Sunday, August 28, 2011

Antwerpen and Belguim Chocolate

I was only going to be with Sonja and Martin for two and a half days, and of course they had to continue the German tradition of being overly generous. Every family that I stayed with just radiated generousity. I was VERY lucky. Both Sonja and Martin took the day off of work to take me to Belguim. Because of the European Union, once I entered a country in Europe I had free access to any other European country. I could have headed to Italy, Spain, France, anywhere honestly without needing another passport stamp or passing any border control. SO with a quick one hour drive from Aachen, Germany, I was in Antwerpen, Belguim. Of course the sign that you have entered Belguim is the lights. Every few meters of every stretch of Belguim highway has a light. Apparently these lights, which are visible from space, were highly expensive and, to most people, serve very little purpose.

I found Antwerpen to be very beautiful. Sonja had been a tour guide in her early career and had so much knowledge on the history of Antwerpen. The first stop was to the Rubens House Museum. Rubens is a well know and artistic painter. The museum holds many of his original pieces. Obviously, I was unable to take pictures of his work, but many pictures come up on google. I was able to photograph this garden. Rubens had painted this garden and several centuries later, this garden was developed to resemble his painting.

Next we went walking around the town. We saw the first skyscraper built in Europe, well on the mainland. England had skyscrapers before this one.

We also passed through the diamond district. It was Sunday so many of the stores were closed but a few have window displays for viewing the precious jewerly.

After walking we went to the Museum Plantin-Moretus Prentenkabinet. It was a printing press museum. It was amazing. It had so many books. The museum did a great job of showing the history of bound books. First it had many hand written books with delicate designs on every page. Later there were book written on papyrus. Some books had paintings on gold. Then there were some of the first leather bound books, and one of the first translated bibles. Then it opened into the original printing shop. There were twenty four presses that had been preserved. I got to see the individual letters that had to be lined up to create words. After the letters were lined into words, they were covered with a coat of ink and then pressed onto paper. The pages then had to hang to dry and were finally bound. I was able to watch a sort video about how every letter and symbol was sculpted in metal to be used with the press. It was such intricate work. Also creating one book took forever. I guess a printing press would have to be pretty sure the book was going to be a hit before they would be super willing to invest time to print it out.

As my short trip to Belgium was drawing to a close I dashed for some Belguim chocolate. The choclate shop smelled delicious. All of the treats were homemade on the second floor of the building. Let me just say it was all so delicous!

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