As the very first city I’d visited as a tourist after settling in Europe almost ten years ago, Antwerp holds a special place in my heart. Despite the damp cold of winter, I remember feeling wide-eyed and excited about being in Belgium for the first time, to have finally started seeing for myself what I’d long only watched and heard of Europe. We didn’t have a car to speak of then so we took the train and landed in Antwerp’s beautiful Central Station, decked in a bit of Christmas glory at the time, and I remember a darkly-lit picture taken of me standing self-consciously by the marble staircase in the lobby, which at this point is likely lost – or is it – in facebook’s servers after my deleting my account. Nine-plus years later it’s a totally different reality – we’ve been to Antwerp several times since, mainly by car, and been to Belgium more times than I can count.
Since I’ll be scouring Spain for two weeks starting tomorrow – unfortunately without Teko – he wanted us both to do something today, and given the most consistent weather was down south, he zeroed in on Antwerp, and consequently a trip to the zoo was born. Of the early trips we took I remember seeing the gates of the Antwerp Zoo as we came out of Central Station and thinking perhaps we could go there, not then but maybe later. So on this sunny Saturday, we took a mostly pleasant drive south over the border and enjoyed a day at the zoo.
We lucked out not only with the weather but with the crowds as well – there were the usual families with kids but there were many times when it felt like we were the few ones there. The zoo itself, amazingly right smack in the middle of the city center, isn’t that big but it is quite compact and the facilities though not modern looked well-kept enough, though the sad-looking chimpanzees would surely disagree. As for the crowds, the price tag for zoos here tends to make my eyes go wide so that could very well be a factor.
Seeing as the train station was next door, we went in to look around and the old girl’s as pretty as ever. After walking a bit, a late lunch, and stopping at the marble balcony, it was time to head back. It was a short, beautiful albeit tiring day in Antwerp and I couldn’t be more grateful. Thanks, schat for bringing us on a trip to the zoo — as well as memory lane.