Antwerp

A brief trip to Antwerp before I moved out to Vietnam permanently. Antwerp is a Flemish town, about 45 minutes north of Brussels on the train. Much less touristy than the capital and the more well known cities of Bruges and Ghent, the action revolves around the main square and cathedral.

Cathedral

Construction of the gothic cathedral was started in the middle of the 14th century, and continued for well over 100 years. Originally it functioned as a meeting place, and had numerous alters for the various local guilds alongside the main alter.   The main tower is 123m high, a little smaller than Koln cathedral.  Because the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp is undergoing renovation, a number of the paintings that are normally there have been returned to the cathedral temporarily – they’ll be there until 2017, so now is a good time to go. Seeing the cathedral more as it used to be definitely adds to the experience, and it seems much less like a big empty space.

Tunnel

The St Anne Tunnel is a 572m long pedestrian tunnel under the Schelde, making it slightly longer than London’s Woolwich Foot Tunnel. It’s a long old way through the tunnel!

To get into the tunnel there’s a couple of flights of original wooden escalators. Don’t play on the escalators, kids!

The detailing in the tunnel is still the original from the 1932s – the distances are measured from the Antwerp end.

And on the other side? A council estate and a view of the city, albeit one obscured by the warehouse buildings in front.

Zoo

The zoo was fun, at least for us. It’s a little behind some of the other leading European zoos in terms of the sizes of some of the enclosures, although work is ongoing and I guess these things just take time. Still, one of their bears was clearly bored – I guess this shows that it’s not just the Vietnamese that are a little behind the times here!

The butterfly house was our first port of call, and was rather lovely. Clouds of butterflies surrounded you, and in some cases landed on us.

The monkey house had some signs in that might be considered a little risqué. Children – ask your parents!

And a cute family

And there were penguins!

Was it a good zoo? It was fun. With a few exceptions, the animals seemed happy enough. It was very busy on the bank holiday weekend, but the crowds did thin out as you got further round. It’s a little smaller than London Zoo, but still kept us busy for about 3 or 4 hours.

One thing to note – the food and drink prices were extortionate! There’s a convenience store nearby where you can buy a litre of water for a Euro. In the zoo? 2.90 for a Coke.

Part 2 – Coming Soon

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