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davidx Gent - A travel report by David
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Gent,  Belgium - flag Belgium -  Oost-Vlaanderen
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davidx's travel reports

Gent, Ghent or Gand

  28 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
I usually know what to call a place. London is NOT Londres or Londras.and Firenze is NOT Florence [Heaven preserve us!] Sadly the word ‘Gent’ in England is reminiscent of a male toilet with the s broken off – so the city is Ghent here.


Historic waterfront, the Graslei
Historic waterfront, the Graslei
Belgium is a federation of Dutch Flanders, French Wallonie and bilingual Brussel or Bruselles. Ghent is one of the great cities of Flanders along with Antwerpen, Brugge and, smaller but impressive, Leuven and Mechelen. It is often suggested that Ghent is less interesting than Brugge but why get competitive about it? Brugge has survived, as though in a time warp, to show a mediaeval landscape in the 21st century. Ghent has been an active part of every era and its buildings reveal this. Even its historic waterfront spans some hundreds of years in its buildings. How can the two be compared? Enjoy Ghent for what it is. Sint Michielsbrug [St Michael’s Bridge] is as good as anywhere to start looking. It is close to St Niclaaskerk, where the tram from the station stops. From the Korenlei, the track beside the river on the far side, you can get a perfect view of the most photographed site in the city, the three towers of St Niclaaskerk, the Belfry and the Cathedral. It is also the best land point for viewing the Graslei on the other side, where the buildings of varying ages are to be found. [See favourites.] Beyond the next bridge there is what is almost an extension of the Korenlei in Jan Breydelstraat. Here is the Design Museum on the left and slap opposite to it the Brooderie, a bakery and wholefood café – which is where I stayed. Jan Breydelstraat continues shortly to the old Castle of the Counts, a place whose steps had to be inimical to me but a child’s dream, with even a museum of torture instruments to provide further interest. It is, to me, one of the things that renders Ghent so appealing that the main shopping streets are only a stone’s throw away from here. However I was more taken with the museums. The main art museum was largely closed but I derived great pleasure from both the Design Museum and, to my great surprise, the Museum of Folklore. [See last section.] I came back without a photo of the castle but see www.trabel.com/gent/-gravensteen.htm

Favourite spots:
Boat trip start
Boat trip start
I’m pretty daft about boat trips so it’s not surprising that my favourite memory is of a boat trip around Ghent’s historic centre. However, it would be anything but, were the organisers any slower to lend out umbrellas to their passengers when lightning and thunder herald a deluge! I’ve mentioned the varying ages of the splendid old guild houses along the Graslei. The oldest of them, the Korornstapelhuis, dates from the 12th century and the latest building in the Graslei from the 20th! There is a variety of guilds as well, several connected with the corn trade, for which Ghent was the staple port for Belgium but also the Masons and the Free Shippers. After viewing these, the boat goes back past its starting point to show considerably more of Ghent’s historic past along the rivers Leie and Lieve, which meet here.

What's really great:
The Design Museum is a real beauty with some fine 17th century furniture, suiting the building, and a great collection of art nouveau and art deco artefacts in the extension, revealing the progression during early decades of the 20th century. I really only went to the Folklore Museum because the building looked interesting. It was – very – but so were the exhibits. The building was originally 18 almshouses, built in the 14th century. Later it was a children’s rest hospital. You go right along the two floors to start with on one side, the partitions having been demolished and then across the courtyard to the chapel before entering yet more old almshouses. The various rooms were themed but I’ll just give examples of things with real fascination: a device for baptising in utero; some outstanding old coin in slot music machines and, perhaps most spectacular, a traditional black [not mourning!] wedding dress with coloured sequins hand sewn over it in hundreds if not thousands.

Sights:
Towers of Ghent
Towers of Ghent
Here are the buildings with the three great towers of Ghent, mentioned in the introduction. St Niclaaskerk, like St Bavo’s Cathedral, was built in the 13th century and served as Ghent’s first belfry [a lay function for observation and defence]. Why would they need two churches this size so close together? I pass on that one.There are two things in the Cathedral of particular note. The first is Van Eyck’s painting of Het Lam Gods [the Lamb of God] in a side chapel. The second is a fantastic wood and marble pulpit in Rococo style.
Almost unbelievably the Belfry, between the two ecclesiastical buildings, has a lift. The bad news, for anyone like me really needing the lift, is that you have to walk to the first floor to reach it. Fortunately I met nobody on the spiral stairway and was able to set an unofficial record for the slowest time ever – but was I glad to be able to be up there!

Accommodations:
Near the Brooderie - left after boat.
Near the Brooderie - left after boat.
The Brooderie is an old bakehouse, where you can still see the ovens in use for the delicious home baked food sold in the cafe. It abuts on to the Leie river. On the first floor [up] there is a huge guest room for two people, showers and toilets, used both for cafe guests and those staying. On the second floor are two further guest rooms.
You may not like the idea of the shared toilets – even though they were spotless. However you can set against that the splendid position [a hotel as convenient would COST], the comfort and peace, and the scrumptious breakfast.
Phone: 092 25 06 23

Restaurants:
I usually have one pre-noted place in reserve in case I don’t find anywhere. This time the place I found [I discovered later] was my pre-noted place and I went there both nights in Ghent. It was the Brasserie Borluut at Korenlei 7.
It provides typical Flemish food and the a la carte prices are fairly standard – but the menus, not one bit poorer, and in particular the day’s menu are really cheap for what you get.
For instance the first night was lovely vegetable soup followed by steak and mushroom [with a beer] then an ice cream and coffee was only €10 and all first class. The second night the Menu of the Day was sold out and I was forced onto the ordinary menu. What horror – I don’t think! The Gentse waterzooi of fish was a stew to rank with the fish dishes of Scandinavia!

Published on Tuesday January 25th, 2005


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Tue, Feb 20 2007 - 08:19 PM rating by travler

I like to try your meal that you had the first night.

Is this in the area where the poem "In Flanders Field the poppies grow" was written?

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 07:41 PM rating by mrscanada

I love to go to places that have fresh fish. That's why I live by the water.

Great review.

Fri, Nov 11 2005 - 01:56 PM rating by nedkelly

I speak dutch and I know exactluy what you mean about the name...hehehe great report... again..... I love reading your stuff David

Later

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 12:48 PM rating by isaacmolina

all your reports are a delice to read. you give info and write with heart and wisdom

Fri, Oct 07 2005 - 07:12 PM rating by rossh1

Excellent report; thank you for writing it. :-)

Wed, Jan 26 2005 - 08:22 AM rating by britman

Great easy read with delightful pictures.

Wed, Jan 26 2005 - 05:55 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii david,
very nice report again
ravi

Tue, Jan 25 2005 - 12:27 PM rating by johnnye00

You make a good case to stop by Ghent, good report.

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