Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 4 - Antwerp to Dendermode

Antwerp is a lovely city. I like Belgium, at least many parts of it. Antwerp sits pretty high on my list of places that would be good to live in.

After a reasonable night’s sleep and breakfast, we headed out with our bikes to explore some of the sites of Antwerp. The first stop was the MAS Museum. This building was quite different, in that it was half made out of hardened acrylic. I thought the look was quite beautiful, but others were not in agreement. The building had 2 types of siding: curved clear acrylic and reddish cement panels, each with a hand ornament embedded in the center. We took the escalator up the 8 floors to the top, with each escalator trip celebrating a different sport along the way. At the top, we were able to view the whole city from our higher vantage point. The day was to be another sunny day.
You can see the curved acrylic walls

We left the museum and ventured a short trip into the city streets where we found an entrance to an elevator that would take us down 31 meters (about 94 feet). From there we bicycled along a tunnel under the river and emerged at the other side. Some of us took the 2 escalators up to the surface instead of the elevator. The escalator was an old wooden one, with all of its charm. We emerged and were on our way to Dendermonde, which means the mouth of the river Dender. I had a good chat at this point with Manfried, who was on this ride with his family. He is an electrical engineer, who now does the complex processing to make colors for various plastics.
Heading through the tunnel under the river

As we headed out of the city, we came across some fat-ass cows. Okay, I am not just calling them fat-assed for nothing. In Flemish, they really are called “fat-assed” as their name. They deserved it. They looked like a cow from the front, but more muscular than other cows, but their rear ends looked more like a pig. We stopped for pictures and someone made the comment that the bull looked like Longa Wappa. We all laughed.
"Fat-assed" cows

For lunch break, we came to a terrific restaurant on the grounds of a castle. The 35 of us overwhelmed the servers, but we managed to get half of our order delivered: the beer. Our french fries made it to another table and never did arrive to us. Belgium french fries are delicious, much better than the ones you get in America. Typically, they are served with mayonnaise or some other sauce, instead of ketchup. We ate lunch with Tom and Rita and then saw the castle. Two years ago, there was no canal or moat around the castle, but recent construction was done to make it happen. There was a tower that used to house doves and even had an exit from the lower section of the tower for the dogs, who would protect the tower from predators. Apparently, you were allowed so many doves per acre of land and that was a sign of how rich you were, by the number of doves that you had.
Castle where we had lunch

The temperature was reaching the mid 90’s and we headed towards a town where Mercator was born called Rupelmonde, where the mouth of the river Rupel starts. There are 2 statues in this town dedicated to him, one as a child and another as an old man. He invented the standard mapping projection that is common today. This town also has many sundials as part of its character, including one that was painted on the side of the house. It only worked in the afternoon, as the sun didn’t see that side until then.
Statue to Mercator as an older man

From there, we headed towards the next coffee/beer stop, a quaint outside structure that would be older than anything in America. It was hot out, so the awnings were welcome. A couple of children on the other side of the street had fun with us, shooting water through a tube and trying to hit us. They were successful on those who wanted to be cooled down.
Sundial painted on the side of a house

The highlight of the day was definitely coming soon. We stopped at a house, which also served as a store. The couple who lived here made their own house out of various bricks and stones that came from Arabia. Each year, they headed to the Sahara and brought back a truckload of rocks and fossils, which they used for building the house and also making sculptures that were for sale. This place was wild, with designs such as a girl with a balloon to fossils embedded into the brickwork. Apparently, the mayor if the town would not put up with it anymore and ordered him to stop building, so he turned his car on the end and pushed it against the house as part of the protest. The only thing the mayor could do was shake his head and write a parking ticket. This was a highlight of this trip, for sure.
Some of the artwork embedded into the house

We finally made it to the barge and had dinner. Each day, we spent a lot of time sight-seeing and have a late dinner, followed by either a tour of the town, or a card game of “Chase the Ace”, or both. We can thank our New Zealand friends for introducing that game to us.
That's one way to protest

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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