Diana and I spent a rainy and fun-filled full day in Brussels but wanted to check out another town before we left Belgium. We talked about going to Bruges, which is a popular town with tourists northwest of Brussels up near the North Sea. The only thing that I knew about Bruges was that there was an art movie a bunch of years ago called "In Bruges". I never saw it but it was just enough for me to be interested in going there. Diana had been there (of course) but she was up for going back so I could check it out.
It just so happens that there was a young student from Spain living in one of the other bedrooms of the house we stayed in (via airbnb) who we made quick friends with. He had been living in Brussels for about ten months and suggested that we go to the town of Ghent as it was possibly even cooler and not nearly so touristy compared to Bruges. It was that easy. The next morning we took the train about one hour northwest of Brussels to the exceptionally well-preserved medieval town of Ghent:
Ghent has about 600,000 people and for years was one of the largest and richest cities in Europe. Walking around the historic core is an architecture fan's dream. I can't find the dates but I think these two awesome houses are from like the 1500s:
Ghent is fairly quiet but quite nice. We went on a Friday so I'm guessing that it might get a bit more crowded on the weekends or during summer (if summer ever comes to northern Europe!?!?). We lucked out on the day we were there as it was rain-free, which I'm under the impression is a fairly rare event. Random Ghent street scene:
And what's a real medieval European town without a castle? Well, Ghent's got one of those too! I love this photo with the super-modern tram running in front of the Gravensteen Castle, which was built in 1180:
Diana and I wanted to take advantage of the relatively nice day by eating outside somewhere but we couldn't really find anything we wanted. Instead, we went to a local supermarket and bought some snacks, drinks, and the ingredients to make sandwiches. A few minutes later and very few steps away, we found our lunch spot. We chose these stairs overlooking one of Ghent's canals. Can you ask for a better picnic spot???
In Diana's quest to visit every church in Europe, we stopped by as bunch while we were in town. In one of them, we came across this religion-inspired fashion show, which definitely wins the award for unusual things you might find in a church. I'm guessing that it was put together by the daughter of someone who's well-connected and that the church's senior person is somewhat flexible.
Oh, and the best? ANOTHER head of John the Baptist! No self-respecting European church should be without their own sculpture of good-ole' John's head.
The amount of beautiful buildings and canals in Ghent is impressive but it almost seems too perfect - like it was designed by Disney or something. But I can say that it's definitely worth a day trip. On our way out of town, we stopped to take photos on a bridge that had great views of the city but we thought that we'd shoot a video instead. And for those folks who like to find mistakes, I say in the video that we're in Ghent, Brussels but it should have been Ghent, Belgium. :-) Enjoy!