Again easy train rides to Ghent (an hour) from Antwerp.
As I travel around Belgium many of its medieval towns have a similar set up – Central square, cathedral and numerous other grand churches, Old Market and the town Hall. I suppose this is because of the guild background both here and in the Netherlands and that was how they liked things. The other thing is that a lot of Belgium’s towns seem to be going through a giant restoration period so scaffolding is ubiquitous and as it is August every town appears to be preparing for the next festival it will be holding. In Mechelen it was a music weekend and tomorrow in Antwerp there is an art/dance/drama/music thing going on – more on that in a future blog.
So Ghent – well it does have the churches. I visited the St Baaf’s (or Bavo) cathedral and St Nicklauskerk.
But take a look at these stained glass windows – surely FrankLloyd Wright snuck over and designed these. I loved them. Wish all church stained glass was like this!
There is a little bit of street art in Ghent and also a Van Dyck in one of the churches. I know which piece will outlast the others!
As usual wandering along the embankments of the canals is the nicest way to enjoy these cities as you get a great view of the slightly differing sandstone facades of the buildings which are always jammed close to one another.
Ghent also has an impressive Castle of the Counts pretty much in the centre of town.
I then went to an area in the old town called The Patershoi which is a maze of little streets that is now quite trendy with restaurants and food from all over the world. I?n this area is a small museum called the Huis from Alijn and is a “museum of daily things”. It is housed in the old almshouses (formerly a children’s hospital) and dates back to the 1300s. It is a fun museum taking you through life and practices and how these have changes – birth, puberty, marriage, death etc. Here are some of the things they had on display that reminded me of things we had when I grew up.(how my mother loved her electric carving knife!).
Finally I visited a quite new museum called Kazerne-Dossin Memorial. It is a ten minute walk out of town and is next to the old Dossin Barracks where the Jews of Antwerp in particular were deported initially before being sent on to concentration camps. It is a large site with a lot of stories to go through – but what is interesting about the way it is done is an open debate on the role of the Belgiums during this period. What is collaboration and why do some people resist and risk their lives for the greater good while so many do not? Definitely worth a visit but it doesn’t even get a mention in my guide book – found it online. It has been around for about 5 years.
My visit was a Friday and as I headed to the station to return to Antwerp it was good to see all the locals hanging out with their beers enjoying the early evening sunshine.