Antwerpen and Brussels

My schedule on weekdays again – Eat-work-sleep, Tick-tok-tick. clockwork ..

 

On Saturday, we had been to Antwerpen for the second time. We visited the Diamond Divas, a diamond exhibition. Tickets -15 Euros (which included a free ticket to the Mode Museum and Book Museum), worth?? 100%

This is supposed to be the biggest diamond museum of the world; they had displayed original diamonds from Hollywood movies, like Marlin Monroes golden diamond, diamonds worn by Kate Winslet (Titanic), Halle Berry, Monica Bellucci (Matrix) and many more. We also saw diamonds that belonged to Kings/ Queens from all parts of the world, many of which belonged to the Indian kings.

 

—The Diamond Divas, Diamond Museum—

 

After the diamond museum, we visited the other 2 museums; and as we headed back to the railway station, we heard ‘digchik’ music from loud speakers nearby. We followed the music; MTV had organized a charity fashion show A naked ramp walk. We had a nice time watching the ramp walk ;-)…

 

—One of the few decent Pics from the ramp walk—

Few facts for the travelers (Antwerpen):

Antwerpen, (also called as Anvers) is a harbor. The city is also the diamond capitol of the world, Anvers had hosted Olympics in 1920.

It is a nice and calm city, which has many big architectural buildings.Indians (Particularly Gujjus) dominate diamond business here (Overtaking the Jews, who used to dominate before). So, you can find all Indian glossaries here, including the spices, vegetables, fruits, pickles, dhal…

Places to visit: Diamond Museum, Antwerpen Zoo, City Railway Station, Harbour, and a brief stroll exploring around in the city.

 

Our next outing was on the very next day-Sunday, to Brussels. Our plan- Go to Brussels Zuid and do a bit of shopping at the Market. Then go to Brussels Centraal watch Grand place, Mannacans Pis and later if possible go to Atomium, Mini Europeetc. As usual we got up late, took train tickets to Brussels and reached Zuid Market at around 10. A crowded Sunday market it was, where you can buy stuff like electric gadgets, home needs, groceries, jackets, shirts, shoes, fruits.. I purchased a jacket for 22 Euros, and few gifts for my friends back home. There were a few Pakistani shops among them as well, selling stuffs at a very low price.

Then we left for Brussels Central, the main attraction here is the Grand place. It is a big open area surrounded on all the four sides by grand palaces, all the four sides have magnificent architecture. Whenever you see tourism video or an article on Belgium, the first thing you see is the grand place. After spending sometime in the Grand Place, we roamed around in the city till our stomachs started growling; luckily we came across an Indian Restaurant Feux-de-Bengale close to the Grand Place. We had a fine expensive North-Indian lunch overthere.. 

As we walked back towards the grand place, I saw Tintins paintings on the city roads and apartments.

 

—Tintin paintings on the apartment walls—

Tintin has been my favorite comic hero since my schooldays [I have a nice collection of Tintin comics and have read them hundred times]. We came across the official Tintin shop, and I bought posters and toys of characters from Tintin from there. We were told that the official house of Tinin was on the same street. And Herge (Author of Tintin series) stayed somewhere near.

Then we started looking for the Manakin Pis for a while searching here and there, and finally few travelers pointed us a direction, on following the direction, we found circle; we were confused where to go next. But on looking around we found that we were right next to the Manakin, it was just so small and on a small corner, we could easily have missed it if it had not been for the number of people around taking pictures. Manakin is a small statue, whose avatar keeps changing now and then, it pees all the time and sometimes pees on visitors.

 

–In front of the Manakins Pis—

After the Mankin, we walked till the Brussels palace along the Brussels Park. We saw the Automium from far off, since we were running short of time, had to prepare dinner at home, and also had a busy schedule at office the next day; we had to head back home without visiting the Automium.

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At the Netherlands

2nd week at Mechelen: Its hard to kill time here :), Cold weather continues, best thing to do here is sleep…This week I was a  lil busy at work though… Eat-work-sleep, clockwork This has been my schedule this week, on Friday we had a monthly-party at our office. But this saturday has been one of my best days of travel. We had been to the Land of flowers Tulip Garden-Kuekenhof, Netherlands and Amsterdam.

We packed our bags and started off early in the morning, to Mechelen Railway Station and bought weekend travel tickets (40 Euros for a roundtrip ticket) and headed towards Schiphol airport. It was a 2 hour journey. Schiphol is the official airport of Amsterdam. It also has a train station beneath and a bus junction just outside the airport.
Kuekenhof, being a major attraction in Netherland; it is well connected, there are Connexxion (Bus Number 58) buses from airport to Kuekenhof every 15 minutes. We get tickets to Keukenhof in airport for 19 Euros, which includes Connexxion return tickets and entrance to the Tulip Garden.

It took us 1 hour from airport to Keukenhof due to a huge traffic jam and we reached Tulip garden at around 11 am.It was a crowded place with travelers from all parts of the globe. Temperatures were around 5 deg C, thankfully bright and sunny, no rains.


——————-Tulip Gardens, Keukenhof————————-

Kuekenhof is an amazing place; the gardens are spread across 70 acres of land, like a paradise on earth, very beautifully crafted garden, nature at its best. Flowers everywhere, streams in between, lush green grass, big trees, ponds, fountains, birds, gardens and more flowers…. Keukenhof (which means Kitchen Garden) has a display of over 7 million flowers, including about 1000 verities of Tulip alone.

We spent roaming around in Kuekenhof till 4. Nice moments for me to remember would be, lunch on a lake side with ducks around, maze garden, wind mill and the mechanical jukebox machine. I took around 250 snaps and felt like I couldve taken more.

 

We left at 4 and reached Schiphol at 4.30, took a train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central.
A memorable inicident :-)* :  At the railway station restroom, people were complaining the toilets were too small. The ticket collector shouted back, Its big enough to f*** in there, go to the red light if u need more!! We looked at each other and said Woahahhaa..
We collected the Amsterdam map, which had all the directions to what we were looking for. There was a carnival near Tussads museum which looked more like an amusement park. I got into a scary ride, which looked like a flying trapeze, on which I was circled around hanging at around at 100 feet heigh. It was an entertaining joy ride…
Then we spent the entire evening roaming around in the city, visited some nice places, spent some quality 😉 time in Amsterdam.

 

——————————-Amsterdam———————————

Few facts for the travelers (Netherland):

 It rains quite often here so be prepared. But, Dutch hardly use umbrellas, they use rain-coats instead. Hmm.. Well this may be because Dutch love travelling on bicycles. It’ll be convenient for them to wear a raincoat rather than hold an umbrella while riding a bicycle Right ?. In fact, there are specially-designated bike paths next to the footpaths, all over the country, and pedestrians can not walk on them. [The same system is followed in Belgium as well]

About Keukenhof:  The Keukenhof gardens will be open only during March until mid-of-May every year. The garden also has Europes biggest Fountain. You need to spend at least 5-6 hours here.

 Amsterdam is one of the busiest and crowded places of Europe. Always be cautious here, and you might see people a bit unfriendly here (particularly the inhabitants), but not to worry you have good police patrols. Places to visit Madam Tussads Museum, and the boat ride across the city. Amsterdam, being the sex capital of the world, try visiting the red light district (if ur daring enough).

 

Enough of facts… Where was I, hmm…We strolled around all evening till around 9 PM and our legs started tiring. We got back to the railway station, but only to see that trains to Mechelen were cancelled. We had an adventure lined up for us !!!.

We got into a train which travelled till Rotterdam (Holland); from there we traveled to Roosendaal (Holland).

We were taken on a bus from Roosendaal to Essen (Rail Station in Belgium-Netherland Border), and train to Antwerpen, followed by another train to Mechelen. Return journey was quite an adventurous, amid confusion considering the fact that no one spoke English. We reached back home at 1, exhausted.

Lliving in Mechelen

I did a bit of shopping yesterday. I bought  a SIM card from Lyca Mobile. My mob number is 032493407948. I’ll call all my friends, once I get my mobile number registered ( I am allowed to make only limited calls, till I get my SIM card registered).

 

Beer is cheaper than Mineral water. Beer costs around 2 Euros for pack of 4 tins (33kL) and 500 ml mineral water costs 1 Euro!!..
We get almost all groceries that we get in India, including pickles. I opened my Bank account at Fortis Bank in Mechelen and bought a Buzzy Pass- Thats what you call a bus pass in Belgium.

At workplace,
On my first day, we had a welcome party at an Italian restaurant and I had my first shots of Belgian Tequila shot :)….Grrrrr.r.rr.rr
I’ve gelld well with my Belgian colleagues, everyone seem very friendly. I have been assigned work on a project called Iris, seems to be an interesting one :-)..
My office is also located in Mechelen, its in the northern part of Belgium. 
 

This weekend we had to report at the communal, apply for our White Card and complete a few formalities about our stay here. On Sunday we visited Antwerpen central, we spent some time on a Belgian Battle Ship and roamed around in the city. Weekend was good.

Destination Belgium

I boarded my flight at the Bangalore Hindustan Airport on 5th April at 9.30 PM. I had my transit in Mumbai. A long flight it was (12 Hrs journey it was); I met an Italian businessman on the flight. We had nice conversation.

We reached Brussels airport at 7.40 AM, I had to answer a few questions regarding my stay in Belgium to the Immigration authorities. And I collected my baggage, exchanged 1000 Euros worth Travelers cheque and came out of the airport to get a taxi and woala it was around 2 degree temperature. I felt frozen in no time. We hired a taxi (BMW :-)), and drove towards our new home : Mechelen. 82, TenderStraar, 2800 Belgium.

 

We were welcomed by my 2 colleagues who already stayed at that place. We spent sometime talking, had breakfast and decided to play cricket , [On a turf field which had a WACA like Pitch, which was called MCC- Mechelen Cricket Club ]; later we did a bit of shopping at Carrefore. Both of us decided to stay in the same service apartment and everything got settled here.

Weather here is chilled, around -3 to 8 degrees. Ive never come out of my thermals ever since ive landed here..There was a snowfall on Sunday but only for a few minutes. Sunrises at 6.30AM and sunsets at 9.30 PM here… Yes!! , we have sunlight till 9.30 PM. But if you come out of your place after 8, ull be frozen. We have room-heaters at every corners. We get 24/7 hot water in taps, and have thick blankets on beds. Time difference b/w IST is 4 1/2hours.