One fascinating fact about Belgium is its two national languages--Flemish and French. Flemish is the predominant language of Antwerp and the rest of northern Belgium, and French is the language of the south. Flemish is the same as Dutch in the written form, but is spoken differently. Using two languages can be confusing for tourists, especially those who are driving, since cities are spelled differently. Most Belgians seem to also speak English, and German is spoken in the eastern Ardennes. This wouldn't be quite so unusual if the country were not so small!
After breakfast on the Amalegro, we had another excellent walking tour. Our guide walked with us for about an hour or so, and then we had free time until lunch. Like most tours, it started at 9:00 am. The first thing we noticed on our walk was the big pavilion on the dock left over from the time of the Belgian Congo colony. At one time, ships from the Congo would unload their exotic animals and products right downtown.
The tour included the Steen Castle, the Butcher's Hall, and the big market square (Grote Markt), which is dominated by the Brabo Fountain and Stadhuis (City Hall). The fountain tells the story of the legend of Brabo, a Roman warrior who slew the mythical giant who demanded a toll from anyone who was sailing on the Scheldt River. This legend may also link to the name of the city - Antwerpen. The statue of Brabo shows him holding the hand of the giant high over his head prior to throwing it in the river. Hand werpen (hand throwing in Flemish) eventually evolved into Antwerpen. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Walking through charming narrow streets in an old city like Antwerp is a wonderful way to experience Europe. Our guide even took us along one that is very narrow and perfect for listening to the afternoon carillon concerts. The tour ended at the magnificent cathedral, which has many pieces by famous local artist Peter Paul Rubens.
After lunch, many of us took an optional bus tour to Brussels. Others walked back into Antwerp to visit Rubens' home or to shop for chocolates, beer, or those famous Antwerp diamonds. The Amalegro stayed in Antwerp until 10:30 that night, so some passengers ate dinner in the city or tried some mussels and fries.
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