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Published: August 3rd 2015
Castle of Gerald the Evil.
Saturday 1 August 2015
Isn't Belgium a wonderful place, especially on a sunny summer day. Our second fine day in a row and all is looking good for a few days more. Today we drive south to the city of Ghent (local spelling Gent). Driving south along the highway traffic heading north is almost at a standstill. In England we experienced "black Friday", in France today was "black Saturday ". Everyone was heading away on their summer holiday. Later in the day a news item showed gridlock on the roads in the Rhone Valley.
Ghent is the capital of the region, unlike Bruges the buildings represent the commercial heart of the region. A light rail traverses the city. Where it runs through the many pedestrian spaces there appears to be many close calls between tram and pedestrian. It is amazing how trams, horse and landaus, bicycles, cars, buses and people can move around the cobbled streets on a busy Saturday without incident. The skyline is dominated by the Belfry. We wait in anticipation for the 12 noon chimes. What a disappointment. What could have been a memorable moment turned out to be a fizzer.
The highlight of our
visit was in St Bavos Cathedral. We had heard about the famous altar panels, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, painted by the van Eyck brothers. Recently we saw a film on the recovery of these panels stolen by the Nazis. Today we had a chance to see them. Two panels were stolen in the 1930s, only one has been returned. At present some are being restored. What we did see still made the visit worth while. Like many churches throughout Europe St Bavos is being restored so parts of the cathedral were closed to the public.
We took a self-guided tour of the city admiring the Flemish architecture that seems to be a feature of this part of Belgium. Large squares were filled with lunchtime crowds enjoying fine food and fine Belgian beer. We'll enjoy ours later in the day. Waterways criss cross the city. Early in the day you could see the bottom of the canals. Tourist boats tour the canals causing the muddy bottom to be stirred up. Oh well, tourists pay for a ride and people are employed.
We resist the urge to pay an entry fee at an impressive castle in the heart
Amazing what is hiding down side streets.
of the city. Instead we enjoy the delights of an ice cream, a quarter the size of yesterday's indulgence. We enjoy our ice cream and listen to a trio playing some wonderful music under a roofed area called the City Pavillion.
Our day came to an end. We enjoyed the chance to wander and explore. We are pleased to have seen the altar panels, the rest is a bonus. Ghent is a bigger city than Bruges but both are similar. Both have similar buildings, horse and landaus transporting tourists, cobbled streets, and many chocolate shops. Which city is better? Some believe Bruges is the place to be. Perhaps it is the narrow streets and waterways (Venice has come to Belgium). Ghent is bigger with wider spaces. For us, we have enjoyed our visits to both and would recommend them to future travellers.
Our Belgium visit has come to an end quite quickly but there is still tomorrow morning before we cross back into France.
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