I took the train from Brussels to Antwerp, and was absolutely stunned by the recent renovations done to Antwerp Central Station. I had always been meaning to go check it out (like when I was in Belgium over Christmas), but kept putting it off, and now I see I was quite wrong to do so. Newsweek even put it at #4 of world’s greatest train stations, and rightly so!
Original construction began in 1895, and the station had long been a terminus station, meaning that trains arriving on its 6 tracks had to reverse back out (not the smoothest of designs, especially considering the Paris-Amsterdam line runs right past Antwerp). Renovations began back in 1998 (while I was still living there), and the €1.6 billion project was finally finished in 2007. The station now boasts 4 levels… with more terminus tracks and through tracks built underneath the original 6. A massive tunnel was dug out under the city to allow the high-speed trains that service Amsterdam and Paris to also stop at Antwerp CS. The images I took cannot convey the beauty that this station has managed to keep, modernizing a magnificent structure without creating clutter and damaging its original splendour.
ps- the only other station I have been to that made it on Newsweek’s list is New York’s Grand Central (#2), and although yes, the main hall is magnificent, everything else is sheer crap. Antwerp Central Station makes Grand Central look like a bus stop. Visit it if you ever get the chance, they also do tours, which I now will make sure to do next time I’m there.
The day after Christmas took a trip to the Linkeroever (“left bank of the river“), the neighborhood across the river Schelde from Antwerp city center. I’d actually never been here before, also checked out the St. Anna Tunnel opened in 1933 which is a pedestrian/cyclist tunnel. Looking at them blue skies now makes me a little home sick, here in Shanghai its only ever “foggy” (smoggy).
That last picture is of my last meal in Europe, taken at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam. And so concludes my Belgian/Dutch holiday.
My roots lie in Antwerp, but many of my friends live around Brussels… so rain or shine (or snow), there is a lot of driving back and forth. Honestly, there is nothing better than snow on the ground and a rental in your hands. I just thank them lucky stars that my rental car had German plates, as winter tires are mandatory in Germany but not in Belgium.
The snow was amazing, all the years I spent in the Benelux and I’ve never seen such a blanket across the entire country (the south got up to 60cm). I was there for 10 days, and it snowed every other day… truly amazing. First white Christmas since the 60′s, and the most snow since WWII!
One morning I also went for a little hike through the Sonian Forest (Zoniënwoud / Forêt de Soignes) located just south of Brussels, which was simply amazing.
EXPOdition Pt. II
August 8, 2010 – 390,700 visitors
Thanks to the Israeli Pavilion, we got VIP tickets to the pavilions of Israel, Japan, France, and Spain. I also dropped by Finland and Belgium, and take it from me, you can skip the French one, unless you really need to see more pictures of Paris and have never seen a Citroën. Japan was interesting, you certainly don’t see a robot playing a violin every day. The Spain pavilion is a definite success, the wicker building, great cave-like entrance and then the infamous gigantic moving baby, something I will not forget any time soon.
Also pictured are the pavilions of Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and of course China. In my Danish Pavilion image, if you squint, you can see the Little Mermaid statue which was taken outside of Denmark for the very first time (unless you count all the times it has been stolen and vandalized; of which including 4 decapitations, an amputated arm, numerous paintings, and the addition of a dildo).
Those final images are from inside the Smurftastic Belgium Pavilion, another one worth visiting (without my bias). The Expo Axis (the massive tent construction in the images before the Smurf invasion) is the largest membrane construction in the world, whatever that means.
You will also notice all the water being sprayed in the air… temperatures hit 40C that day.
So I finally got my first taste of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, which opened back on May 1, and runs until the end of October. Took a weekday night ticket, in the rain, and there were still massive crowds (June 24th: 447,100 visitors)… I can only imagine what it’s like on a sunny weekend.
“Better City, Better Life” is the motto, and the site itself is MASSIVE (interactive map). This first trip was only through [part of] Zone C which houses most of the European Pavilions as well as Canada, US, and Africa. And to say the Expo has transformed Shanghai city life is quite the understatement:
- 41 billion US dollars were spent on preparations (more than the 2008 Beijing Olympics);
- 18,000 families & 270 factories were relocated;
- 190+ nations and 50+ world organizations taking part (largest ever);
- Expo site covers 5.28 km², also the largest in Expo history (which equals about 987 football fields including endzones);
- 10,000+ new Shanghai taxis;
- 6 new metro lines;
- 1.7 million volunteers were trained specifically for Expo help;
- 70-100 million visitors are expected to pass through the gates;
- metal detectors (nuisance!) in every subway station throughout Shanghai;
The image above (UK Pavilion) is just a taste of the CRAZYNESS that is to come, I took 397 images and am still working through them, so check back soon as I will be updating them below!