friendly Ghent with a touch of medieval times

Last weekend I hopped on a train to visit Ghent, a town that is supposedly 35 min away by train. Liars. It was definitely more than 35 minutes, the train was ridiculously slow and I couldn’t help but miss the awesome train service in The Netherlands. I did like that I was able to buy the weekend return ticket on the train though. That was a relief, since the queues for buying a ticket in the station were insane and I figured I might as well pay a bit more if I need to get it on the train. Nope, the cost was the same! One bonus point for Belgium.

I was greeted by Dore in the train station and she took me to her place on her bike. It was a bit terrifying to sit on the back of her bike at first, but she is Dutch and has perfect control of bikes, so I calmed down after a while. (Didn’t stop me from making scared girly squeaks every time we hit one of the many holes in the roads.) Willemijn informed us later that riding on the back of someone’s bike is forbidden in Belgium. Oops. We didn’t get fined though, so all was good.

The architecture in Ghent was impressive, just as I expected from a Flemish town. When buying things, I experimented with my slightly broken Dutch. Only had to revert to English a few times. I blame the Flemish, obviously they can’t understand my Dutch from Netherlands. Or if I’m absolutely honest, I would probably have to blame my bad pronunciation, but it’s more fun to blame it on the Flemish. Anyway, despite my faulty Dutch, I managed to buy a nice waffle. Since it was Dag van de Klant (Clients’ Day), both Dore and I got a free goodie bag with our waffles.

We got a small iced bun, a mini-croissant and tiny chocolate pastry. They were all delicious and solved the problem of food for a while. With our stomachs full and moods good, we continued our walk through the centre of Ghent. Occasionally it looks like a medieval theme park with entire streets full of nicely preserved old buildings. I had a mission to take as many photos of nice views as possible and Dore had a mission to jump in front of as many photos as possible. I mastered the skill of sneaky shooting though, so I managed to get my photos without a certain blonde friend in every shot.

One of the main tourist attractions in Ghent is Gravensteen or the Counts’ Castle. It was built in the 12th century and has served as a castle, court, prison, cotton factory and now as a castle museum. We didn’t go in there this time, so my next Ghent visit will definitely have to include a trip to Gravensteen. There is also a torture museum in there, it should be creepy and informative.

Some of my favourite views of Ghent were with De Leie, the river running through the city. One of my best photos over the river is with a Dutch flag. Can’t help it, there weren’t any Belgian ones in sight. By the way, implying that the Flemish (people from the Dutch part of Belgium) are basically Dutch, is very much frowned upon and could probably ruin a potential friendship between you and a Flemish person. They are very different, or at least so they say. I don’t have enough evidence yet (haven’t even spent a month in Belgium yet), so I’ll just smile and nod and agree.

If you are in Ghent and need a nice place for breakfast/lunch, I strongly recommend Simon Says! All the waiters look like they belong in an indie band, the food and drinks are delicious and the service is very friendly and cheerful. We even got blankets to wrap ourselves in when it got a bit too windy outside. (And on a random note: the tap in the bathroom was shaped like an animal head. Moose, if I remember correctly.) The house is worth a look as well, it has delightful colours. See for yourself:

We got lucky with the weather – while I was out with Dore, we didn’t even get any rain. When we arrived at Willemijn’s place later for a board game night, the weather wasn’t as kind anymore. The dramatic clouds I’ve learned to love in Brussels had already made a return and for the next day we got mostly heavy rain. But at least the sunset looked nice.

The board game night was awesome. Willemijn and Alje made lemon sponge pudding and a really delicious cherry tomato pasta, I made mint and lemon muffins (they looked delightfully greenish), Alje made us a strange shot/cocktail named The Octopus’ Garden and we played about 7 different board and card games. Dore left for the night, but she rejoined us next morning for more gaming. I’d say it was a weekend well spent. This weekend I’ll be hosting Dore in Brussels, so we’ll have more exploring together and board games as well.

In other news, I now have two Estonian friends in Brussels and I had a lovely day out with them yesterday. No photos of that, I left my camera home. I’m glad I did, the camera is a bit heavy and we did a lot of walking. The only thing I wanted to do once I got back home was to drink a lot of water and put my feet up. Slept like a log after that.

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