During my previous visits, I remembered Antwerp as a city of oysters. You can buy them at a stand at the Saturday market and consume right there and accompany by cold white wine or champagne. This time I will remember Antwerpen as the city of fragrant linden and a city that was built on the river and has no bridges.
What should you visit in Antwerp if you have a couple of days? I suggest the following (I have written already similar posts about Berlin, Utrecht, and Minsk):
Visit and see what they are going to open in Het Steen (remainders of the medieval castle). Maybe by the time of your visit, the city will finish the renovation and you will see the beautiful quay and tourist information point in the castle. This place was originally a castle, then a prison, museum, children cultural center and now it will be something new.
Get under the ground in the museum De Ruien. The walk in the underground city in rubber boots and in 15 C no matter what is the season will be unforgettable. Rats and darkness will be there as well.
Find the medieval courtyard in the center of Antwerp (Vlaeykensgang street, entrance new Popoff restaurant). You will get to know the story of architect and entrepreneur Alex Vervoordt. He was walking in Antwerpen in 1969 and saw forgotten old houses, bought them, renovated them and this way preserved the memory of 15-16 centuries, right in the centre of the city.
Visit St Paul’s Church that is only open 3 hours a day. The church belonged to Dominicans. It worth a visit because of four paintings of Rubens and Calvary that are outside the church (see the photo below).
Calvary, St Paul’s Church, Antwerp
Walk the tunnel under the River Scheldt. The city has no bridge but has walking and cycling tunnel under the river. You can get down there using escalators that are partially made of wood.
Go to a museum. Almost in every city, there is at least one museum worth visiting. In Antwerpen, you can visit Butcher’s Hall which is, in reality, musical instruments museum and looks like a church actually, a new museum on the river MaS (Museum aan de Stroom), Plantin-Moretus of book printers, chocolate museum (Chocolat Nation) or the Rubens House.
Have a dinner or a special beer in Elfde gebod. This restaurant has everything: sacred icons, sculptures from churches, history, funny name (“the eleventh commandment”) and it’s own beer called the same way.
It is important that you try Antwerpen beer de Koninck and red chocolate that came on the surface just a couple of years ago (called ‘ruby’ chocolate).
What I will remember about Berlin? Long distances, few cars and a lot of green. When you are in a city just for a couple of days you need to make choices of what to see and what to skip. My advice on what to do in Berlin:
Get out of Mitte (the central part of Berlin). Berlin felt like a big city. So it is unlikely that just by strolling around you will find yourself in the places that you wanted to see. I felt quite a contrast compared with Paris where you can just walk and walk and visit everything you need. And indeed, it appeared that Berlin is eight times larger than Paris. So it makes more sense to plan your route beforehand and to use public transport.
Visit a museum. And not necessarily the most famous ones (Neues Museum, Pergamon Museum, Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design), but select the one that matches your mood of the moment. In such young and lively Berlin, I longed for some luxury and oldness and went to Charlottenburg Palace. Only the story of the museum director, who after the war just moved to live in the museum in order to avoid it diminishing is so remarkable. Or go to the cinema museum and see Berlin Walk of Fame with movie starts names under your feet (I did not recognize anyone except Til Schweiger from famous German movie “Barfus”).
Park of Charlottenburg Palace (not ticket needed to enter the park)
Buy tickets for a concert in Berliner Philharmonie. My friend who is a good judge and lover of music had this place on his bucket list among Sydney Opera and Carnegie Hall. And his evaluation of the experience was very good (mine also, but mine does not count that much). And again there is a place, there is a story. A story of how important the choice of the main conductor of Berliner Philharmonie is for the city. The choice is discussed and anticipated. Can you imagine such a city?
The concert hall of Berliner Philharmonie. The stage is round, surrounded by the audience from all the sides.
Go up to the rough of Reichstag. You need to sign up for the visit in advance, you need to have your passport when you come there. On the roof, there are stands and posters that tell a story of Reichstag. There I saw that Soviet soldiers directed their attack to this building by mistake. Well, then I thought I am also here by mistake, just following their story after years.
Use one of the many possibilities for swimming. There is a lot of water in Berlin. For example, here are the options:
The city swimming pool was renovated into a hotel, but still with the same swimming pool. Anyone can come there to swim (according to the timetable and by paying a regular fee).
Swimming pool in the center on the quay.
Liquidrom is a sauna and swimming pool in the center of the city (Potsdamer square) with music and lights underwater and DJs.
And if not swimming pools, then you can try lakes. For example Wanzee
Feel the story of the Berlin Wall. The more time will pass, the more unreal the story will seem. Now thirty years have passed from the time the wall fell and its story feels so strange already. Cut off transport connections, closed metro station which trains were just passing by, successful and unsuccessful escapes, people from the West Berlin coming to climb the viewing tower in the hope to see their relatives.
Learn what Biergarten is. I never thought I will recommend something like biergarten (a place for drinking beer in the open air), but when I came there, I did not want to leave. Summer, river, cold beer, simple tables, benches near the water, warm evening, boats on the river.
See what you can do out of an old brewery. Kulturbrauereu, a cultural brewery in Prenzlauer. This is an old industrial complex which is now a cultural center. And culture does not go without a beer in Berlin. Concerts, festivals, exhibitions, and Christmas Market is all here as well.
Always check out the hidden courtyards in Berlin, you will find nicest restaurants and cafes and breakfast in the city is mandatory. There are a lot of nice breakfast places and you can even have it during lunch:). My place to visit for breakfast is “Pasternak”. And the last thing to do is to take a photo of Berliner Weisse, look at this Instagramish color.
I described my first scribing experience and the reaction that I have got in a separate post Sketchnoting. How to start? Now I would like to focus on what materials do you need. What is the minimum set you will require? Of course, you can start using just a simple pen, but there are a couple of tricks that easily bring your scribing to a new level without too much additional effort.
Markers for scribing
My current set of markers
Professional bag for professional scribers that work on stage
My own basic set:
Black thin liner for the main text
Black marker for thicker lines for titles. It is more convenient if it has a square tip. If you write with it and do not turn it around the width of the line will change and the line will have a touch of calligraphy.
Grey marker for shadowing. This is a magic marker. Once you use it in your sketchnote and add shadows, your page will become alive. I love to use a marker with a brush, but this is not important.
Color markers for emphasize: I have just two and you can choose your favorite colors. This is the case where less is more.
Beige marker for coloring faces. Probably, this is a luxury addition, but little humans look different after this marker is used.
Paper and where to sketch
If you are scribing for yourself, it is more likely that you are doing it in your lap and not on a large flip-chart in front of a big audience. In the beginning, you can just use a simple notebook without lines. Important is that your paper does allow marker lines to penetrate to the page underneath. In order for your scribing to look more professional, you can use A4 page of a more density than normal (160 g/m2). This way your page will look better when you make a photo. It is more white.
And the last step is taking all your materials out there and trying.
‘Feed the full-bellied’ that should be the motto for any speech which is focused on sharing information. Our environments are full of information, that just a wish to share something interesting is not good enough and would not capture attention by default. And that was my last assignment at international club of public speaker Toastmasters: perform an informational speech about any topic your researched:
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to learn or review basic research methods and present a well-organized, well-researched speech on any topic.
Overview: Select a topic that you are not already familiar with or that you wish to learn more about. Be sure your topic is narrow enough to be an effective 5- to 7-minute speech. Research the topic and begin organizing the information, as described in this project.
I chose ‘figure skating’ as a topic and titled my speech ‘A sport’. Here I think some explanation is needed. No one in the Netherlands has any interest in figure skating, really-really no one. Dutch sportsmen did not perform at a high level for a long time and awareness of the Dutch about this sport is minimal or even absent. Not even knowledge is missing, interest is completely missing. This way I had to prepare a speech for an absolutely ‘cold’ audience.
Challenges and solutions for my speech at Toastmasters
My speech and slide with a question about types of figure skating
My main challenges were:
Create interest in the topic and do it very quickly
Decide how much information I am going to share. What level of detail will benefit the audience? Talking about differences between types of figure skating for me was something as talking about types of public transportation. But I had to have my audience in mind. See below what I finally decided.
Start of the speech: “Do you know a sport where strength, maths (I should have used a word ‘mathematics’ here as some could have heard ‘mass’) and make-up matters?” At that moment the attention is there and everyone wants to know what kind of sport is this?
Create interest for the topic right during the speech: I wanted to talk about types of figure skating (the difference between pairs and ice dancing) and judging system. And that was my problem – why do the need it? Why people who never have watched any figure skating competition will be listening about types and judging? I decided to create interest by using provoking questions. The questions were formulated in a way as if they had an obvious answer, but in reality, the obvious answer was the wrong one.
For example, I showed pictures of two couples: one from pairs skating and one from ice dancing and asked whether the audience can tell by looking at the photos whether these two couples competed in the same time of the sport. Everyone started to nod there heads. And then I said that no, even by looking at the pictures I can say they compete in different types of sports. This created interest from nothing and I saw that the listeners wanted to know the answer.
Limited my speech to two points: I decided to focus on just two topics: types and judging. Originally I wanted to talk also about what type of competitions are there and where they can be watched. Finally, I dropped this part because I could not come up with a good introductory question for this. And this information is only useful if there is a need and desire to watch.
What went good
the content and structure of the speech made an effect that I expected
slides with photos were well-received based on feedback
What was went not so good
My speech was three minutes longer. The number of words was not more than I had in my previous speeches. I probably did not take into account slides and switching between slides and questions to the audience.
The conclusion of the speech was better than before but worse than that start of the speech. I am still good at holding the energy and attention of the audience and have to learn to finish speech on a high note.
With this speech, I finalized Level 1 of Presentation Mastery at international Toastmasters club and I still have to do four levels and about 14 speeches. Follow me on toastmasters tag.
“The worst is when they are throwing up in our flowerpots”, “It became a second Venice, city stolen by tourists” – these are just a couple of headlines about issues with tourists in Amsterdam. I have been hearing about this problem for a couple of years. There is no way to hide from tourists in Amsterdam. Also for tourists. What should they do in order to see the Netherlands? Maybe go to Utrecht?:)
If I would be visiting Utrecht as a tourist, this would be my advice to myself:
Leave the station and do not get stuck in the shops. Utrecht train station extended itself into a big shopping mall. High ceilings, popular brands, and chains.
Visit Olivier Cafe. A secret and at the same time popular place. This is a Belgian bar in the premises which were a church previously (schuilkerk – a church that is situated in a normal house and does not look like a church from outside. Such types of churches existed in Europe for different branches of the Christian church. It is peculiar that though it is a very well-known place, it is still not overwhelmed by tourists, office workers still come here for drinks after work.
Utrecht canals are also very special and different from the Amsterdam ones. You can walk following them or take about.
Visit a district with the most expensive houses (Wittevrouwen) and check out how inconvenient the entrances and stairs can look like in the houses for such prices.
Eat Mario sandwich (the most famous street sandwich in Utrecht) or Ben sandwich (street lunch place that has a selection of about 40 types of sandwiches).
And if you want to become part of the city life, you can join one of Utrecht festivals and events as there are plenty of those: theatre festival, student festival (students rooms become podiums for a day), medival music festival and many others.