Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007 - BELGIUM - Ghent & Brugge

This day, the end of Patrick's weekend, we were headed northwest of Brussels to Ghent "to see what we could see" and then "see what happens."  The weather was cooperative.  Later in the day we would venture on a little farther to Bruges/Brugge.  A nice time was had by all.  At the end of the day, Patrick headed back to Brussels, while we stayed on to explore Brugge a bit more.  


Ghent was gorgeous! Most of the town center is closed to automobiles and it is a university town.  It is Belgium's third largest city.

We thought this little postal deposit box to be quite interesting, colorful, and a nice welcome to what proved to be an interesting and colorful city.  

We do not remember where this building with a very charming facade was located, but we were totally entranced with the detail.

This massive 15th century cannon (named "Mad Meg" or "Dulle Griet") is located on the embankment of the river Leie. The name reflects a local legendary medieval character made famous in a painting by Antwerpien David Teniers the younger. It has been in the spot for 425 years and never fired an angry shot.

We were amused with the whimsical green nose given to this statue.  As we continued through the city, we noticed green noses on many of the town statues.  Somebody's idea of a joke?  Hardly -- it would have taken some very tall equipment to reach the heights required.  It had to be a conspiracy or related to a recent festival..?

The Het Gravensteen (or the Castle of the Counts) largely dominates the entire city skyline in some way.  Parts date back to the 1100's with most being somewhat more recent (1500). It has been beautifully restored and worth a visit.

This long tunnel from the castle gatehouse leads to the courtyard and was probably quite heavily fortified in medieval times.  It serves now as the entrance.

The castle's spiral staircase was eerie and even though it was obviously newer (or renovated), one still could imagine legions stomping up or down with swords and gear rattling.

On one of the upper floors of the castle was a handsome museum of armament & weaponry. But it would have been difficult in any event to handle this HUGE sword.  Those men were not particularly tall; Keith isn't a short guy..

This incredible view of the city was from the very top parapet.  It is clear why this was such an advantageous location for a stronghold.

This well-lighted place was used in times gone by as a meeting hall. 

The privy was located here.  Only a one-holer, it is not clear where the outflow went.  Currently, there is no moat or other water directly below. 

Keith still obsessing on the Belgian beer variety was completely compelled to take this photo of a shop window with hundreds of brands showing - with the stately castle reflection standing guard.  

We pause for coffee which turns to brunch in short order when we discover this place was formerly the "Butcher's Hall" & now the center for promotion of regional specialties and products. In Flemish, see Het Groot Vleeshuis

Still only marginally familiar with Flemish language menus, we had to semi guess at what we were ordering.  We did not expect salami, but, "oh darn"  went ahead and wholly enjoyed it.  The local cheeses were exceptionally tasty.

Then there was the pleasurable "coffee surprise" dessert with of course Belgian chocolates and other sweet tidbits.  

We followed the food sampling with a stroll along the river Leie on the picturesque Graslei street. The guild houses here are especially well-preserved some dating from the 12th century.

We debate about taking a canal boat ride. (it seemed so, . . .well,. . . touristy) We eventually succumbed to the cute blond boat driver and had a great sight-seeing tour.

Some things can only be seen from the water in a boat.  Not only is there more space about, but you are literally off the beaten track.

We were taken aback at these two tour boats full to the gunwales with singers. One was mostly men -- perhaps a choir on tour.  The other was mostly women and not singing as much.  Very enjoyable way to say good-bye to Ghent. [Maybe a Patrick video later]

We leave Ghent & head about another 30 miles closer to the coast. Our entrance into the old city of Brugge was through this 1402 Kruispoort arched driveway, which is all that remains of a once massive gateway, wall, & moat system that protected the city until the 19th century.

Additionally there are four old windmills situated on green hills along the canal route.  It was unclear to us if they were working.  It was clear they were aesthetic.  We learn that most have been relocated to this site from elsewhere.

Outside the theater we enjoy this little statue of Papageno of Mozart's Magic Flute fame, as we walk toward the center of town. Being a Sunday, the square was packed solid (no photos this day).

The only work of the distinguished artist, Michelangelo (a statue of Madonna and Child 1504-5) that was allowed out of Italy in his lifetime is housed in the Church of Our Lady. We of course have to pay a visit.

A little break from all the walking brings us to an outdoor table where we can watch the comings and goings of others at the Burg Square.

From our table we could see activity at the entrance to Patrick's favorite Brugge cathedral, Hellig Bloed Basiliek where the highly revered vial of holy blood is kept.

He takes one photo of the lion of the balustrade and makes us promise to go inside the next day when we can take more time.   

Our very pleasant hotel is situated esthetically on a canal in a relatively quiet part of town.  It occupies the three houses to the right of the corner.

Patrick takes our photo from our room window which overlooks the Sint Annarei Street and the Langerei canal from the Hotel Adornes (choose "EN" for English version). 

After checking in, & before Patrick returns to Brussels, it is time to explore the nearby streets in the remaining daylight.  The ducks & swans seemed to like this stretch of the canal.

We found a lively pub just around the corner from our hotel and were able to get a bit of warm soup & a very nice Belgian beer.  Most of the patrons were clearly locals.

The outside sign denotes this as Cafe Vlissinghe.  Reputed to be the oldest pub of Brugge, founded in 1515.

The Belfort at night.  Built in the 13th century, and literally towering over the Markt, this octagonal belltower rises 272 feet.  The views from the top are awesome.

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