Weekend in Belgium

Had a chance to visit Gent and Brussels in Belgium before going to the Netherlands for work the following Monday. Figured it’d be much easier to get a train from there rather than an early morning flight.

Gent was a town I wanted to visit last time we were in Belgium in summer but due to the shitty nature of the overnight bus, we were too tired to venture out. Ironically though, I did it again this time! Taking a flixbus this time which was a lot better, simply because the bus took the train rather than ferry. That meant just being woken up once at the border for passport control rather than for passport control, leaving the bus to get on the ferry, leaving the ferry to get back on the bus.

It’s rather amazing that a bus can squeeze into a train that runs underneath the English channel.

So as I arrived, put my stuff away and off the Gent i went. Was feeling okay and not too spent from the lack of sleep, but it did mean a cheeky nap on the short train ride.

Gent-Sint-Pieters station

Gent’s a rather old town, you can already see the way the station looks. The interior is rather amazing, especially the ceiling.

Gent-Sint-Pieters station ceiling

Again, not much research and relying upon Google trips to pull out some highlights. It was raining a fair bit so waited around for it subside, once it did, Out Lady of Saint Peter’s Church was the first stop.

Square around Sint-Pietersabdij

Like most European churches, the inside is grand and beautiful. In the centre looking up at the dome amazed me with how much detail is put into it.

Looking up at the dome

Outside in the courtyard were some skeletons that look they’re from some mystical creature.

Is it a pterodactyl or something?

Walked into town and dropped by a cafe to let the rain subside once again. Some of the buildings have a lovely colour.

Then on my way to St Bavo’s cathedral but not before spotting The Castle of Gerald the Devil, which was actually knight’s residence.

Castillo de Gerardo El Diablo

Bit odd the combination of the new and old joined to each other.

To St Bavo’s:

Sint-Baafskathedraal

No photos inside so I was discreet with the phone instead. Inside there were a couple of interesting things, the first was the skeleton Leo the whale that had died at sea and brought back by the fire brigade.

Skeleton of Leo the Whale

The next is a particular artwork famous art, the Ghent alterpiece or Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Apparently stolen many times and one of the outer panels is still missing to this date. One of the original panels is still missing and a a stockbroker who confessed on his deathbed that he knew of its location. There was also evidence of him sending a ransom note asking for 1 million Belgian francs for its return.

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

Gent (or is it Ghent?) is a lovely place to just walk around, the variety of buildings intertwined with water running through it is rather lovely.

View of the Groot Vleeshuis or “Large meathouse”

Also having Christmas markets always spices things up.

For lunch stopped by a place called Souplounge, a casual eatery that serves up soup. Great idea I thought, you can choose between a few soups and then choose your toppings. Bacon? Croutons? Yes please. Bit of fruit was also provided. Mega cheap as well, 3 or 4 Euros.

Something about Europeans and ferris wheels.

Had some coconut macaroons, while I’m not a fan of desiccated coconut, the toasted nature made them quite delicious. These were made fresh at the stall.

Went up the Belfry of Ghent, a tall medieval tower hoping to catch a lovely sunset, but it was rather overcast. It did give a lovely view of the town though.

As night falls and the lights come on, a whole different mood to Gent comes alive.

Overlooking the Groot Vleeshuis or “Large meathouse”
Looking down the Lys (or Leie) river

Time for dinner and while unfortunately alone, I was lucky enough to find this gem called Aroma. Fortunately they weren’t open when I arrived and only a few people standing around. Within a few minutes of entering, it packed out.

Complimentary biscuits and pate that was to die for.


Local beer; Gruut. Brewed using a mix of spices rather than hop. This was an amber ale and really delicious.

Main was a beef stew or stoverij, served with chips. Gravy/sauce was to amazingly rich in flavour.

That was it for Ghent, a really lovely place and would definitely recommend. Back to Brussels for the night and exploring the capital the next day where it’d be more Christmas markets.

First thing in the morning though, some pastries for breakfast.

So many pastries!
Of course there’d be a giant ferris wheel

Really nicely decorated with statues and figurines.

Plenty of food and candy, bought a whole bunch of the local stuff called Cuberdon’s. It’s a gelatinous lolly with a hard coating, many different flavours but reminds me a bit of musk candy.

Cuberdons

One really nice thing I love about Europe is the number of dogs floating around and how well behaved they all seemed to be. Especially this Chow Chow!

Their merry-go-rounds for kids were really cool as well, not colourful at all but rather more like a steam punk style; semi-mechanical, bugs and whatnot!

Behind the main square was some exhibition about the moon, didn’t go in, but what was really cool outside was a large moon, really big and detailed.

As it got darker, the lights came on. The streets were quite nice.

The main attraction however was the main square. Every half an hour a light show synchronised to some songs from Sia’s latest Christmas album, Everyday is Christmas.

I took a 360 video, despite having gloves on, my hands were freezing! Hopefully it embeds okay.

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