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 108
Note: Most of the photographs are identified on the lower part of the image, but it is necessary to view them in "Full" mode.