Somehow I have developed an emotionally strong affinity for Ghent. I rank the city right up there with Edinburgh, Scotland, and Nürnberg, Germany (my two favorite cities in the world). My criteria for ranking a city at the top is simple. Would I like to live there? You bet!
by flyingscot4 on July 13, 2011
This Journal is dedicated to a man I never met, but wish I had. A man with whom I swapped emails only a couple of times, but wish I had swapped more. A man whose writings I truly enjoyed, but who will write no more. I only just learned of his untimely passing over a year ago. His name is Luc Van Elst and he wrote under the name "luchonda" on this site and on Virtual Tourist as well, and I urge readers to look to his writings to learn about Ghent - the real Ghent, and about Luc's world.Luc wrote with a love for and a passion for his country, and about the city that was his home. He loved Ghent, raised his family there, and enjoyed all of the things that make that city a place to truly enjoy. In one of his writings (which I couldn't find again), Luc compared Bruges and Ghent, and the differences in volume of the two cities. He made the point that Ghent is far more quiet and relaxed with far fewer tourists, and he is exactly right, but more than that, his writings are filled with the emotion of life, and I heartily recommend them to others.So here's to you, Luc - a man who loved his life, his family, his city, his country, and his world. We are, all of us, better for having known you or of you. Sail on, friend. May your winds be strong for your sails and soft for your journey.
by flyingscot4 on July 12, 2011
I'm normally not this much of a perfectionist, but I feel that I have left much undone in my writing about Ghent. I can understand my love of Edinburgh and Nürnberg. I have spent much time in Edinburgh and I lived in Nürnberg for three years. I wish I could live in both of those cities for a couple of years each. I love Scottish history and I was able to see Nürnberg "rise from the ashes," so to speak. Ghent is different. I spent a couple of days there twice in the 1960's, seven days in 2005 (Ghent was my "base city" for Belgium), and a couple of days in 2011. I have not spent much time there at all.I remember liking Belgium in the 60's. I liked everyplace new in the 60's. I especially liked the beer, wine, and girls (not necessarily in that order). There are a number of stories from that period that are better left untold, but I do have those memories and they are good memories (mostly). On my first visit to Belgium I traveled with a couple of buddies from the US Army and the second time with some German University students that I had met. Oddly enough, the subjects of those trips were the same. How about that?Five or six years ago I was in Ghent for seven nights using the city as my base to visit Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp as well as my base city. Ghent is central to those cities and I was able to stay in one spot. At the time, it cost €4.00 for a "senior" to travel anywhere in Belgium and back on the same day (this year it is €5.20, still a bargain). During those seven days I spent most of my nights in Ghent wandering the streets without a working camera. Perhaps having a camera stolen was a blessing because I was able to see the city at night without looking through the viewfinder. During the day I used a rented camera that had to be returned before 6:00 PM each evening. Consequently, I had to return each evening and saw none of the other three cities at night. If I had, I might still be there. As it turned out, I "saw" Ghent and enjoyed every minute of my time there.Moving forward to 2011, I returned for just a short visit because I had a rail pass and a few extra days before I needed to be in Berlin. It was a long train ride from Nürnberg, Germany, but it was well worth it. Of course, with me, nothing ever goes perfectly. I was unable to get my new tripod into my pack so I planned to purchase a cheap one in Poland thinking that it would be less expensive there. Nope. I looked for a bargain tripod in every city and they were all too expensive (much more than in the US). So, as a result, every photo that I took on the trip to twelve cities was hand-held. Obviously, I had a few bad ones - like about 700! I did get some good ones though, and they'll be here in numbers. I am taking the time to ID each image with the city name (Ghent) and what I think it is. I'm not certain about a few of them.For the photographer that lurks in all of us travelers, I'll include some information that I found to be kind of unique to Ghent. I'll also try to include some helpful information for all tourist groups, based on conversations I had with the different groups while I was there and from others I met in Berlin and Warsaw. I'll include hostelers, backpackers, young romantics, 2nd honeymooners, singles, couples, geezers (like me), tourists, and seasoned travelers (I talk to everyone I meet). I will not write anything negative because I found nothing negative. I won't write about first class travel because I have never done it and talked to very few who have. They tend to be in the more exclusive restaurants and hotels of which I have absolutely no experience (I still choose my hostels partially based on price and recommendation of other travelers). I hope that you will find the writing and information interesting and of value. Note: I have tried to identify the photos as inconspicuously as possible on the lower part of the image, but it will probably be necessary to view them in "Full" mode to see the ID.
by flyingscot4 on July 11, 2011
Ghent is another Belgian city that has magnificent lighting that makes the Old City come alive at night. Young people line the Graslei and the Korenlei and St. Micheal's Bridge becomes a very busy thoroughfare. The Friday Market Square is lined with restaurants and pubs, all of which are very crowded indeed. Tourists who are staying overnight in Ghent mix with locals at the restaurants and students and hostelers meet in the pubs and along the river and canals. While a few of the outside areas are brightly lit, most of the lighting inspires romance (for any age). Nights and evenings in Ghent are times to relax. Locals and tourists alike amble slowly through the streets and along the river and canals, some holding hands or arm in arm, appearing as though no one wishes to disturb the reverie. Like Bruges, it is magic.If you are staying only one night and wish to wander through the old city, this is my suggested route. Ideally, this route would take a couple of nights if a few extended refreshment stops along the way were included. So while it is not a recommendation because relaxation is the operative word, it is doable. However... if you were to have a little extra time...I would start at the rear of the Belfry (the Tourist Information Desk, "Infokantoor") is in the basement). From there you will be facing St-Baafskathedral which is beautifully lit from most angles. Walk down Kapittelsrtaat turning right and crossing past the front of the cathedral. Turn right at the corner and continue to the Belfry and then to St-Niklaaskerk. Then continue until you pass the "Old Post Office" on your right, cross St. Michael's Bridge and take the walkway on the right that leads under the bridge. You will then be on the Korenlei side of the Leie River looking across at the Graslei. Walk along the Korenlei while viewing the Graslei, then retrace your steps and recross the St Michael's Bridge. Turn left at the corner just past the Old Post Office, and find a spot to take a break. You haven't walked far, but you deserve a beer!Continue on Korte Munt and turn left on Grasburg. Stopping in the middle, there are lovely views of either side of the bridge. Finish crossing the bridge and turn right continuing to Burgstraat where you will turn right and have a nice view of Het Gravensteen ("Castle of Counts"). Turn left at the corner for other good views of the castle. More good views are available if you continue up one block to Lievestraat, and turn left. The views will be on your left. Retrace your steps back to the entrance to the castle and turn left (Burgstraat becomes Bekelingestaat and then Kraanleistraat). Turn right at the bridge and enter the Vrijdagmarkt, which is wonderfully lit and filled with delightful places to stop. Take a break.Leave the "Friday Market" on Kamerstraat and walk to Belfortstraat and turn right. Follow Belfortstraat to the starting point and have a beer! Now you can truthfully say that you saw Ghent - well, most of it anyway. Cheers!Note: Most of the photographs are identified on the lower part of the image, but it is necessary to view them in "Full" mode.
by flyingscot4 on July 19, 2011
I have written "glowing" Journals about both Bruges and Ghent. It is not because I can't make up my mind about which city I prefer. I prefer Ghent and I have been searching for comparisons between Bruges and Ghent for a few weeks now. I was looking for quotes from other sources that felt the same way about the two cities as I do. I love Ghent, but I really, really like Bruges too, and I have been searching out the comparisons of others that put into words those few statements that have been escaping me. It is not that I am looking to justify my opinions, just to help explain them. I don't know what I have found, but I need to stop looking and get on to the next part of my life. I have spent entirely too much time searching for the words that keep evading me.Bruges is just plain beautiful and is usually described that way. The city has a loveliness that is almost too perfect. Many visitors, both tourists and professional travel writers have called Bruges charming and I have used that term myself numerous times. Bruges is charming! The city is lovely, beautiful, tasteful, enchanting, captivating, and beguiling, at least it is to me, and to many others, and I can find many other superlative terms as well. It's just that... I don't know... there's just something... and I need help putting my finger on it. It is almost like seeing something so perfect that one tries to find something wrong with it. I mean, can anything be that perfect?Playwright and writer Andrew Bennett said of Bruges, "The difference between Bruges and other cities is that in the latter you look about for the picturesque, while in Bruges, assailed on every side by the picturesque, you look curiously for the unpicturesque, and don't find it easily." That was written in 1896. In 1820, William Wordsworth wrote of Bruges, "... a deeper peace than in deserts found."About a week ago I decided to stop searching for faults with Bruges, and look instead, for the strengths and assets of Ghent. Almost immediately I came across an almost perfect comment from another experienced traveler. The comment reads: Many people visiting Belgium bypass Gent in favor of Brugge and while I wouldn't recommend skipping either of these cities, I'd have to say that I'd give Gent a slight edge... Gent seemed more like a living, breathing city where the city actually seemed to still be alive after the sun goes down and the buses have long departed.*Another comment that describes my feelings for Ghent comes from one of the major guide books that is one of my favorites: "Ghent remains a quintessentially Flemish city with a tourist industry - rather than the other way round - and if you find the tourists and tweeness of Bruges to be a tad overpowering, this is the place to decamp, just twenty minutes away by train."**Those comments (and others) resonated with me and in rereading my previous journals I have written about the beauty of both cities (and they are both truly beautiful), but what separated them was the vitality and life I found in Ghent. Being such a university city, there is a liveliness to go along with the loveliness of Ghent. Because of the number of young folks mingling with population, the entire population seems to me to be more animated and energetic. At least, that is my impression. I live in a university city and spent time in many others, and I have observed the same phenomenon here and in the others as well. Youth in a community seems to lead to youthfulness throughout the community. I think that explains much of the difference between the two cities.Please note that all comments are my own opinions and should do nothing to take away anything from Bruges, one of the truly magnificent and romantic cities of the world. It is my hope that Ghent will someday be included with Bruges as jewels of Belgium and of our wonderful planet.* by dabs from her writing "A love affair begins...." on the Virtual Tourist website** Rough Guide Directions - Bruges and Ghent written by Phil Lee, page 108Note: Most of the photographs are identified on the lower part of the image, but it is necessary to view them in "Full" mode.
by flyingscot4 on August 3, 2011
It is difficult to leave Ghent without mentioning Sint-Niklaaskerk and Sint-Baafskathedral (St. Nicholas Church and St. Bavo's Cathedral respectively). Both are very old with histories that are well worth reading.The two churches are within sight of each other, about 3 blocks apart. Sint-Niklaaskerk was built first, beginning in the 13th century and was the church of the trade unions (or "guilds"). The side altars of the church were built by each of the guilds and the church was a powerful meeting place (non-political, of course).When I first entered the church I was struck by the amount of light present because from the outside I expected the opposite. The church is very bright even though it is Gothic. Other than tourists, there were people there praying or meditating in the quiet peacefulness, of this immense house of worship. As I found in Bruges, all the visitors to this church were wonderfully quiet and respectful, moving slowly throughout the church. There were no accidental flashes or slightly raised voices. Even the tour guides were able to speak in subdued tones. Perhaps some of the serenity was reverence, and part was pure awe, but I have never experienced the feeling of absolute peace that I have experienced in Belgium, and I wasn't the only one. I had inadvertently stepped in front of a person taking a picture and later we happened to be leaving the church at the same time. I had heard the man talking to his wife inside and knew they were American, so I apologized for ruining his picture. We chatted about the church for a few minutes, and then he said, "You know, even though we're Jewish. I felt that I should put on a yarmulke." Later, I talked to a tour guide who said that the tourists in Belgium are mostly very reserved and respectful in all of the churches.The interior of Sint-Niklaaskerk does inspire a certain amount of awe. The Scheldt-Gothic interior and vaulted ceilings are most impressive, as is the high altar with its Baroque theme of The Last Judgement which has survived the past forty years of renovation. Guaranteed a Do Not Miss attraction in Ghent.Next, the second church and one of the most important cathedrals in Europe - Sint-Baafskathedral.just starting...
I visited Sint-Baafskathedral (St. Bavo's Cathedral) several times during my stay in Ghent. I wasn't looking for anything specific, I just felt like going back. Even though I had been there the day before, I didn't feel line it was a waste of time. Only two days earlier I visited the Church of Our Lady in Bruges with the absolutely stunning Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo. That is a hard act to follow.At St. Bavo's I twice paid the admission charge to view the magnificent polyptych The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by brothers Jan and Hubert van Eyck. The panels were painted over the years from 1420 - 32, and while the masterpiece was not actually the first use of oil paints, it was the first time such great detail was achieved with the medium and brought the van Eyck's world fame. The piece is known as the best of The Seven Wonders of Belgium and is well-worth the entrance fee.I didn't return to the cathedral multiple times just to see the marvelous polyptych. I returned because I was afraid that I had missed something. The cathedral has multiple pieces of priceless art including Peter Paul Ruben's St. Bavo's Entry Into the Monastery of Ghent, Frans Pourbus the Elder's altarpiece Jesus Among the Scribes, with other panels of Christ's Circumcision and Christ's Baptism. Other artists represented include Justice van Gent, and his altarpiece Calvary Triptych, the sculptures of the high altar by Verbruggen, and the pulpit of white marble by Delvaux. In the crypt is Hugo de la Vigne's Reliquary of St. Macharius. There are armorials from the Knights of the Golden Fleece and a mid-seventeenth century organ with over 7,000 pipes. St. Bavo's is truly awe-inspiring.As you can see, Ghent is worth visiting if only for the churches. It would take two entire days to see Ghent and I will plan on a week for myself.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009