Monday, 28 July 2014

If it's Monday, I must be heading to Belgium (or What have I done?)

There really wasn't anything else to see in Eindhoven.  True, the famous Philips company is based in Eindhoven and they even have a museum dedicated to the company history.  In 1932, Philips together with the Dutch bicycle manufacturer Simplex (Simplex gear shift !!) produced an electric bicycle.  Then they pretty much produced all the light bulbs in Europe.  And if you still don't know who Philips is, you should look them up.
Because it was Philips who invented BOTH the CASSETTE TAPE  AND the COMPACT DISK (CD)!  But they want 8 Euros to look at the museum and that seems a bit steep to look at a few old cassettes and CDs.  And yes, it is also Philips who produces Sonicare tooth brushes.

Maybe the fact that there really isn't anything else to see in Eindhoven is responsible for the fact that a 2 day hunt for postcards ended without finding a single one. Sorry Mika!

Notice how Dutch Rail, Philips & Jumbo all use YELLOW?
I finally find a supermarket (take a bicycle if you want to find things) and it is part of the Jumbo chain that used to have a store in Cologne when I grew up there (Jumbo's expansion into Germany failed long ago).
Not only do the cashiers not accept the coins you hand them (you have to drop them into a machine similar to the Safeway coin return thingies but with an entrance funnel. The machine is linked to the cash register and computes and distributes your change), but they also sell a fabulous Spanish Tempranillo Rose for 4.60 Euros ;-)

Last night I made another attempt at finding the things in Eindhoven worth seeing or at least things that make a good photo subject.
Same church

Converted to B&W: this picture could have been taken when I was 5!
I visited Eindhoven's great water feature for the first time. The Canal that goes into the country side for quite some distance. Purpose? Maybe just to supply water to the small industry located along its banks.

I pick up my bike from the Fietsen parkade at 8 am, forget to take a picture of the inside again, and really don't know what else to do in Eindhoven.

Mr Philips in front of the train station

 We don't like elevators for train platforms either in Holland. But please note that strange rain-gutter-like thingie on the right at foot level.  If you place your front wheel in there and push REALLY HARD, your bike will actually end up at the top of the stairs (or you will end up in an emergency ward).

Still not quite sure how many people it would take to get a wheel chair up there in this manner.

Actually pretty as European railway yards go ...

I am so bored I board another train.  

So while I'm riding a train to Tilburg, we can clear up any questions you may have about the title of this post.  The title has been ripped off from the title of a 1969 movie called "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium".

Just before the train reaches Tilburg, the skies open up.  People at the Tilburg platform stand way back from the edge because the station roof is not wide enough. 

 I run through the pouring rain to one end of the train only to find out that there is no bicycle storage available and another cyclist already took the handicapped spot.  Back to the other end of the train I run through the rain.  Thankfully I find a vacant bicycle spot.

And while I wait sit dripping wet on my seat in a thankfully empty compartment, you may think about the fact that the poster actually depicts one of my final destination city's most photographed sites.

My stopover in Roosendaal is mostly uneventful. For me at least: an Arab-looking person had taken his shirt off and was arguing with the train station police.  When after a while I still was unable to find the washroom in this train station and decided to ask the cops, the man was wearing handcuffs.

And then I have reached today's destination: Antwerp.

The fact that the railway station looks like this from the INSIDE should tell you something about Belgian architecture.

My train arrived down the escalator. Trains arrive on 2 or 3 levels!

Posh architecture seems to have been the rule during Belgian Golden Times

Train station on the left and Zoo on the right.

One of the first thing I notice is that there are bike pick-up/drop-off locations EVERYWHERE
There is one right across from my hotel ....

I finally find my hotel (only because the shopping street near the train station has free outside Wifi), only to find out that I'll be staying in a monastery tonight. The 'receptionist' is all dressed in black and informs me in a grave voice that my room is not ready yet. This sinner got here 2.5 hours early!

I leave my saddle bags in the monastery (What is happening to me?) and steer the bike towards the touristy areas.  I decice to eat at the Restaurant 'de kleine Post' because they actually have Wifi on their outside terrace that the customers can access.  And this is where I meet the cousin of the long-ago-cooked fish of Indonesia restaurant. The cousin's name is Kip and it is the chicken in my 'curry' and it was cooked roughly the time of Moses.  My first impressions of Antwerp are not too overwhelming.  But they can get away with overpriced questionable food here because they sit right in the middle of all this architecture from some Belgian Golden Period.

The guy on the pedestal above is not exactly a warrior or general. His name is Peter Paul Rubens.                                                                                                                      The Cathedral of our Lady of Antwerp charges 6 Euros admission.  True, they have some Rubens altar pieces in there, but it's not like Newton is buried in there! And you can't even climb the tower!

Antwerp City Hall. Recognize it from the movie poster?

Then there are buildings from some newer period that make some people wish that the Belgian Golden Period had never ended. 
At first I was slightly appalled. But after seeing all the stuff below, I think I want to see it again !
 On the other hand, after seeing too much placid rivers ...

.... and confectionery-baker architecture ...

... and what consumerism does to it ...

... it's actually nice to see some brutal modern architecture, such as the Antwerp Police Headquarters:

Another rather unwanted surprise at 8:30 pm.  I try to call Grandma, as I do every evening at this time.  Even though I was assured that the telephone in my room would allow me to make outside calls, it does not allow me to call Canada.  Down to the reception I go.  It is closed.  Some other late-arriving guest uses the phone on the wall to call someone to the reception, who arrives 10 minutes later.  He is sympathetic, even lets me try the telephones in the reception, but no success.  

I offer him 20 Euro to use his cell phone to call Grandma, but being part of some or other order, he doesn't have a proper cell phone. He tells me to use a telephone booth, but quickly adds that they have been vanishing lately.                                                                                                                              Now would be the time for someone to reduce this monastery to ashes with lightning bolts !!!

Furious is not the right word to describe my state, but how can a monastery charge full hotel rates, and then not have any of the services that a real hotel offers?  I head to my room to do some research about remaining telephone booths in Antwerp when it hits me. 
SKYPE !!  I had installed it on the Sunshine Coast more as a joke to try to video call people.  How does it work again?  They want C$14 calling credit?  No problem, at least they accept Paypal.  Then there is some confusion because I can't find the proper spot to enter phone numbers. There it is. punch punch punch, dial dial dial, wait wait wait .... Grandma's voice coming out of my computer and she can even hear me ;-)

All is well, but so far Belgium has not been able to make it into the ranks of my favourite destinations or even into the ranks of places I could be convinced to go back to.

Tomorrow is Tuesday. Maybe the harbour tour (which runs every day EXCEPT Mondays, i.e. today) will let this city look a little less than one giant old tart with icing on top.

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