Ghent has been called a ‘Gritty Bruges’ by the lonely planet. I would say it is not as pretty as Bruges, but it is still a nice city. We stopped at a camping ground in Blaarmeerson that would have to be the largest leisure activity area I have ever seen. There was a rowing regatta on when we arrived which was amazing. They have a two kilometre rowing course there and they had race after race on all Saturday and all Sunday, which was great to watch. At the leisure complex they have a huge swimming lake (it looked a bit ordinary to swim to us) but it was a massive area. They had tennis courts, artificial wall climbing facility, a huge beach area with volleyball courts, running course, rugby ground, canoeing area, a lake to fish, playgrounds etc etc. Absolutely massive. This fish we saw in the lake where huge too!
We arrived late on Saturday but still walked into the centre of Ghent which we were told was only 4 kilometres one way, but I swear it was about 5 or 6 kilometres because by the time we had walked there, walked around and went to walk back I was completely buggared. It was really busy and so interesting. Ghent has light rail cars or tram cars I would call them (only two carriages in each) through the whole centre of the city. So as you are walking along the footpath we had to avoid not only other people, but watch out for bikes, cars and the rail cars.
Sunday we decided to walk back into the centre and have a good look around at the architecture. Ghent has some beautiful old buildings as you will see in some of the photos. The churches are always amazing in this part of the world. I wonder how they managed to build them with their magnificent high arches and columns, how long it would have taken and how many people probably died whilst they were being built. We imagine Ghent is also like a mini Venice with many buildings built on the water and sightseeing tourist boats cruising around. The canals are very pretty and prime spots for everyone especially for bars and cafes.
Lunch was fresh baguettes, so crunchy on the outside, filled with fromage (brie), tomato, jambon (ham), just devine. We adore them, they would have to be one of our most favourite lunches, there is nothing nicer. I will miss that when we leave Belgium. Ghent people still speak Flemish primarily, with English and French as well.
With the mix of traffic I mention earlier, we watched as tourists forgot to look out and saw people knocked off their bikes – and on the rail tracks – a bit scary, but the people on bikes are obviously so used to biking through the city they don’t watch for people stepping in front of them either. The cobbled roads don’t make it easy either, to walk (especially in high heels) or bike and every now and then you would think you were on a walkway and a car would come driving right at you and you would have to move quick smart. The city dynamics were very interesting. There weren’t the amount of tourists like Bruges had. I watched as groups of 5 boys were approaching carefully picked people in the squares and asked something of them. I half expected to see one of them being a pickpocket or something, but I didn’t see that and I never did find out what they were doing, but it seemed all harmless in the end.
We took the bus back today since the legs aren’t what they used to be especially after the day before. The dynamics on the bus were also interesting with a rather vibrant middle eastern family’s? antics who boarded and seemed to take over the whole bus, only to be watched over by disapproving elderly locals complete with their dogs.
Off to Wallonia (up in the hills/forests) area Monday on the way to Luxembourg.