Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lier and Antwerp, May 9-13

In 2008 we spent a couple of days in Lier buying groceries and waiting for the arrival of our guests, Tim and his son Michael. The weather wasn’t real good and the tieup is a ways from town but there are excellent train connections to Antwerp; a 10 minute trip every 20 minutes. This time, with chores and all, we'd spend several days.
We were tied up by about 1:30 on Tuesday and since Wednesday (the sun was out!) would be consumed by laundry we biked into town for a little walk around. 
With the tourist office map in hand we got a look at the Zimmertoren, the beguinage district and, of course, the belfry atop the city hall.

The original Cornelius Tower from the 14th century was transformed in the 1930’s into Louis Zimmer’s Jubilee Clock with it’s 11 dials and two globes. The tower and next door museum are dedicated to Zimmer’s work on time and space, including the big bang theory.

From the Wikipedia entry on the Beguines:

At the start of the 12th century, some women in the Low Countries lived alone and devoted themselves to prayer and good works without taking vows. At first there were only a few of them, but in the course of the century, their numbers increased. Due to the structure of urban demographics and marriage patterns in the Low Countries, in the Middle Ages there were more women than men. These women lived in towns, where they attended to the poor. During the 13th century, some of them bought homes that neighbored each other, and finally formal living spaces for many women formed a community called a b├ęguinage. Beguinages tended to be located near town centers and were often close to the rivers that provided water for their work in the cloth industry in the Low Countries.

The Beguine district in Lier is a neighborhood of about 160 houses in 11 narrow streets surrounding St. Margaret’s Church and was first settled in the mid-1200’s. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful neighborhood.

Thursday, chores complete, it was off to Antwerp. One reason was boat related. Since we bought the boat we’ve had a little trouble with the pump that supplies our water. It was a little noisy and at the end of last year we were concerned there was a problem. Amazingly, when we refilled the water tank this year, the pump seemed to have fixed itself but that was not to be. Soon after we departed Maasbracht it started banging again. We were able to source a replacement part in Belgium and it was sent to a distributor in Antwerp. We were to pick it up on Thursday, using that as an excuse to visit the city. We walked a half hour from the train station to where Maps told us the shop should be only to find they had relocated out into Antwerp’s industrial docklands. Luckily we were able to find a taxi to take us out there and back into the center of town. It wasn’t cheap but we got the part and would still have some time for the city.

After a great falafel lunch at Falafeltov it was off to the Museum Plantin-Moretus. Housed in the world’s first industrial printing works (1555) the buildings have been a museum since 1876. It contains the second copy of the Gutenburg Bible and some of the worlds oldest printing presses, huge libraries and rooms lined with gilt leather. It also contains a large painting collection featuring many works by family friend Rubens.

Just one of several library rooms.

Really old printing presses.

After the library is was back to central Antwerp for a quick look at the famous Brabo Fountain and the Onze Lieve Vrowekathedral, prominent landmarks on the Grote Markt.

Wandering complete it was dodging thunderstorms back to the train station and the boat. Friday was fix the water pump day and Saturday it was off to our next destination, the Dender River.


  1. I presume there is some chance you may pass Kortrijk (if you haven't already on 'Odysseus') where there is a delightful beguinage that's not to be missed.

  2. We did visit Kortrijk in 2008 and if we can get all the way through the Blanton/Ath we'll do it again!


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