We are in Belgium! First stop Ghent

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August 29th 2016
Published: September 16th 2016
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Me and BillMe and BillMe and Bill

Ghent by night
We are currently on the train from Ghent, Belgium to Brugges which will be a short half hour trip. The last 2 days in Ghent have been alright – a big adjustment from the laid back Mediterranean lifestyle we had become accustomed to!

After about 7 hours of travel (train, train, bus, plane) we arrived in Brussels. It was pleasant to see small dogs in the airport! Then we discovered there is a dog show in Brussels this weekend! We took a train to Ghent which was our home for the next 2 nights. It certainly is……different. The buildings and old city itself is certainly Northern European – dark brick buildings and tall imposing dark cathedrals/churches. The biggest difference you can see are the people around you. Northern Europeans can be……larger than their Mediterranean counterparts. However, society here seems to be more multicultural, I guess because Belgium IS the capital of the European Union. Another thing – Belgium is EXPENSIVE ! By expensive I mean Australian prices. For 10 euros in Spain we could get 2 glasses of wine and tapas. Here, we paid 7.50 euros for a large bottle of sparkling water!! Thirdly, shops close early like 6.30pm.

So after checking into our (non air-conditioned) hotel, we went for a walk into the old town. There is a European food festival on this weekend which was lovely but hard to find a seat so we didn’t go there often. Ghent itself is a pretty city with a river running down the middle and locals enjoying the long days either by riverside or on the river itself either going for a boat ride or paddling boarding.

The next day we went to St Bravo’s Cathedral, a large Gothic style church with Baroque influence in the interior. The piece de la resistance is the Adoration of the Lamb, a 13th century painting by the Van Eyk brothers, a large foldable painting with several panels depicting several people of the bible and the centerpiece is the Lamb being glorified by the sun. The interesting thing about this piece is that it has been stolen several times, including by the Nazi’s in WII. In face, one of the panels is still missing when it was stolen in 1934. The Cathedral itself was grand. Supposedly you weren’t allowed to take pictures but other people flouted the rules but we decided to respect the rules. The architecture itself, which we find more interesting was magnificent and interesting that the roof itself was red brick. Baroque designs of marble statues adorn the Cathedral as well as other religious things. After that we went to the Gravasteen castle, a 13th century castle in the middle of town where we got to walk in several rooms and see different exhibits including arms and amour (which Bill said the free guide gave inaccurate descriptions of weapons!) and a torture room. The torture room had exhibits of horrible torture implements used in the Middle Ages including a guillotine, a table where people were stretched and shackles and spiky collars that they tightened! After the castle, beer o'clock and we joined a free tour around town.

I can't say the full 3 hour free walking tour was enthralling, but we learnt a lot of history about the Flanders region and Ghent as a trading port in Medieval times. We also visited 'Graffiti street' a street dedicated to, you guessed it, graffiti. The city dedicated this street to graffiti art so people wouldn't graffiti the old buildings. Great idea! Graffiti art changes on a weekly basus and the trick is to be really good so people don't cover your work. We were told after the Brussels airport attack the walls resembled what the people were feeling at the time. Afterward I went to the Bella bellydance store to hopefully buy an (expensive) Turkish Bella bellydance costume. Unfortunately as the Ghent store isn't the main store (Istanbul is) the selection wasn't too great, and those I did like were too big for me and to get it altered it would have needed to be mailed to me for 50 euros. At 600 plus euros a costume ( I'm a professional bellydancer so its justifiable and a tax deduction!) I may as well order a custom one my size and have it shipped from Istanbul. But I bought 2 hip scarves instead @ 55 euros each! After a chat about Turkish politics with the owner - unintentional (!) but it was fine. I headed back to the hotel and we went out to dinner and a stroll by the canel for our last evening in Ghent.

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