Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Brussels a.k.a. Bruxelles

If I talk about the no. of my short trips abroad, I think Brussels will come on top. But as it happens in most of the cases, I don’t have many photographs to show you. Since the trips are very short (sometimes not even a week), they are always very tight scheduled and hence, most of the times I don’t carry my camera.

Not to mention, this post is mostly textual. Of course, you’ll get to see a few pictures shot by me on different occasions.

Brussels, the capital of Belgium and of the European Union, is the second international city in the world if we measure the number of headquarters of international organizations it has. About one third of its inhabitants are foreigners, mostly Islamic immigrants, business people and diplomats working for the many multinational institutions that are located here. The city is officially bilingual (French and Dutch), but almost everybody understands and speaks English. And, for your information, Belgian French is different from regular French just like Canadian French is different from it. :)

Brussels is very well connected to other parts of Europe by air, bus, high speed trains including Eurostar train via the Channel Tunnel.

Name:- The name Brussels comes from the old Dutch Brucsella or Broekzele, which means "marsh (bruc or broek) home (sella or zele)" or "home consisting of one room, in the marsh”.
Do you know besides being capital of Belgium, what Brussels (Bruxelles in French) is famous for ?

OK, here I’ll speak about only those places that I have seen.

First, it has historic market square known as Grand Place. It is said to be the most beautiful in the world. Not my views... I liked St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) of Venice more. About that, some other time. The square here is dominated by the magnificent 15th century Town Hall, with its hundreds of little statues. The most beautiful part of the Town Hall, the elegant tower, and surrounding buildings with their golden inlays. During season, the Grand Place is seen under a carpet of beautiful lavenders.
Every Sunday, the place is adorned by a picturesque flower market and during winters the central place is converted into an ice skating rink. It also is a venue for many concerts & events throughout the year.

Brussels is also famous for it's cuisine (this includes the most divine chocolates), has cafes and pubs that never close, and excellent restaurants.

Brussels has the highest concentration of restaurants in the world and a few minutes walk from the Grand Place is one street called “Petite Rue des Bouchers” (small road of butchers). It is famous for the fact that every house in this street is a restaurant. The street is closed for traffic and this allows the restaurants to exhibit some of their products especially sea-food and fish.
Belgium is also famous for best beer in the world. You can see a wide range of beer, including different fruit flavoured, which you may not have even heard of it. And mind you, they tend to be very strong (between 8 and 11.5 percent of alcohol !!).

Have you ever heard of a pee boy ? Well, before I came here for the first time, I had assumed Brussels is famous only for that !! It is a small bronze statuette of Manneken-Pis, a young boy peeing on the passersby. It is actually a fountain but it looks amusing when you stand under it to get clicked and it pees on you ! A perfect representative of the irreverent Belgian humour.

This is also situated a few steps away from the Grand-Place. The statuette is so popular that it is considered an emblem of the city. Traditionally, the Manneken-Pis is dressed for special events, and he has over 750 sets of clothes. I too have a pee boy made of the same metal, nicely standing in the showcase of our living room but luckily it doesn’t pee. ;)

Now come Japanese tower and Chinese garden.
Japanese Tower & Chinese pavilion are built to order for King Leopold II.

The Chinese Pavilion itself says a lot more about Europe in the 1930s than it does about China but contains some superb Chinese porcelain. The woodwork inside the pavilion is made by specialists from Shanghai.

The Japanese Tower is perhaps most striking from the outside but also contains some interesting decorative items. I have not gone inside this.

As always, click the photos to have an enlarged view and for more photos visit my web album.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Morning at Marine Drive

Taking a break from Geneva. Lots of pictures to be scanned and am really fed up with the quality I am getting even in 600 dpi which makes each one of them massive (over 100 MB per photo) ! Oh why have I started blogging ?

Anyways, most probably I’ll resume it in a week’s time or so. Meanwhile I thought of coming back to Indian scenario.

The other Sunday morning I just wanted to go out to a quiet secluded place. Not able to decide where to go, I took an early morning train to Churchgate. Since I am very fond of walking, started walking towards Marine Drive. Here are some pictures.

Sunrise at Marine Drive. This one is from the end of Marine Drive. One can see Colaba part in the background.

Can you guess what it is ? Does it remind you of anything ? Mumbai people, please keep quiet.

I walked the entire length of Marine Drive till the end. Because of tiling of this pathway and other construction work it was a little dusty.

It was nice to see a couple oblivious of this world spending some quiet moments. If you enlarge the picture, you can see fishing motorboats coming back after getting the day's first catch. Also, in the background one can see the Raj Bhawan area (governor's house). Banganga is very near to that place.

The lone boat trying to catch its share in the moolah. Can you see dull gray coloured quiet water ?

While coming back I clicked this. The other gate of Cricket Club of India.

Hmmm Marine Drive does look good. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lac Léman – Some pictures

Here are some more pictures of Geneva Lake called Lac Léman.

You might be wondering why there are two types (scanned & digital) of pictures on my blog. The reason is very simple.
When I reached
Geneva I had a still camera with me (I am a big fan of still photography, specially B & W photography). The quality of digital pictures are no match to still ones.
However, the ease of use and expenses involved are the main advantages of having a digital one. So, after sometime I also bought my first digicam, an expensive one and used it for 3-4 months. Then a colleague borrowed it for two days and lost it ! I decided not to buy another one for at least a year. Hence back to still camera. Some places I visited twice so you’ll have mix of still & digital pictures. Enjoy !! As always click on the picture for an enlarged view.

This was a ship always standing near the bridge. I think it must have been an old ship. Every weekend it was booked by locals to host some party.. full with music and wine till wee hours. If I get I’ll show you some pictures of nightlife on this ship. I am sure I have them somewhere. We were never invited though. :((

The lake is full of these lovely swans. They are just not scared of humans and eat anything that is offered to them like bread, croissants, fruits etc. In the background you can see people going towards Jet d'eau.

The water jet. It was always fun going near it as even from a distance, the sky touching showers always make you wet. If you enlarge the picture, you can see hundreds of sail boats parked near jet area. Also, can you see buildings in the back ground ? My apartment was in one of them.
Green on the left side is a huge park.

Standing tall and alone. The light house in the lake.

Quiet wintry evenings by the lake.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dreams or Nightmares ??

On my other blog I was tagged by Sigma. I was asked to describe my three dreams / desires / nightmares or a combination of them .. whatever I want to share.

Well, I have already posted about five of my weird dreams which are actually desires and I don’t see dreams quite often. The only two dreams that I remember are coincidentally related to travel, so I thought more apt to post them here as well. Here they go..

ONE - This was also my first dream that I remember and I still remember the exact details.

I was six years old then. My father was transferred to Bharatpur (Rajasthan) and we had already moved to that tiny quiet city. But within 15 days of shifting I dreamt that we had just got down at Bharatpur railway station.

It was a wintry late night and there was no conveyance to go to our place. Fortunately my father got two rickshawallahs from somewhere and we were ready to go to our place. He made me sit in one rickshaw with all the luggage saying I was a big girl now and could take care of luggage and travel alone ! And he, my mother and younger sister sat in another with some more luggage. Being a quiet child, I didn’t say anything but was extremely scared. On top of that my rickshawala didn’t know the route so was told to follow theirs.

I was feeling very cold in a pink lacy frock. I had kept an eye to their rickshaw which was racing ahead of us in those narrow lanes. Suddenly as the luck would have it, the chain of my rickshaw got stuck and he had to stop.
According to me he took ages to correct it and by that time the other rickshaw was nowhere in sight. We went left and right in some lanes but couldn’t find them. Street lights were not proper and at a distance some dogs were barking.

I started crying very hard.. so hard that I was actually crying in my sleep ! And then my mother rushed to me and asked whether I saw a bad dream. I must have been crying for long .. my pillow was all wet. I was relieved to see her and after telling her about my nightmare I clung to her for the rest of the night.

It was very strange to have such a nightmare because of several reasons. First, we had already moved into the city. There was no need to see going there again. Second, we never had to fetch a rickshaw for transferring our luggage..lol.. it was always big trucks with many helping hands to do the needful. Third and most important, at that age my parents would have never left me alone in that rickshaw.

TWO - The next dream is quite contrast to the above one. That was of my childhood and this is just two years old. While the first one made me cry this second one left me laughing out loudly. It is about air travel and is bizarrely funny.

Here also I remember everything including my seat no. but here I’ll keep it short.

I was flying high when suddenly our airplane exploded in pieces up there in the sky. Fortunately or unfortunately at that time I was sitting intact reading a magazine with my seat belt on.

When I felt a little cold, I looked around and found myself in the clouds. I could touch them. So, I tucked my magazine securely to read later, checked my seat belts... they were jammed.

It was a scene to watch.. me sitting comfortably on my seat, all alone plummeting down but feeling and admiring the white clouds.

I had a big grin on my face and I wanted to be there forever. I never bothered about other people’s fate though I could see some burning pieces of aeroplane going down. Then a few moments later I came below the clouds and within no time I could see the sea below with no sign of land anywhere.

Instead of worrying about my life, do you know what thoughts came to my mind ?

“Oh my God ! How am I going to swim to the shore in a sitting position with this seat stuck to me ? And the article I was reading is still incomplete !”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Geneva – Lac Léman

Without Lac Léman, Geneva is incomplete and without Jet d’Eau (Water Jet), Lac Léman is incomplete. They are both integral parts of Geneva. The city's most noted landmark, the Jet d'Eau is situated in Lake Geneva. Its 140-metre-high water column is visible from many parts of the city. This jet remains closed for three months during peak winter. Also, in year 2000, Geneva was awarded the Wakker Prize for its architectural heritage.

This freshwater lake is very big in size (more than 70 KM long) and spread to France also. A small part of it is attached to Geneva which is called Petit lac (small lake). The remaining part is attached to France. So, the ferries are another way to go lakeside French area. After a ferry ride of 10 minutes we are in France. As far as I remember the max. width of the lake is approx over 10 kms.

In this lake the main leisure activities are sailing, wind surfing, boating (including water skiing and wake boarding), rowing, fishing, scuba diving and bathing. And yes, swimming as well. There is a separate section of shallow water for children. It was always fun watching all these activities. As I said earlier, my first apartment was very near to the lake.. just 100 meters of walking distance !!

Almost all the people have their own boats which are ‘parked’ here and in weekends one can see them coming in cars, parking the cars alongside and take the boats for rides to other places to spend the weekend. I felt so jealous of them at that time. :)

You can see the parked boats and

the parked cars along the lake.

Water jet is in the back ground in both the pictures.Click on them for enlarged view.

The railway track along the lake provides a scenic beauty to long distance train travelers. More on that in some other post. :)

The path or promenade along the lake is very wide and long just like we have in Bandra bandstand or Worli sea shore in Mumbai. But compared to that, these two are very small stretches, both in width and length. People of all age group come there regularly for jogging, walking the dogs and most importantly skating. The weekends were busy with skating competitions and stunts. But the whole area becomes extremely cold during winters.

The petit lac portion is so small that we used to walk along the sides to go to the other side (crossing a bridge) where we had our favourite ice cream kiosk ! The distance is hardly 2 kms. [ Around CHF 2 for an ordinary vanilla/strawberry flavoured cone :(( ]. CHF is the Swiss currency also called the Swiss Franc in English speaking countries.

In this picture you can see all – The Jet d’Eau (water Jet), the place where I stayed and my favourite ice-cream shop.

The world famous Geneva festival (a post will describe it later) happens along the lake and on the last day there are splendid fireworks right in the middle of it.
I have at least 200 pictures of this lake alone. I can speak on and on about this lake as every weekend I used to go there for strolling and I remember every tree/corner/building of that area.
Only one thing I missed out (that remains in my wish list). To read a novel lying leisurely on a free boat on a sunny afternoon near Jet d’eau.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My first apartment in Geneva

When I landed in Geneva I moved into a fourth floor apartment of this building but in a month’s time I moved out. Reason ? I have described below. Please don’t laugh, my reason was very peculiar and a simple one. First something about the apartment.

It was a three bed-room apartment with a large living room, a small store room, kitchen, a full-fledged bathroom (without the commode) and a separate toilet. There was a passage in the middle and on both sides there were rooms. Here is the map (not to the scale), just to have a rough idea. Click on any of the pictures to have an enlarged view.

Now the reasons.

First (which was my official reason also), it was far from office. Office being on the other side of the lake, I had to take two buses or a bus-tram-bus combination to get there.

But most important, genuine and basic reason was, that the toilet was sans a water tap !! Only a tissue holder.
It was just a small toilet with no water connection and between bathroom and the
toilet there was a small room.. all the doors were opening in the passage from right side. On left side there was kitchen and other rooms. So if one wanted to use the water in bathroom, he had to cross more than half the length of the passage to go to bath. Ha Ha.. With all strangers around, one can very well imagine.
Now while I am writing this post, it makes me laugh at the stupidity but I needed water, if not on all days then definitely on certain days. I somehow managed there for a month then opted out.
And mind you, this is not only in
Geneva but I think the whole of Europe has same funda. Even in Lille (France), they have similar dwellings. Hmm.. one more secret is out. :)

This was the only solace for me in that unknown city. The lone Indian shop just below my building. And in the whole year I never saw this shop opened because of my odd office timings. But on regular intervals the objects displayed were changing, so I can’t say that the shop was non-operating or an abandoned one.

Once I saw Bindi packets being displayed for CHF 2. Almost Rs. 64/- for what we get for Rs 2/- in India. I immediately knew what I am going to do if I am bored with my current job. Sell Bindis in Switzerland !!

CHF = Swiss currency called Swiss Francs approx Rs. 35/-

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Reaching Geneva

Geneva, my first on-site city. It makes me smile, for, it has given me countless nice memories. And it is like my second home after my India.

Mumbai-Amsterdam-Geneva. That was the route I was taking. Though I was traveling alone, unlike many first time overseas travelers I was not nervous at all. I was excited. New place, new work and new challenge. I just wanted to run away from Mumbai because it was mid August, raining horribly and I hate Mumbai rains and roads.
At the airport all usual questions were asked.. who packed your luggage, are you carrying a knife etc. I had a suitcase and a rucksack besides my handbag. No hugging/kissing/crying and last minute advice for me as my family was in
Delhi. Only people came to see me off was the family I was staying with.

The flight was comfortable and on time.. nearly 8 hours to reach Amsterdam. I didn’t have any difficulty with seat-belt, overhead indicators or closing/ opening of washroom door. I knew all. The only thing that really irritates me is blocking of my ears and when the airplane decides to descend at a speed which starts hinting you through your stomach to say your final prayers.

I slept for sometime as next day was Monday and I had to report to duty (Ohh how much I hate my SBU head for that). The connecting flight from Amsterdam was in 50 minutes, so not much time wasted there.
Geneva airport one of my seniors had come to receive me.

After waiting for good one hour for my luggage (there were many like me), I came to know that due to overloading at Amsterdam, my suitcase along with many other passengers’ was held back, to be sent within 24 hours to Geneva. They said this was a normal practice due to heavy traffic within Europe.

One can imagine my predicament as within two hours of landing I was supposed to be in office and there I was standing confused in jeans and a Tee without a single set of extra clothes with me !! However, I had learnt my lesson, after that started carrying one set of clothes on my person.

The Geneva airport is very small compared to other international airports like Frankfurt, Sydney, Singapore or Amsterdam. I found it extremely clean and shining. In fact whole of Switzerland is so pure and clean.

Can you see those painted small birds at the ceiling ? Restrooms are on the right.

Come out of the arrival section and you have to pay for using the restrooms. That’s what I also did. My first use of foreign currency abroad was for using this facility. But I didn’t mind paying because they had kept it absolute sparkling clean and dry. Going from India to Switzerland, everything looked so good and beautiful. :)

The airport has an underground railway station from where frequent trains run to Geneva city and other cities of Switzerland and neighbouring countries. Come out of the building and you have bus service connecting to different parts of Geneva.

But we took a cab (first time in my life I sat in Merc, In Geneva most cabs are Mercedes Benz) directly to the place where I was supposed to stay with other colleagues in a rented apartment, very close to the lake.

I looked outside and smiled. The weather was wonderful. Geneva was welcoming me with open arms...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Switzerland, the heaven on earth and to me the land of milk (jahan doodh ki nadiyan behti hain) was the first country that I visited for official work. I was posted in Geneva. Initially the assignment was planned for just three months but as we neared the completion of my stay, fortunately (for me) or unfortunately it got extended twice to make it a trip of around one year.
So, I took this as a lifetime opportunity to see the neighbouring countries as well. Which ones ? You’ll come to know. :) Be a regular and watch this place. And no, don’t think I was on a relaxed job there. Working for around 60-65 hours a week does take its own toll. So, whenever I could, I made it a point to run away from that dead(ly) schedule and fulfill my passion of seeing the world, of course on my own expense.

Since it was quite a long period in Switzerland, I will talk about all I learnt about this country. Its people, culture, cities, mountains, festivals, transport, utilities, education system, survival of fellow Indians.. for that matter everything. As I said earlier, I am not writing this blog to send some tourists to these places; instead these are my recounting which I intend to treasure and cherish.

I think I am going to have innumerable posts on Switzerland. After all, my many firsts are associated with this.

In between I’ll take you to tours of other places as well. :) For this one year sojourn, you’ll find both kind of photos - scanned (taken from still camera) and digital pictures.

Before I proceed, something about Switzerland.

When people say Switzerland is heaven on earth, they are not wrong. I have been to many countries but never have I seen such a beautiful place. This country is much more beautiful in real than all that we see in Hindi movies (especially in Yashraj films). Where else such breathtaking panoramic views are spread over the entire country ? Of all the places I have been to, only landscaped countryside of New Zealand could somewhat be compared to Switzerland’s evergreen beauty. (Ohh there goes the mystery for one of the places :P)

Did you know Switzerland has four official languages? More on this later. Confederatio Helvetica, the country's official Latin name, means Helvetic Confederation. The use of Latin avoids having to favour any one of the four languages. The abbreviation (CH) is used for the same reason.
It shares its border with five countries (France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy) and it is one of the world’s most expensive country, expensive than Japan which many people think to be the most expensive one. Also, it is not a part of European Communion (EC). They still use Swiss Francs (1 CHF= Rs. 34 approx.).

Keep this map in your mind and I’ll take you to a tour of Switzerland. Click on it for an enlarged view.

It was absolutely fascinating wonderful experience for me in all aspects. Just one example, where else can you think of doing your weekly grocery shopping by going to a neighbouring country carrying your passport ? No wonder my passport looked ten years old in a single year.
And Shhhhh !! I had a Swiss bank account as well ! ;)

Ha Ha.. I am sure I am going to enjoy writing this blog. There is so much to write about.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Antwerp – The Harbour City

So, that was Antwerp.. the beautiful romantic city of diamonds and silvers. But do you know Antwerp is famous for one more reason ?

'The Scheldt river owes its existence to God, and Antwerp owes its existence to the Scheldt river' is a popular saying that shows how important the river Scheldt is for the city of Antwerp. Yes, Antwerp also has Europe's second largest and world’s fourth largest harbour. And its operating assets such as cranes, buildings, bridges, docks, roads, the electricity distribution network, data and stock management, planning, budgeting, reporting, performance tracking, internal and external outsourcing are being managed by IBM .
The following clip is taken from my colleague’s handycam, showing a passenger ship at the port. Before that day I had never seen a ship in my life, let alone this big. This time I didn’t have my camera so showing only the clips. Audio is bad, bear with me.

Of all the ports on the North Sea, Antwerp is the most central vis-à-vis the largest European production and consumption centers. Although the open North Sea is about 60 km away from Antwerp, the river is so large that sea-going vessels and large oil tankers can sail to deliver their products in the vast port area of the city.

Though the more common language in Belgium is French, this small city speaks Dutch, perhaps because of its proximity to Netherlands. Most buildings are old but a treat to eyes.. total architectural wonders. Many Indian restaurants, one doesn’t feel out of place.

Not as big as the 'Grand'Place' of Brussels, but certainly equally beautiful and crowded is the 'Grote Markt' of Antwerp, also known as Market Square.

In the background the tower of Our Lady's Cathedral completes the magnificent view.

One of the grandest buildings in Antwerp is the 'Central Station'. It welcomes visitors who arrive by train in Antwerp like a modern day cathedral. The part of the station where the platforms are, is covered by an immense metal and glass dome (typical for turn-of-the-century railway stations in Europe).

Following is the clip of a model of Antwerp Railway station stationed inside the railway station and then the real station itself. Got confused ? :))

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Antwerp – The Diamond City

This city is called diamond city as world’s one of the finest diamonds are produced and more than 70% of all diamonds in the world are traded in Antwerp. Not going into statistics but do you know who does the major chunk of business here ? Well, one can find many Indians settled in Antwerp mostly from Gujarati / Marwari business community. Sorry, I don’t know the difference between them except that Gujratis are from Gujrat and Marwaris are from Marwar (something like my first logic). :) Someone please enlighten me on this. Needless to say why I was surprised initially when I saw many Indian restaurants there.

In spite of this museum being adjacent to the station, we could manage only about an hour’s quality time inside it. Again this multi-storied museum is the largest diamond museum in the world. According to me, minimum of one full day is required to do justice with it.

It is also called 'interactive museum' as there is an audio-visual guide which enables us to ‘interact’ with the museum in the select few languages of our choice and at our own pace. It is an 'image and sound' system which takes visitors through the entire procedure of diamond processing – from mines to end product including training, teaching etc. at various levels.

On each floor there are some treasure chambers whose wonderful collections of jewelry offer a treat to eyes. They have diamond jewelries from the sixteenth century till the present day including replica of the British Crown Jewels containing two of the world's largest diamonds- the Koh-I-Noor and the Cullinan I. The only other place I saw more realistic replica of British crown was in Sydney.

The museum also has section which shows us the qualities of diamonds, such as color, hardness, refraction of light etc. On some days we can see diamond cutters at work too.

The four C’s – Carat, Colour, Clarity and Cut – determine the quality and value of a polished diamond. Since this is not a place to lecture about diamonds, will tell you very little basics about these four C’s.

Carats - Weight is expressed in carats, each carat divided into 100 points.
Colour - Colourless diamonds are the most valuable ones. The more tinted colour they have, the less expensive they are.
Clarity - Clarity or purity of a diamond is determined by the number, size and location of inclusions or clouds (internal impurities). These can vary from vvs (very very small) to s(small) category.
Cut – Even if a diamond has perfect colour and clarity, a poorly cut diamond will lose sparkle, beauty and value. The cut affects brightness and classified as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor. Some common diamond cuts are round, oval, pear, heart, emerald.

Fortunately we could take some photographs without flash in some sections of this tight security museum.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Antwerp - Silvers all the Way

Next time when I went to Antwerp, I tried to explore a bit more. When you go on such short trips to a city, it is extremely difficult to take out time for doing so specially if it is a weekday. Fortunately, this time I was to go there on a Friday, decided to stay overnight. By the time we came out of office on Friday, it was above eight in the evening.
While going back to the hotel, stopped at the main shopping street, Meir
. It is around 1.5 to 2 kms stretch and connects the Central Station to the Grote Markt (No, I didn’t miss an ‘e’, that’s the correct spelling). The houses on both sides are old but gold. ;) We had our dinner in one of the restaurants and went to our hotel to decide on next day’s schedule.

So Saturday was kept to see a few things in Antwerp before returning back to Brussels in evening. Next morning I was to fly back to India from Brussels.
We (me and my two colleagues) short listed two museums to see.. Silver museum and Diamond museum. Both were very big, time consuming but we wanted to give it a go.

Silvers and diamonds.. Hmmm any female will jump with joy. When it struck to both my male colleagues, for a moment they looked at each other and were anxious to know about my likeness for jewellery and my shopping capabilities. :)) Fortunately for them, for jewellery I prefer to do only window shopping. :)

Since Diamond Museum is very near to Central Station from where we had to take the train later for Brussels, we kept it for the afternoon session.

Next morning, we visited beautiful Sterckshof Silver Museum first. From station it took us 20-25 minutes to reach by bus. Surrounded by a lush green garden, on the edge of the city, the museum is a beauty to watch. It is in a picturesque castle called Sterckshof, hence the name. It was a journey to the treasures of Belgian silver production. If I can, I will post a scanned map from the brochure I have.

The museum is full of antique silver artifacts. One floor had beautifully crafted cutlery, knife, spoons, plates, bowls, tea/coffee sets... all of different sizes. The lower floor has different theme based rooms like bedroom will have Clocks, mirror frames, photo frames, clothes hanger etc. Study room would contain different shaped pen stands, cigars, lamps etc. The other rooms had things like a chair, swords, shields.. you name it, they have it. Before visiting the museum, I had never imagined as how many things could be made out of silver.

It also shows different techniques used for processing of silver including how to take care of it.

Inside the museum, for security reasons the photography was strictly prohibited so this was the last picture taken before we made our grand entry to the museum. ;) Note the entrance door - a very heavy metal door of height till first floor.

The main entrance.

But looking at the scant crowd (there was hardly any person), I guess this museum is not very popular.

This is a very small video clip taken from the bus of our visit to the museum. I took it from my colleague to show it to you.

Once out of the museum, we again took a bus back to the station. Had a quick light lunch and went inside the Diamond Museum...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Let's start - A for Antwerp

Antwerp is a beautiful city in Belgium, around 35 - 45 minutes by train from Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Compared to giants like New York, Paris, Sydney or even Mumbai, Antwerp is very small in size but second largest city of Belgium. Have been to this place 3 times, all for very short visits... sometimes a day trip from Brussels. It is pretty convenient, since there are plenty of trains running to and fro throughout the day between the cities.

Antwerp” - First time when I went there, I neither knew nor bothered about the meaning of this name. I was in a hurry to make it on time and come back to Brussels by evening. Later, when I got to know the meaning, I wanted to go there again. :)

The original name of Antwerp is Antwerpen in Dutch, the local language. Antwerp is its adapted English name. In French it is called Anvers.

Antwerpen = Ant + werpen.
Ant = hand and werpen = thrown

The name is based on some mythological story. It is believed that there lived a giant near the river Scheldt who did not allow people to cross it without paying a toll to him. Those who refused, had to lose their right hands. He used to throw the right hands into the river after chopping them off.

Then one fine day, there came a hero like in Hindi movies (don’t remember his name at this moment) who chopped off this giant’s right hand and threw it far away. It fell at a place where today there is a gigantic statue of a man’s right hand, sitting pretty. It is surely an eye catcher in one of the city's busiest shopping streets – Meir.

People come, sit and get photographed with this stone hand. We did the same when I went there the second time. :) We, three of us had decided to take the last train back to Brussels, so had just enough time to be with giant hand. It was a wintry night, very windy and chilled. From neck to toe I was covered in layers of woolens including leather jacket but my head was enjoying the cool chilled wind. Nose had become numb but spirit was at a new high. After hectic office hours, I felt this feeling quite relaxing.

For obvious reasons, respecting the anonymity of people including me, I won’t show pictures with anyone in it. So, though I have hundreds of photos, the choice for hosting here gets filtered down to a limited few. Also, I had never imagined myself writing a weblog. Tried to blacken out one of my pictures solely for this post.

Quite strangely after that I saw many statues in Antwerp with hand, perhaps only then I had started noticing them.. a man throwing hand, just a hand and so on. Even the cookies and world famous Belgian chocolates were in the shape of hands !! And to think of it, when I had landed in Antwerp first time, I didn’t even know the existence of this hand !!

This hand has become THE symbol of Antwerp.