Sint Anna Tunnel - Stares, glares and wooden stairs

It was perhaps either by fluke or behind the scene machinations of a pack of gremlins on a mission to trip me up and make me slip, that I happened to inadvertently stumble upon a decades old underground pedestrian tunnel.  Situated smack dab in the centre of Antwerp, the Saint Anna Tunnel connects the older centre of town with the newer neighbourhoods of the Left Bank.  Constructed in 1933, the 573 metre long walkway boasts Art Deco architecture, wooden escalators and an old world charm reminiscent of centuries past.  Tunnelled 32 metres below the river Scheldt, the underground corridor passages amblers and cyclers from one end of Belgium’s second largest city to the other in 10 to 15 minutes flat, all depending of course, on how briskly one treks.

Entrance to Sint Anna Tunnel

Traversing the river presents quite the conundrum indeed, as there aren’t any bridges linking one side with the other!  A feat of monumental proportions, made all the more challenging if you’re a borderline claustrophobic – okay, I confess – a full-blown Category One type phobic – reluctant to place a pink sneakered foot in any type of confining space whatsoever.  Like, ever and make that never!  Come hell or high water.

“Come on, I dare you”, Travel Bud goaded, promising to spring for my lunch if I confronted my fears and ventured deep into the rabbit hole – a carafe of merlot and moule et frites my reward for this never to be repeated show of dare - or was that scare? 

Do I dare?

Mind scrambling a mile a minute, I contemplated my options.  Could I hightail it to the light, lickety-split, in a marathon sprint worthy of Olympic gold?  Or, should I hang my head in shame and admit defeat even before the games had officially begun?  It’s not like I hadn’t been sequestered in any type of confining space ever – after all, I had stoically endured being squished in sardine economy seating for decades on end, jetting across the pond in cramped tin cans that doubled as fancy, smancy flying machines.  And, let’s not even get into the issue of long distance trains - encapsulated in a speeding tube burrowing through kilometres of sheer rock, with nary a glimmer of freedom for miles on end.  You get the picture – or not - noggin pressed against the glass pane, pupils searching the coal darkened blackness as the reflection of one’s visage scrapes the edge of the rock.  Ouch.

So, there I stood, one pink sneaker clad foot a step away from descending into the labyrinth of the unknown, determined to emerge victorious and claim my prize at the end of the tunnel.  Like, how difficult could this jaunt to Linderover possibly be?  The creaking and clanking of the almost century old wooden escalators conveying me to the subterranean, had an almost surreal feel, as if I had jumped feet first back into time.  Almost palatial, spanning a width of 4.30 metres across, the walkway was brightly illuminated, the cream coloured tiles accented with posters as well as with markers indicating metres traversed.

Going down!!

So far so good!  Admiring the artwork.

Looming straight ahead -  The.  Dreaded.  Tunnel.  Straight.  Ahead.  Oh, and did I mention it seemed to go on forever and ever with no end in sight?  Yikes!  Keds firmly planted on the ground, I took one hesitant step and then another, all the while glancing backwards, to gage whether or not the escalators were within sight.  So far so good.  Still within bird’s eye view, distant, yet easily accessible, if need be.  Re-assuring to say the least.

Gulp!! The rabbit hole of possibly no return.

Are we there yet??  Obviously, not.

Feels like I'm in some type of science fiction movie episode 

On the road to nowhere or hopefully somewhere

Are you sure there's an exit?

“Come on, you can do it”, Travel Bud cheered, “just 10 more minutes and then we’re at the other end”.  

You’re kidding, right?  You mean we’re NOT almost on the other side?
“But we’ve been walking for ages and ages”, I wailed.

Actually, in reality, it was more like 2 minutes, if that, but who’s counting?

“But what if I lose sight of the escalators?  Then what?”

The point of no return.  This is how far I ventured in the rabbit hole.

No need to say more.  In a flash, I spun round, a crazed and frantic middle-aged ol’ Auntie shrieking, tripping and scrambling like a bat out of hell along the corridor, on a one woman mission out of there.

Picture blurry. No explanation required.

The stairs. The glares.  The stares.

So much for enjoying that long anticipated celebratory reward.

On that note, might as well pour myself a vino.  Or two.  Better make that three.

Come tunnel along with me, as I snake my way along the Sint Anna pedestrian walkway deep under the river Scheldt, but on second thought, let’s just not and catch up with picture books instead about the mesmerizing sights on the other side, which, unfortunately for me, I never got to see this time round.  Hey, perhaps next time, I’ll be a tad wiser and roller-blade my way there!!

Catch up with the adventures of cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora in Belgium and the Netherlands.    

Next blog post – In three weeks!!  Wednesday, December 9th!!  Stay tuned!!

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