8 March 2015

Sunday stroll in Ghent

Sunday was the day that I was going to the opera, my main reason for visiting Ghent, but that was not until the afternoon and that gave me plenty of time to explore the city first. I had seen some of it the previous evening but that was in the dusk then dark so I was looking forward to seeing it in day light and in seeing more of it too.

The opera house was on the southern edge of the old town and so I did not want to go all the way back to the hotel beforehand, which meant exploring in my opera clothes. I was wearing smart-casual clothes which was fine but the choice of brogues was less sensible as my first serious act of exploration was to climb the tight stone spiral staircase in the belfry (Het Belfort).

I was inappropriately dressed and not very good at heights but places like this have to be climbed for the views that they offer.

Having dragged myself to the top I was delighted to find that there was a reassuringly high stone wall all the way around and solid refuges in each corner. These were necessary as the walkway was very narrow and any person walking past me was clearly going to put my life at extreme risk.

The morning was rather grey but I was very pleased with the 360% views and, as always, the climb proved to be worth the effort and the risk.

Back on the ground meant back among the waterways that thread through Ghent. I never quite worked out what was river (there are at least two in Ghent) and what was canal, not that it mattered as they all added to the beauty of the city.

Public spaces are only any good if the public actually uses them and this was most definitely the case here with all the benches claimed and a host of people risking losing their shoes (or more) in the water.

Following a waterway took me to the castle (Gravensteen). It was on the north-west corner of the old city on the confluence of several waterways. This time I only walked around it but having discovered it I put it on my list of things to do another day.

In showing off the main buildings and waterways it could be easy to forget that there were lots of pretty buildings in Ghent too. In picking just one for this blog post I went for this for the typical shape and the splashes of colour.

It was hard to get away from water in Ghent, not that I wanted to, and the smaller canals/rivers were just as pretty as the main ones. Who could resist a bridge as pretty as this one?

Apparently lots of people liked the bridge and I had to wait several minutes before I could take a picture without anybody spoiling the view.

Ghent does public squares well too. I thought that the Corn Market was the main square but I kept finding others. The Friday Market (Vrijdagmarkt) would have done any city proud and it must have felt unlucky to find itself in Ghent where there are many such spaces.

At times it felt a little like The House that Jack Built where every road looked much the same and every space that I arrived at looked much the same too. The big difference being that Emma Peel was trapped and was trying to get out whereas I was there by choice and was revelling in the beauty.

My exploration took a break for the opera but I was back out for more once that had finished. By then the light was fading and with it the remnants of the warmth (I should have worn a coat!). Luckily the bars and restaurants knew what the weather was doing and they had patio heaters on.

I sat at one of the bars by the water and let the atmosphere soak in before even the patio heater was not enough to keep me warm while sitting still (I should have worn a coat!). That was my prompt for the last bit of exploration that day.

I walked around some of the places I had been walking the evening before, and for the same reasons (exploration and looking for food). The difference was that this was a little later in the day so Ghent's lights were more impressive.

It had been a long day and a rewarding one too. In addition to the opera, I had seen lots of Ghent that I liked and had touched on other parts that could be explored another day. And so the plan for Monday started to form.

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