True confessions. At this point in our excursion through Europe, specific details and facts associated with several of the 20-plus locations is at times becoming a bit of a conondrum as to what occurred at which destination. My best response, i.e., defense to this would render the aggressive traveling itinerary as the culpable factor—thereby generating sensor over-load and resulting moments of transient memory loss.
Before our Antwerp arrival via train, let me say this. We have been in and out of over 30-plus rail stations, crawling with frantic travelers weaving in and out of lines every which way, pushing and shoving to board in time—looking much like mice in a maze. Utter chaos.
That said, I will certainly and unquestionably, never ever forget the moment we stepped off the train at Antwerp, Belgium. We both looked up and literally sat our cases down and paused. The scene before us was stunning and MAGICAL!
The photo above does not even begin to represent the magnificence of this station. It is stately and majestic. Lights dancing off the mosaic glass arcs, gold-dusted pillars standing at attention lining the perimeter of the walls, hewn-stone arches capped with gilded, ornate pinnacles and marble flooring that goes on forever. We learned later that this station is considered “the most beautiful station in the world.” NOT surprising.
We exited the station and headed towards our Airbnb, tugging our packs behind us. We have purposely booked our Airbnb locations fairly near the train stations so that we are able to walk to all of our destinations. Though it sounds a bit dubious to rely on our legs to trek through cities, many positives result.
Relying on our legs for transport has had some very positive outcomes. You quickly learn the lay of the land and get a cultural sampling of the inhabitants who live in the areas where you will be staying. Let me illustrate.
As we approached our new “hood,” the type of businesses which were scattered down the streets were very telling. There existed the “Carrefour Express” marts, which were extremely small offering a few basic items, a couple of bakeries, and a scattering of miniature clothing and shoe stores. I started looking closer at the window displays and could not help noticing that all of the clothes on display were primarily black, with a few white blouses. All of the shoes in the window displays were black. I then saw a man walking towards us who was clad in black, including a black, lengthy over-coat, and sported some very long, curly sideburns (side-curls?) and a black “top” hat. We soon realized we had landed in another world.
As we walked deeper into the city, we concluded that we were lodging in the epi-center of a Jewish community in observing men dressed alike, women with head-coverings pushing babies in strollers, teens, and toddlers, all set apart by their dress and countenance.
Initially, there was a sense that we were invading their life space, but that quickly dissipated as I was intrigued by the behaviors in their daily lives.
As I have watched the daily activities of this people group from our 5th floor window, and surprisingly, have had reoccurring thoughts about their Hasidic Jewish religion and daily routines.
The above family picture illustrates what seemed to be common behaviors in families–the father’s involvement with the children, bicycles, and scooters, utilized for transportation, evening strolls to the local synagogue, and their return, often after nine o’clock in the evening, despite being a school night.
My initial response was to pity or feel sympathetic because of their adherence to stringent requirements to their exclusive membership and the limitations which seem to order their lives, with seemingly no or little deviation in their lifestyle, or exploration outside their communities.
I watched the small groups of men, women and children make their way to the neighborhood synagogue every evening for service, and return late, often after 9pm despite it being a school night.
The Jewish Hasidic lifestyle gave me great pause. I saw great Beauty.
These Jews most likely grew up in this system understanding and embracing the requirements being taught and stringent habits for daily living.
Their love and undying devotion to God would certainly be unquestionable, with ensuing expectations being modeled. This all would appear to ultimately yield a strong sense of purpose and identity standing against cultural whims and expectations, political upheaval, economical uncertainty, and transient values.
Perhaps my musings may be swayed by a tendency to like, okay love structure. Nonetheless, I am grateful for exposure to this unfamiliar, fanatical system, which I deeply admire and respect.
7 thoughts on “ANTWERP”
Wow! Otherworldly for sure! But so interesting! I love and appreciate your perspective!
Thank you dear, friend. I honestly I did not know I was going to write about this people group but thought so much about them as I watched them throughout the fews days we were in Antwerp. It was very profound for me. . .
That looks like a very pretty city and I’m glad you got such a perspective about it. It looks like you’ve been getting some pretty good B&Bs over there. Can’t wait to hear all about it when you get home. You are coming home right?
It was such a beautiful city and so eclectic! We are so grateful for the many wonderful accommodations and people we have met along the way. Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness in reading about our experiences. So kind of you–AND YES WE ARE COMING HOME!
I have enjoyed catching up on your travels today, and am remiss at how many weeks have gone by since I engaged. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy the way you write about each day and all the various encounters, whether they be of amazement, frustration, appreciation or even logistics. Such a fun read!! But you do leave me craving bread, LOL! Now I need to catch up on Ricks 🙂
All is well here in HB, but we do miss seeing your friendly faces.
Awww. . . so kind of you to even think about reading our blogs. Thank you! Hope all is well on your end. See you soon!
Again, what an amazing writer you are, Sherry! I almost hate you. 😉