Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Belgium's Fourth City 'Ghent', A Hidden Gem

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The main canal in Ghent towards Sint Micheilbrug
Ghent seems to be the forgotten Belgian city, sandwiched between Brugges, Brussels and Antwerp, but I think it is a little hidden gem.  We hopped on a train, and were planning a single day trip to Ghent, trying to hurriedly see all the sights.  Looks like we picked one of the worst days possible to see the city, as they were setting up for the biggest festival of Belgium, to take place in the next week.  So, we saw some fabulous architecture, and wonderful churches, but all blocked by scaffolding, stage construction, and big trucks unloading and the building blocks.  But, we were able to see past the construction zone and visualize how beautiful the city would be on a normal day.  And possibly how much fun it would be during the festival when hundreds of thousands of people descend upon the city for open air concerts. 

The Gravensteen Castle
The city is based upon some canal networks that head out to sea.  The Gravensteen, a 12th century medieval castle is right in the heart of town, standing dominantly!  It has been restored and is an impressive sight.  Among the beauty of the other ancient buildings in town, you can't help but notice that there are 4 massive church/cathedrals within a short two block section in the market area of town.  It is a row of huge towers and striking religious structures.  The amount of time and money that must have been spent to build this little stretch of religion would be astronomical.

St Baafskathedraal, the cathedral contains "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb".  Painted in 1432 is
Three of the Big Towers
the most famous piece of Flemish art in Belgium and is on display in the cathedral (for an entrance fee).  Too high of a price for me to see a single piece of art, no matter how famous.

The 14th century Belfort, one of the group of Belfries that are all Unesco World Heritage Sites, would offer a commanding view from the tower, but too high of a price once again.

St Niklaaskerk, and Sint Michielsplein, are just plain big churches, and surround a few of the market squares.  All making for quite the view.  Sint Michielspein is actually across the ancient bridge, and from the bridge you can see the waterfront views of Graslei and Korenlei, names for the waterfront on each side of the canal.  These are some of the best buildings in town, but also where all the stages were being set up.
Korenlei waterfront

Our day consisted of plenty of walking, an unhealthy lunch of 'Oh so good' Beglian fries with mayonaisse, buying some lovely chocolates from the myriad of chocolate shops around town, and seeing a massive cannon.  A strange site in town, but the cannon nicknamed Dulle Greit, was a 5m long gun, that was built to fire 250kg cannonballs.  Luckily, this gun was never put to the test.

Ghent is a hidden gem indeed, and a must see on the tour of Belgium's Big Three Cities, which we figure should be The Big Four!!  *Stub
Dulle Greit - 5m long cannon



Michelle at Korenmarkt



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