Day two, and I made more tourist faux-pas than I’ve ever done in a single day. It was hilarious.
I visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam before taking the train to Belgium. It was an excellent museum with lots of his work and also art by his inspirations as well as those that he inspired. And also my first faux-pa of the day. I’m traveling only with a small bag, and of course carried it in with me. It wasn’t until I was on the second floor, halfway through, that one of the security guards told me I shouldn’t have it, but he let me continue. And then on my way OUT, two others came and told me off about it. Ugh, okay.
No photos allowed inside but here is the proof:
So I bought my ticket in Amsterdam and ran to catch the train. I still had a couple minutes until the posted departure time but the doors were closing, so I ran and shoved my hand in the door, like you do in the US. Here they have green buttons that you push to open the door, so I was frantic, my hand closed in the door, searching for the button, and a conductor inside ran over and opened it for me and said something silly in Dutch. I laughed and went to find a seat. Later a different conductor came through to check our tickets, saw me and said “You’re the one that put your arm in the door!” I said yeah, and he said “Well that was stupid.” …. Yeah I know. I laughed about it with the lady next to me who said that anything we do that is illogical is “romantic.” I liked that idea.
After the train to Antwerp I took a local train to a town I wanted to visit called Lier. It has two world heritage sites including a well preserved “Beguinage” that I really wanted to see. There are 14 beguinages on the UNESCO list in the low countries, and I wanted to visit as many as I could. These are self-contained neighborhoods, always with a church and often with a medic and market as well, where women opted to live together-like a convent but without taking the vows of chastity or poverty. I’ve heard that some of these developed after so many men died in the wars, but I’ve also heard that they predate that. Who knows.
When I arrived at the tiny train station in Lier there was no tourist information-no maps or anything-and a long line of Belgians watching me. I walked all around and eventually saw a brochure on the counter, found a local map in it, took a photo, and then turned to get out. I went down the entire station pushing the doors, which didn’t open, I thought because they were locked. Nope, they were pull doors. I made such a spectacle of myself!
Anyway, off I went walking with my bag, and this was the prettiest place I’ve seen in awhile. After about 15 minutes he road opened up into the gorgeous central square with a Belfry from 1369 and other buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries. Just beautiful.
From there I wandered into the Beguinage, which was just so incredibly peaceful. I could have sat on the steps of the church for long awhile.
Eventually I continued walking past a bunch of other beautiful old buildings including the Astronomical Clock (which I think was taken to the World Fair in New York), the old City Gate/Prison, other churches and a gigantic cathedral.
I took more photos in an hour in Lier than my entire time in Amsterdam.
Then it was back on the train (I handled myself much better in the station this time), to Brussels.