Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Nottingham’s far prettier twin

Day 166 27.12.12 Ghent

Ghent views from the canal

Ghent canal side walks in the early morning
We were awake early after a poor night’s sleep.  The wind last night was incredibly strong and kept rocking the van from side to side and waking us up.  Nonetheless we were pleased it was dry and headed back to town.  Our first stop was St Bavo’s Abbey on the far side of town.  Unfortunately however it was closed for the winter.  A big disappointment as I was looking forward to exploring the spooky looking ruins.  I did manage to get a picture of two knights head atop a crumbly old wall though which somewhat sated my desire for creepy photos.

Ruins of the St Bavo abbey in Ghent, Belgium
Onwards we headed back to the Vrijdagmarkt to see it by daylight and look at some of the shops that’d been closed last night.  It continued to amaze with its weird and wonderful bits and bobs.  We then pottered about the Graslei and Korenlei districts wandering up and down any streets we’d missed.  There was also some enjoyable strolling alongside the canal to be done.  After a while however our luck ran out and the rain began again in earnest.  We were pretty hungry by this point anyway so hopped from one bit of shelter to another towards home, via a stop in the Christmas market for Chris to grab a tasty crepe filled with Nutella!

After lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon in the van getting some writing done, planning our next stops and avoiding the rain!  Ghent has been a wonderful place to visit.  It is full of some of the most jaw-dropping views you could wish for.  

Socialist workers building in Vrijdagmarkt square, GhentBeautiful buildings in Ghent's Korenlei districtSo many people told us we’d prefer it to Bruges and I can see why they said that, as there’s more to see here and the buildings on the whole are more impressive.  I have to say though that we disagreed, mainly because Bruges felt so very safe.  We were content leaving the van whenever we wanted and felt perfectly happy wandering off the beaten track.  Ghent whilst arguably more attractive than Bruges certainly has a far seedier edge and you don’t have to stray far from the historic centre to find it.  The graffiti, vandalism and beggars here detract from its beauty adds a gritty realism.  In Bruges there was nothing at odds with the fairytale feel at all and at Christmas time it was just magical.  You could just lose yourself there, there was no unpleasantness to bring you back down to earth.  I don’t mean to run Ghent down as it’s a fantastically gorgeous city, it’s just a little rough around the edges, perhaps that’s why its twinned with Nottingham!

View by the canal in Ghent, Belgium

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