Ghent


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Europe » Belgium » East Flanders
August 15th 2014
Published: November 10th 2017
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Geo: 51.054, 3.72169

I had intended to be up early this morning, but I didn't get a very good nights sleep and ended up sleeping in until 8 o'clock. The plan today was to catch a train to Ghent and spend the day there. I got myself organised and walked across town to the station. Purchasing a ticket was no issue, although I thought I would have to specify my return time. No issues, its a daily ticket and I can return when I want. I was so happy with that result I forgot to ask which platform. That was a challenge. Looking at the schedules I had worked out I was supposed to be on Platform 9. I get to 9 and there is no-one there. The other platforms have people and trains going in and out, but not 9. Figuring that I was wrong and went back down into the subway. I found platform 7 had trains to Ghent. I get onto the platform and a train is waiting. This time I checked with the conductor who was standing next to the train, just to make sure I was in the right place. Winning!

So in arriving in Ghent I found that the town centre was a bit of a walk. I tried to read the tram schedule but couldn't understand a thing, so I adopted the Haynes theory and jumped on a tram that was heading in the general direction. I felt a bit guilty as I didn't have a ticket so I spent half the trip praying there were no Belgian Met Police and the other half looking for street signs telling me I was going the right way (I didn't have a map so I'd taken a photo of the map at the train station) I moved seat for an old lady who had gotten on the tram. She noticed me checking out my "map" and inquired where I was going. She very kindly told me which stop to get off gave me directions to the city centre. It pays to be polite.

I found the city centre no problem, but the tourist office was shut. So I wandered around town for a bit until I found boat rides. The ride was very entertaining and informative. Ghent was founded by Vikings apparently. Like Brugge it gained its wealth as a trading port. We went past a dominican monastery, where the driver told us the monks used to get drunk on beer and then go into town and pick fights with the non believers. When the protestants came to town they sought revenge by attacking the monastery and throwing the monks into the water. The monks could swim but the 30,000 books that went in after them could not. So many books they filled the canal and people could walk across the water

The guide talked a little about Belgian beer, they have a few different types here, he pointed out one restaurant that sells 150 types of beer. During the middle ages everyone in Ghent (including kidlets) drank 1 1/2 litres of beer a day because the river was so polluted it was safer to drink beer. And they say Australia has a drinking culture....we're amateurs

Thanks to the boat ride I now knew where to find Gravensteen Castle.....my very first castle. I was so excited until I saw my very first flight if stairs in said castle. A narrow spiral stone staircase. And you all know how I feel about stairs! Going up was relatively easy, coming down, not so much. Fortunately in the flight of stairs I had to come down, they had deepened the steps a little so I could almost get my whole foot on them. And that staircase seemed to go down forever. And just to add to my fun, there were a few places where the I had to walk along these elevated platforms along the walls. The platforms were at least 5ft wide, plenty of space really, but no railing. The drop to the ground would have been about 10ft I think. Me being a big scaredy cat, stuck to the wall, which had windows in it so I could glance out at the 30ft drop to the water. I don't think I like castles anymore

The castle was used by the Counts of Ghent until the 1400's. Then it was converted to a prison. In a few of the rooms they had displays of the kinds of torture people endured in this place. There was the traditional rack, water torture and the screws. But there was one particular room where a "suspect" was put in a collar with very nasty spikes in the inside. They then had to sit on a stool while the collar was attached via iron rods to the four corners of the room. They were the held in place as any kind of movement led to the spikes in the collar stabbing their throat. No-one lasted more than 2-3 hours of this torture.

So after my adventures in the castle I opted for a safer activity, visit some churches, Ghent only has a dozen of them. I opted for St Bavo Cathedral. Yet another beautiful cathedral full of wonderful sculpture, although some of the figures looked a bit more like Greek gods than biblical figures to me. Funny that. In this Cathedral they had the tombs open, only it wasn't just the tombs, there were lots of displays of bishops robes over the ages. Some of them were really old

After that I decided it was time to rest my feet and have some wine. I picked a cafe in the square outside the cathedral which was lovely as there were some buskers playing music in the square. Then it began to rain. Then it began to pour. Then a higher power picked up the ocean and dumped it on Ghent. After that the sun came out so I thought it might be a good time to make a move for the train station. I walked back to the station, which was quite a hike. And I did that because I wanted to, not because I started heading west instead of south and couldn't find the tram.


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16th August 2014

Lol, I'm thirsty now. Thanks for the stories, it makes my morning. :)

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