers appear

I say goodbye to Elisa and I try to find the Congolese quarter of Bruxelles, but I don’t find it. I leave for Antwerp. Upon my arrival, a slight drizzle welcomes me. I walk fast (or at least how much my backpack of 15kg allows me) to search for the house of Aaron, the boy I met on the Couchsurfing website, who will host me tonight.

He opens the door with a smile, he is a nice guy. He is an engineer and he lives with other boys, who are away for a few days. Thanks to the map that I took at the station, he suggests to me a tour around the city. I follow a part of it and I arrive in the public garden at the edge of the center. Also here there is an old market which has been converted into a bar. With beer and grapes I rest my back on a comfortable sofa, reading my copy of On the road. I watch the children who, in front of me, are playing in swimsuits on a large square, from which water splashes, bringing refreshment from the scorching sun. Between the square and the portico of the bar/market, the children’s parents are sunning themselves.

La stazione di Anversa è una delle più particolari che ho incontrato
The station of Antwerp is one of the most particular ones I met
Strani musei ad Anversa
Strange museums in Antwerp
Quello di Anversa è il secondo porto più grande d'Europa
The Antwerp one is the second biggest port in Europe

A very blonde little girl sits next to me. I ring the little tortoise that I have on my pouch and she falls in love with it. Lying down on the sofa, she says something in Flemish, laughing and playing with the tortoise. We converse in two different languages, but we understand each other thanks to the smiles. Once I finished the beer, I stand up and I come back to the city center. On the road someone offers to help me two times, while I’m looking my map: not all the people from the north are as cold as they’re described.

After visiting a strange museum placed into an even stranger building – 8 floors with corrugated plexiglas walls – from the top of which I admire the ancient port of Antwerp, I stop in a square for eating a waffle under the sun. I come back home for dinner and Aaron offers me a flatbread filled with a mix of peppers, beans and minced meat. It’s really good. After dinner a girl friend of his arrives: she talks too much and in English/Flemish, so I often smile and nod without understanding what she has said.

A storm of half an hour – here the weather changes non-stop – cooling the air. We take the bikes to go to a music festival out of town. During the half-hour ride the smell of wet asphalt envelops me. The fresh air wakes me up from the slumber of sultriness I suffered during the day. Upon our arrival, a boundless meadow welcomes us: there are a lot of big tents and thousands of people. With a 10€ ticket, which includes 4 beers, we hear a concert of Bob Marley’s nephew, followed by a DJ set. Aaron disappears and, after some minutes, comes back with 3 beers. After the wine during the dinner, the beer after dinner and the other 4 beers drunk here, this one begins to be too much, but I don’t want to offend my host.

The ride back in the night helps me to digest the alcohol. Once at home I just want to sleep, but we spend another hour talking. At the end I’m so tired that I don’t understand anymore what are they talking about, and I start to dream about the sofa-bed. Tomorrow morning I have to leave soon: Holland is waiting for me!

Andrea Cuminatto

READ HERE THE STEP N°1: Munich (Germany)

READ HERE THE STEP N°2: Bayreuth (Germany)

READ HERE THE STEP N°3: Bruxelles (Belgium)

READ HERE THE STEP N°4: Bruges (Belgium)


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