I have mentioned before that I live thorn between land and sea. I grew up relatively near the ocean, and Summer always meant endless time at the beach: as a child building castles and running in the sand, jumping around in salty puddles and jumping amongst small waves when the ocean allowed it; as a teenager making sure I was getting the best tan, but also investing in some sort of amateur bodyboarding because it looked cool; and finally, as an adult, both sunbathing, diving and swimming in the ocean when it allowed and having great walks until sunset.
A month ago I was preparing my first trip to Italy, more exactly Florence, as you have probably read on my blog. Low cost flights from London land on Pisa, and that was exactly what I did. It is really easy to get to Florence from Pisa. You can take a bus or the train. I took the train – there’s is a shuttle that will take you from the airport to the train station in a matter of minutes – called PisaMover – and the train to Florence takes only about 45 minutes!
Florence is where all the big masters were at some point, creating some of the most disrupting pieces that would mark an Era and change the paradigms of a world once emerged in darkness. For me, stepping on the grounds where the great master had once been was surreal. As I mentioned on my previous Florence post, I traveled in time, I smelled the wet and dirty medieval streets, and imagined I was living at the same time as Lorenzo de Medici, Il Magnifico, the great patron of Arts.
Every time I come back home from any trip, especially when that trip went really well and I’ve absolutely loved it, I find myself emerged in this kind of lethargy. I just sit down, scrolling through my photographs, reviving these moments I just lived. I think about what I have seen and experienced, and even though I only arrived a few days ago, it always looks like a dream. Like a parallel reality, or something that has happened light years ago.
As a fashion lover, not going to Antwerp’s Fashion Museum being in Antwerp (just Belgian style capital), would be a sin. And if you do go to Antwerp and you are indecisive about where to go, I must recommend this museum. Do go. Do enjoy. It is a small visit, but it would be worth it. It is a demonstration of great design that can also tell you a lot about Belgian culture. Fashion, as a form of Art, is surely a medium of values, attitudes and ideas.
Brussels was my last stop, where I stayed for 2 nights, not really knowing what to expect from the capital of Belgium. When you think about Brussels, I believe that one of the first images coming to your head is politicians in suits and ties, shaking hands in yellow smiles, European Union, the Euro, the Commission. To be honest, this doesn’t even interests me that much. Seeing the buildings where great, smart and stupid decisions are taken in consideration was certainly part of my route, but it was far from being a priority. I knew Brussels was the home of Rene Magritte’s Museum and that was one of my priorities. And I also really wanted to eat waffles – I had been smelling them all around Belgium without trying – and Frites, the famous Belgian fries.
Everytime I thought about Antwerp, my imagination would go wild. I imagined it as a stylish and cosmopolitan place, but at the same time keeping the essence of tradition. I imagined it beautiful and majestic. And I wasn’t wrong. As soon as I got to Antwerp I knew I was in a special place: the train station is magnificient, absolutely beautiful. Actually, one of the most beautiful buildings I saw in Antwerp.
After the Enchanted Bruges, I took a train directly to Ghent. I had planned to spend a morning in there. I knew it was a very small town – which I can confirm, it definitely is! – and I had booked a room in a hostel in Antwerp for my second night in Belgium.
I did my first real travelling solo to Belgium. Being able to get to Brussels by train so easily from London, finding nice prices and, best of all, having still some holidays to take off from work, I thought, what is stopping me? Not having company? Please, I’ve been used to doing things alone for a long time, and it never bothered me before. So let’s do this. Without giving much thought, I bought the tickets. Not going back now. So let’s see what can I do in Belgium. I really wanted to visit Antwerp, but my research shown me that Belgium was much more than stylish Antwerp. There were a few hidden jewels. So, after some hours reading fellow travellers blogs, I decided that in about 4 days, I wanted to visit 4 Belgian cities – Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels.
Bosnia is no travelling cliché and has never been one of my top destinations. I do defend that every single corner in this planet has its own special thing to see and experiment, and Sarajevo was never completely out of my traveling list, just in the very end of it. However, I had the opportunity to go there in work, and found a small city still quite marked by the war, but gradually flourishing into something new and unique, uniting different religions & cultures into one small place.