Thursday, January 10, 2008

Exploring a new world

One of my friends from Nablo, Korie has moved from the States to Belgium to follow her heart. She's a very brave girl I think, moving to another continent and into a new world like that!
I should know, because I did the same, many years ago .... well almost.
You know, I was born in Bruges, and at the age of 23 decided to follow my heart too.
I moved from Bruges to Antwerp, which is not exactly the end of the world, it's merely the other side of the country. But if you live in Belgium, it feels like moving to Mars!
I had no friends or family here. The Antwerp Zoo was the only part of that city I had ever seen!
(By the way, the elephants were not there yet when I moved here
but this picture shows the Zoo entrance on the right.)

Antwerp was completely unknown and foreign territory to me.

Trying to find my way in that new city was something I had to learn one step at a time.
One street at a time.
Korie paints a picture comparing it to a jig-saw puzzle, and I can relate to that,
because that's exactly what it is. (Read her post as well, it's very well written)
We made long walks on Sunday afternoons, my husband would show me the statue of Brabo, the main shopping streets, the river the Schelde, and all those other places tourists visit.
We went to the market on a Sunday morning, using the metro.

And then one day, feeling very brave, I took the metro right in front of our appartement
to travel to the Meir, the major shopping street in Antwerp. I did that all by myself.
If you take the subway in London for instance, you travel under ground all the time.
Not in Antwerp. Most of it is above the ground, so you can more or less see where you're going.
But when you reach the center of the town, the trams go underground.
I had written the name of the subway station on a little piece of paper.
In case I got lost I would be able to ask directions.
Subway station Diamond would be near the station, my husband had told me.
The next station was called Opera, then Meir, next up is Groenplaats ...
I travelled all the way to the station and got of the tram at station Diamond.
I took a deep breath as I tried to find my bearings, but I was lost.
Moving around in circles for a while, locating some nice shops, yep ... that was it.
I decided to call it a day and I took the subway in the oppposite direction.
When I made it home again, I was feeling just a tiny little bit more confident!
So the next week, on my day off, I went through the same procedure again.
Crossed the Frankrijklei, (which is a big street) to get to the departement store called Inno.
And again the next week, only then I decided to go straight to the Groenplaats.
It's a big square not far from the town hall, and there are some very nice shops there too.
But I had not got a clue how to get there, so I took the subway.
The very last station was Groenplaats, so I knew I could not miss it! Yay, I found it!

It took me at least three months to find out that it was much easier ( and cheaper) to just ... walk! The Meir and the Groenplaats are at walking distance from each other, but I did not know that because I was travelling under ground in the subway all the time!
And whenever I got lost I took the subway and returned home again!
One fine day, while windowshopping I walked much further than I used to do before.
To my own amazement I saw the Cathedral, and I knew I was at the Groenplaats! Gosh!