ADSactly Travel - Driving Through Europe - Part#6
When did you last randomly pick a city to spend a day exploring it?
Mark and I have been thinking about going on a trip for a very long time and we finally got our wish granted recently, so we packed our bags and left our everyday routine behind for a while.
Can you guess how many European cities we visited?
Truth be said, it was Mark's sister Ana who takes the credit for our little European adventure: she invited us to visit her in Luxembourg where she lives.
The deal was the following: while she was working we would randomly pick a nearby city to spend a day there exploring.
The exception was Friday evening when we went to Amsterdam together and spent the night there. We went sightseeing the following day and in the evening proceeded to Antwerp where Ana joined her office colleagues for Jamiroquai’s concert.
We arrived round 10 p.m. and while Ana was letting herself go in Jamiroquai’s funky and jazzy style, Mark and I struggled to find the way to accommodation we had booked a few days earlier.
“Mark, you are driving us round Antwerp quite confidently,“ I tried to encourage him.
“I never said how impressed I was with you finding your way easily in Ghent, Brussels, Metz, Luxembourg and Amsterdam.“
“You know my winning combination: concentration plus satellite navigation equals wanted destination,” he smiled.
“I am looking forward to a bed, shower, food and rest.” He shook his head and closed his eyes for a split second as if visualizing himself already there. Which was enough for a wrong turn.
“And now what Mark? We didn’t book a room that far from the centre, did we?“
In less than an hour we reached our destination in total silence.
We entered a large covered lobby through the main door.
From the lobby, we walked to the apartment we booked. We found the key to our apartment in a box near the door that we opened with the code we received immediately upon booking.
The wooden floor welcomed us by squeaking. We turned the light on and stood for a few seconds at the threshold. We glanced at each other. I almost stopped breathing as if I was watching a scene from a horror movie. Only, I liked what I saw.
The apartment was a work of art. It was small, cozy, with high ceilings and a gallery. At the entrance, below the gallery there was a kitchen area with a dining room, adjacent to which the living room continued.
The shower cabin was a striking central motif that made this apartment special and different. Facing the backyard, between the kitchen and the living room, it allowed the curious passers-by in the lobby to see the person in the shower. As its walls were made of glass, the only guard against curious looks was a curtain that the person taking the shower could choose to pull or not to pull.
Good thing was that at least the toilet was well hidden beneath the stairs leading to the gallery where there was a double bed and a small desk.
From the gallery one had a controlling view of the living room with carefully selected furnishing.
The wooden flooring and a brick wall gave the apartment a warm ambience and the white color chosen as the finishing layer of the furnishing made the small space look brighter and bigger. Well-picked and well-arranged decorative items were well-integrated into a very pleasant set up.
“How about it, Mark? We’ll throw a coin, and whoever loses is the first to take a shower without a curtain," I laughed completely convinced that I could not lose the bet, not even daring to consider losing.
Ana arrived an hour after midnight. We were waiting for her wide awake.
“Wow, a shower in the middle of an apartment!“ were her first words upon entering.
“You know, this seems like a place I could live in.“ She commented further as she inspected every detail.
As we were quite tired, we soon fell asleep. The next day we woke up early. It was Sunday.
We had time until noon when we were ready to go to the airport.
Antwerp is one of the largest European ports. It is located on the estuary of the Schelde River. It is an important trading and financial center; the city is famous for processing diamonds.
That was the main reason we went to the port in the morning: to see Antwerp’s latest architectural jewel, the Port House. We were impatient and full of expectations.
The crystal structure of the building shone from the distance and we were attracted by its size.
“It looks like a gigantic space ship that emerged from the future and now hangs above this old building,“ Mark said.
“Architects are free to create the world of their own," I observed admiring the miracle of modern architecture.
"It looks so powerful and attractive," added Ana, while the three of us walked toward the building as if hypnotized.
The Port House was designed by the architectural studio Zaha Hadid Architects.
Recently deceased, the famous British architect of Iraqi origin, Zaha Hadid, is known for her exceptional architectural achievements around the world. Her prestige was confirmed in 2004. when she received the Pritzker Architecture Prize. This is the most prestigious award for architecture in the world. It is awarded every year since 1979. To this day, Zaha Hadid is one of two women ever to be awarded the prize.
After the hypnosis eased off under the blows of the wind and the first drops of rain, we headed toward the center.
“Look at that tall red glazed building. I'll park the car and let's see her up close," Mark said.
It was a new surprise of the Antwerp port.
We did not know anything about it. Not until we took and read a promotional booklet offered at the entrance.
We learned that it was a museum building, MAS, Museum aan de Stroom, which would be translated into English as the Museum by the River. It is the latest and largest museum in Antwerp, opened in 2011.
The exhibition collection of the museum is made up of more than half a million exhibits. Exhibiting motifs refer to the city, its development, and its place in the world.
We entered the building and climbed from floor to floor by escalator. Ten floors.
With each floor the view of the city grew wider. Finally, we came to the open roof.
The glass fence through which we captured the most beautiful sights provided extra security.
In front of us opened the 360-degree panorama of the whole city.
We walked on the roof of the building, enjoying the view from all sides. We could say that in a matter of minutes we were able to see the whole city, from a very special perspective.
After a while we started our way out, having fun on the escalator like playful children, photographing each interesting thing.
When we got out, we went to the center of the city, walked around the main square and sat down for coffee in a side alley.
"Time to go to the airport," Ana said, looking at her watch.
These words sort of shook Mark and me, as if we were intentionally trying to delay that moment.
We sat in the car, turned on the music and headed for the Charleroi Airport.
We knew that we were getting closer to the most difficult moment when we will have to break up and say good bye.
"Ana, thanks for inviting us to Luxembourg, it was a very nice stay," I said.
"Yes, it was great, sister," Mark looked at her.
"Oh, come on, I’ll see you again in no time," Ana said in a low voice.
Though she was trying to appear self-confident, in the next moment her calm demeanor gave way to shaky and emotional outburst, unsuccessfully hidden beneath dark sunglasses: "I’ll miss you. I’ll miss being awakened by the smell of morning coffee."
As we were approaching the airport, it seemed as if the music in the car was gradually smothered by our mind’s clock ticking off the last minutes of our stay. Not to speak of the hours that were lost in the kilometers we covered over the past few days.
We arrived at the airport, a place where some journeys start and other end and where we embarked on our new adventure, the adventure of getting back home.
We stood in the circle as our hands were intertwined in a tight embrace pulsating with strong emotions; with both joy and sorrow that roared like a hurricane above our heads.
Thus, the last second of our time together was consumed.
Do you still remember my introductory question?
Over eight days that this extraordinary journey lasted, Mark and I visited six different European cities. We covered approximately 2500 km of asphalt and 860 km of straight-line distance. It was also the trip with my lowest ever ratio of the kilometers covered and the number of photos made.
Half-way of the trip, namely, my cell phone “decided” to shoot every third photo without informing me of the new policy. The biggest shock occurred in Metz, when after a full day’s sightseeing, I had a look at the photo gallery and realized that I did not have one single photo saved.
I will remember this trip as the decision point to buy my first camera.
Authored by @lufcija
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