2 October 2019
Today we back tracked a little. We had heard that Ghent was such a beautiful place and we really shouldn’t miss it. We’d passed by on the train a day or so earlier but didn’t stop. So we needed to rectify that.
And there is a whole Ghent v Brugge thing that we felt we needed to investigate.
Brugge is beautiful and reasonably small whilst Ghent is beautiful and reasonably large.
Both attract a lot of tourists and both have waterways (with tour boats), waffles, chocolates, lace, horse and buggies and beer a- plenty.
We caught the intercity train and then a light rail to take us into the heart of the city, the old part.
The first thing we came across at the train station was the massive bike-parking lot!!
And those are just the parked bikes. Thousands of others were circulating the city with a wide age range of Belgians attached to them. Well dressed women, uni students, school kids , elderly men all cycling here and there. Many of those that weren’t cycling were carrying their fold up Brompton style bikes like handbags ready to unfold when needed. Amazing! Wonderful!!
The weather was a real mix, summer one minute, showery and cold the next. We managed to avoid most of the r#*n and still see what we wanted without getting wet.
We signed up for a boat trip along the two rivers that converge and the attached canals. Our guide was great and had lots of good info and funny stories to impart whilst navigating the waterways and dodging all the other boat tour groups. (Remind me to tell you the one about the tanners guild and the soft leather. )
Ghent was dressed to impress!
The hotel Marriot had added a bow to celebrate a birthday but behind this beautiful façade was an amazingly modern building.
Apparently the building used to be a brothel, hence the two swans (a symbol of love) are facing away from each other, instead of facing,forming a heart shape with their long necks, symbolising a different kind of love. The paid for version. So the story goes.
We came across a group of kids on a “team building” exercise! With mixed success. But if I had to do a team building exercise, I’d be pretty happy with this location.
We followed up our boat trip with a free walking tour which was also enjoyable . We heard some of the stories twice and mostly the ending was the same. But each guide had a great rapport kept us all enthralled.
Ghent has its own MannekenPis called Nestor but have included his sisters Lena and Luna. Similar tale to the Brussels version with a few local embellishments.
Ghent is pretty proud of itself, and in its quest to be better than Brugge, it has solved a potential graffiti problem by allocating an alleyway of white walls to those who feel the need. It takes about three months before they are fully covered and get whitewashed again. I loved it!
To be fair, in our quest to solve the Ghent v Brugge issue, we simply had to compare the churches. Two were within cooee of each other, but somehow they have have melded into one in my head. Can’t remember which was which. Now there’s a surprise!!
One had a very special alterpiece by the artists, brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. (1420- 1432) “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, (Great name, btw) is the most frequently stolen artwork in history (see Guinness Book of Records) and one panel is still missing. Bottom left panel….. gone!!! ).
We have a confession. We saw a copy with all the panels but didn’t pay the euros to see the real thing. Sorry arty people (Jenny Shield!).
One of the churches looked like this from the outside.
And one had an inside like this.
The other one had an inside like this.
Both pretty pretty.
A massive bonus point goes to Ghent for providing an organ recital for our visit.
Another bonus point goes to Ghent for offering free health advice.
We headed back to Brugge to check a few things before we handed down our ruling.
Brugge scored high in the whacky statue category with this entrant of some guy with bird for a hat.
After dinner we gave a bonus point for the best Geocache ever. Treasure hidden right in front of our noses and a tricky code to crack before reaching the holy grail.
And then Brugge went and did this!
So the results are in. It’s been declared a draw. 1 all. Grahame was more a Ghent kind of person, whereas I lean toward Brugge. But it could have gone either way!!