August 15th Mechelen & Antwerp Belgium

 

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!

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Some of the oldest homes in Mechelen.
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‘up you go’ Guy in centre of Mechelen. Hopefully Mie will re-tell the story on facebook comments.
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The tower! A formidable opponent!
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At the top!
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Total stairs to the top!
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Near the top, by the bells! Amazing!
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Beautiful old organ!
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Some of the Bells, each with a name.
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How the songs are made…by moving the position of the little clips which affects which note or string is hit.
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The clock mechanics
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View from the top!
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Another view from the top.
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The climb!

  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.

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Red Star line a company which many immigrants used to come to Canada and the US.
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Replica of one of the ships.
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le Canada

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.

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Anna and her husband.
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A painting of the home my Great Grandfather grew up in, that is still owned by the family.
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Anna’s Mother Josephine, who was my Great Grandfathers younger sister. There were 12 children if I remember correctly, and only my great grandfather left for Canada.

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!

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My Belgian Family! Thanks for everything!
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My great tour guide for the Day, Cousin Geert
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Me with the beautiful Miss Janna!

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