Monday, July 11, 2005

Antwerpen, July 2005

"My Belgian husband has told me a helpful rule: when there is no sign, go straight. This works much of the time, but one day, I was driving with him when we came upon a roundabout. There was a road going at a 90-degree angle to the right and one at about 11 o’clock. No signs, of course ... Memory told me that I should go right, but I was testing the 'go straight' rule. I asked where I should go and he said: 'To the right, of course — that's the straight road' ... Natives already know their way, don't travel much and don’t need street signs. This is great if you grow up, get married and die in one town ...": Miriam Levenson

Yep ... I spent half the day trying to figure out how to navigate this "medieval maze of Belgian streets and equally medieval signage". Luckily I finally found the "Centrum" sign again, which, took me to the Centraal Station instead of the Grote Markt (about half an hour walk). Luckily, Belgian cities are fairly small. Oh yeah, by the way, to add to Miriam's list: the signs do not necessarily point to the direction you want to go, especially in a 5-way-roundabouts. They make 30-degree angle, sometimes.

And no, I'm not the father who's afraid to ask for direction. The problem was--which I learned the hard way--summarized nicely by a colleague:

"Don't ask them whether you should go North, South, East, or West! You'll confuse them! Besides, there is no such thing!! You need to know all the directions of the big cities. Then you have to know all the major street names ... That's how we explain directions!": Peter

Easy to say, when you've lived here the whole time.

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