I doubt there is anyone that knows me, that isn’t aware of my love for Belgium. Ghent, to be precise.
It all started in 2013, when I was invited to the Youth Festival organized by the EU Commission, based on a photo that I sent for a competition. Being in Brussels, with the foggiest weather I’ve ever seen in June, I wasn’t impressed, and I thought: “OK I’ll try to see as much as possible from the city, because I am not planning on coming back”. Happiest coincidence was that a friend of mine from Paris joined me for a day trip to Bruges, which I liked better than Brussels.
And then, time goes by, masters studies applications are in “full bloom”, and I receive an admission letter for the University of Gent. Of course, I needed to do additional exam to enter the program that I wanted, which was also a success, and after receiving the last most important letter, the scholarship, there wasn’t happier person on Earth.
At that moment it was not important at all where. For me it was just important that I will finally study abroad again. And then Ghent happened. You know you have fallen for a city, when after a full year you still admire every stone in the city, the most central views haven’t gotten old, and so many years after it is still your city to return to.
In the coming years, I didn’t skip a year to visit Belgium. Even if for a day.
Knowing my love for the city the companion said one day: You have shown the city to everyone except me. Trigger ON.
On a freezing January morning, we landed in Brussels. The initial idea was to visit Ghent on Saturday (because nothing beats Ghent on a Saturday), but since we wanted to do the most, with the cheapest ticket, we took weekend ticket (airport included) and we were on the way to Bruges.
Even though it is a typical tourist classics city, once you are bit further than the belfry tower the streets are empty and the city is really enjoyable. On the other note, if arriving too early the only thing you can have is waffle, until the coffee shops open. Then we had bagels at Sanseveria, entered beer and chocolate shops, and we were on the way to catch what was left of a Saturday in Ghent.
Ghent and Bruges are just 20minutes by train, so we didn’t lose much from the daylight. My student tour of the city started from the Sint Pieters Station, through Citadella Park, then, passing by the Overpoort street and the university area, reaching Vooruit and entering the city center. I don’t know how is it still possible to have this feeling whenever I am in Ghent.
Our accommodation was in the Patershool area, just a step away from the river, and this was the most beautiful AirBnb that we’ve stayed into. Of course we went to Balls & Glory. I think there isn’t a single person that I haven’t brought there, then to a real classic the Beer House on the water side, for their Knokke Rolland, and then to a youth classic ‘t Spijker. Places that bring you back in time. More of that. Next we continued to Vrijdagsmarkt and Trollkelder, for Westvleteren and strolled all the streets around the Bell tower, until I explained everything I know about the city, till it was time to call it a day.
On the next day we started with a breakfast at the new Le Pain Quotidien, and took the route towards Rabot area and along the Lieve River, we reached the city center again. Since we wanted to have an hour or three for Brussels, we decided to skip the famous ribs, and by mistake I forgot to show the graffiti street, we skipped the traditional fries spots, and went for the “new-age dutch version” – same but overpriced, and taking the glass alley area and Konig Albert park we were on our way back.
In Brussels the time was enough for the streets around Grand Market, the Royal Palace, a waffle and Delirium. More than enough if you ask me. Ok hot chocolate was skipped, which is uncompensatable, but I just consider that of opportunity for a comeback in 2021.
I am imagining a full week or two in a pandemic-free summer, on a blue skies days, when I like Brussels more than usual, when more cities could be a stopover place, and where the Graslei view never gets old. Until then, I’ll continue staring at my photos.