After a short hop across the North Sea and a quick train from Brussels there was plenty of time to have a look around the city. My hotel was on a large square with a fantastic view of the Central Train Station and big wheel which turns all day just outside. The perfect place to start a stroll along the boulevards and busy streets of the city.
My eventual destination was the Zomerbar, a collection stalls selling food and drinks, located in the south of the central area. A slow stroll took around an hour, actually longer as a few stops to try some of the vast selection of beers available were included. It took me over two hours!
Beer is the beverage which Belgium is most associated with and almost every bar offers a wide choice of light, dark or wheat beers, most pack a punch with high alcohol by volume counts. Some as high as 8.5% were spotted today, it looks like I’ll have to get out and explore some more, purely to provide a detailed account of course!
With typical English understatement, I’ll describe the afternoon as hot. It was also quite humid, which meant there was good reason to hydrate often. This probably explains why almost every table outside every bar was taken, locals enjoying their favourite thirst quencher, whilst the tourists were almost certainly experimenting. It is a good idea to have a little chat with the waiter/waitress, they are knowledgeable and can explain the differences between beers and make some recommendations. I am kind of partial to blonds myself!
Antwerp is in the Flanders region of the country and is currently promoting itself as a festival destination with the slogan “Flanders is a Festival“. There is evidence of this everywhere, on the way to my own particular festival, I passed another two, one of which incidentally is a beer festival. Not sure there will be enough time to fit that one in.
On the train journey to, and now making my way through the city there is a healthy population of street artists. Many walls providing the canvas for the vibrant expressions of the talented. It always seems as if the character of a city is expressed in its graffiti; in this case it’s generally classy.
There is also a thriving cafe culture here as there are coffee shops strung out along most of the main streets and a few tucked away in the quieter areas. On this occasion I skipped them, but as they probably also sell great pastries, yet another sacrifice that will need making in the interest of research. It seems I might enjoy Antwerp, as first impressions go it’s impressive!
My route skirted around the historic centre of the city which is a slight shame but at least in means I have a plan for tomorrow.