Day 17: Sunday, 3 May 2020 – Antwerp, Belgium (51.2194° N, 4.4025° E) (49,906 Covid-19 cases & 7,844 Deaths as of today; Note: at 677 deaths per million, Belgium is the worst hit nation on earth today!)
Just back from a little getaway, a mini-vacation of sorts in the new normal…Pamela and I switched sides of the bed this weekend!
Belgium. Hmm… took us 15 years of doing our annual around the world travel adventure to finally venture to Belgium. I have nothing against Belgium, in fact I quite like it, but never thought of it as a place for, well, adventure.
But what do I know better… Within a couple of hours upon our arrival in 2017, my son Lucca, all of 12 at the time, saw three images he has yet to shake: a naked little person (as in short in stature, aka a dwarf medically speaking) wagging himself blissfully while crossing a crowded street to the other side. (I still do not know what the joke is here, but am sure there is one?!) He then saw a statue of a little naked boy pissin (aka Manneken Pis) as one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. I sense a theme brewing here? He then witnessed a fist-a-cuffs fight breakout outside our hotel window…that was quickly extinguished by just a couple of strolling police officers to which he noticed rather astutely that no one was: a) abruptly roughed up, thrown to the ground and cuffed, b) quickly buzzed into submission with a taser and cuffed, or c) shot dead. In fact, all the parties were dealt with a humane manner, listened to, and driven quietly to the police station for the final sort out, sans cuffs. Then to cap off his first few hours in the city, we happened upon a dead body covered in a white sheet. Illuminating time for him it was…and his seventh grade teachers when he returned to school! Other than that, he loved Belgium…
Here we are in Belgium today, home of great beer, great chocolate, and great moules-frites. Where’s the bad? The cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent are among my favorite hang places…in the off season. So, finally I brought our traveling circus to Belgium in 2017 with the mission to get to Dublin in four days via various optional routes of varying degrees of time and efficiency. Some went north to Antwerp, The Hague and Amsterdam then ferried to England. Some went south to Bruges and Calais, France then took the Chunnel Eurostar train to London. Some ended up in Oxford, some Liverpool. Some even almost made to the Isle of Man. Almost. Radical uncertainty is the point of the last leg of our world travel championship event; keep them guessing and give them lots of options to screw up. Choice becomes their boogieman to conquer. Because by the time we land in Europe after over two weeks of traipsing around the world, all our participants are battle hardened, brimming with self confidence, and determined to do well on this last leg. Remember, if they can figure out Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and maybe even the wilds of Africa, they can certainly master efficient, normal and all too Western Europe…and adventurous Belgium at that. Because they have all acquired the skills of:
-learning to hit the ground running with an element of surprise;
-being fish-out-of-water bleary-eyed and jet-lagged travelers everywhere;
-dealing with language barriers;
-dealt with navigating a classic travelers triangle and the logistics of getting from here to there;
-dealing with various cultural nuances;
-dealing with the chaotic dynamics of a seat-of-their-pants layover challenge–in and out forays;
-learned that it is all about the choices they make when it comes to completing Bonus scavenges and the logistical differences between city and rural traveling;
-and a few other things too.
So, with our participants two-weeks master class in perfecting the art of travel, Europe usually brings them to their final exam, when all the skills they have learned can come together (or not) while their situational awareness is peaking and their acquired Travel IQ ready for action. Well, that’s the hope anyway…
Today’s memory comes from our sole visit to Belgium in 2017 from Mark a member of team Thundersnow….
“One of the things that I frequently try to explain to friends is that on The Global Scavenger Hunt you have days, and sometimes only parts of days, where everything is working, things are making sense, you are checking off scavenges and having fun throughout. Then there are days, or parts of days, where you are not as fortunate. On this day we had an amazing time exploring Antwerp, Belgium. It seemed like everything we did was fun in its own unique way such as getting ice cream at the train station, renting bikes, taking the underground walkway, shopping in the market, and learning about diamonds. In this photo we are sampling jenever at De Vagant. It was fabulous.”
Tomorrow…we move around the Continent, being, oh so continental in our pursuits…
Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…
Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com