August 15th, 2015
Mie and I went for a bike ride to the market that is held every weekend in the town square, but first we went by St. Rumbolds cathedral and climbed the Belfry tower. If 538 steps doesn’t sound like many, I challenge you to try it! The view was so worth it though! We got to hear the bells as well and it was amazing to see the mechanics of them and the old clock. Sounds and smells I hope I can keep in my memory for years to come!
Mie had to pick up her daughter, so her brother Geert and I went to Antwerp, another beautiful historic city! So many stories and so much great architecture and history to be seen! We also went to an immigration museum, which I think was the highlight of the day. The Red Star museum, gives an interactive look of what it was like for all the people who made that decision to get on first a train then a boat to go to Canada or the US. The process was a lot more then I imagined; they first had to be checked by a doctor, and their luggage would all be disinfected. If they made it past the Dr.’s report, they would then have to shower with a mixture of Benzene and vinegar. The conditions on the ship, for most were very minimal, and sometimes if they arrived to North America and were ill, another Dr check would mean they had to return home.
After Antwerp, Geert took me to visit his Aunt Anna, who is a niece to my Great Grandfather, and she lives in the home that he was raised in. Amazing that the land is still in the family after all these years! She was a delight, and though she didn’t speak English I could tell she was happy to see me and tell stories through Geert. She actually came to Canada about 20 yrs ago while we were having a family reunion, and she said ‘its good to see you again’ 🙂 She said that my Great grandfather was know to be a Beau Devante or something to that effect, which means he really enjoyed life but not always in the best way. Story goes that he left for Canada after he got in a bit of trouble while in the army as he punched a superior officer. He immigrated alone, but came back about 4 yrs later to visit and it was then he got married to Sidonia Behiels before returning to Canada. Anna said that he told everyone that the worst woman in Belgium was better then the best he’d met in Canada. My Mom says the family story is that he asked her before he went to Canada and she said no, but when he came back, she asked him to marry her. She had many fond memories of Canada and pictures of meeting my Grandmother, and many relatives.
After a delightful visit with Anna, Geert, his wife and I, met up with Mie, her daughter Janna (Yanna) and ex-husband Luc for dinner. They truly are a great family, whom I very much enjoyed my time with. They treated me exceptionally well, and I only hope I can repay the favour someday! I tried to entice them with photos of the rockies, so we shall see!