Sint-Niklaas and Antwerp, The Joy in Belgium
So, I went to Belgium, namely the cities of Sint-Niklaas and Antwerp.
Arriving there I felt a little uncomfortable by the insufficient research I had done on the culture and the country in general. It was the last day of my finals when I traveled so it’s obvious I had little time to prepare myself. I usually prefer to know more than the basics when I visit a country, so that I can see and enjoy more.
Overall, the trip turned out slightly different from what I am used to, but the experience was terrific.
To begin with, we had amazing hosts. It was more of a business trip if I may and our hosts were the friendliest and most cultured people one can meet.
The myth that European people are colder in nature was busted for me in Belgium. I met so many people through our hosts that were extremely welcoming and sociable. The more I’d have stayed, I feel, the more friends I’d have made.
How different was it?
While in Sint-Niklaas I learned that Belgium is one of those countries where life is pretty comfortable. I also learned about all the Flemish-French issues. I reflected how such issues can exist in practically every country. Living in the Balkans, a conflict-ridden area, it is not difficult at all for me to understand the situation in Belgium. Read more about it here.
It struck me how lit the highways were and I was told that they’re even visible from space. Huh. It made me think a lot about costs and how some people in comparison to Belgians, really have no light at all (both literally and figuratively).
Sint-Niklaas and Antwerp, Different Sides of the Same Coin?! Or Not
Sint-Niklaas was rather small and it seemed very much like a nice retreat from other busier parts of the country. Antwerp was quite different; denser with people and just walking in the street seemed like there was much more going on. Apparently, Antwerp is the second most populated part of Belgium, after Brussels. It also entertains a vast array of people with different cultures, something I always appreciate in a city. Antwerp is also known for all the diamond circulating there, and it even has a “Diamond Office“; how fancy is that?!
As can be expected from most European spaces, there was a lot of architecture and possibility for sightseeing.
Sint-Niklaas is an 800-year-old city and it just has a kind of old historic feeling to it, but it is interestingly modern at the same time. The city also has an oddly gigantic square in the center which is used as a local market on a certain day. I embarrassingly missed the local market because of sleep. Hey, finals=sleep deprivation=self-forgiveness.
Food and Feels
Needless to say, I did have the anticipated chance to indulge in delicious food. The breakfast was so fine, every single day. I am a breakfast person so it meant a huge deal to me. From uniquely well done baked goods, to healthier options, I was honestly satisfied. We went to an Asian restaurant for dinner while in Sint-Niklaas and it was certainly on point. We also went to a Turkish restaurant the other day and they did our Balkan taste buds justice.
The Turkish community in Belgium is also grandiose, which is something I never complain about because I love Turkish food and most Turkish people just have the same vibe as people in Kosovo do. The people who are of different origins living abroad, really give me feels, nostalgia. I always relate in a sense because I know that they moved for better opportunities in life and that it takes sacrifice. It is very easy to get caught up in ambition and feel like leaving your country for a better chance at life is just a “good change”. But, it really isn’t easy leaving your home, because home is not only a location, it’s also people and memories.
What I probably most enjoyed about Belgium is the geographical position. It is right there in the middle, close to my favorite city, London, and also other important and preferred countries, the Netherlands, Germany, France…need I say more? Belgium is also quite small which makes it really easy to travel to all the countries (and city) I mentioned and really take in as much Europe (or not Europe for Britain?) as one can possibly want.
What Matters to me now?!
I believe I have left Belgium to return soon, but how soon I don’t know yet. It’s for sure that I have made good enough friends to feel at home when I visit the country, which is a goal of mine. Contemplating, I realized I want to earn more from my travels than pictures, sightseeing and a pill to wanderlust (although I certainly want these, too). I realize that the more I grow old (and boring?! haha), my target shifts and what I value changes.
I know now that what I most love about my travels is what I learn from people and how I can create meaningful relationships. Being able to gain insight from others’ experiences and what they have gone through, makes me feel much more mature. I have learned to actually attentively listen which is just an addition to the genuine interest I’ve always had on stories and people.
What I most cherished from my trip to Belgium was staying up late with our hosts and listening to all the fascinating stories they would tell. I heard so many touching sequences in Belgium and I hope to tell some in the future. But that’s just a promise I make to myself, to share as much as I possibly can.