Ghent - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Ghent is steeped in Flemish culture, this rebellious port city is one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets. James Williams discover beer, art and medieval architecture aplenty.
A jumble of medieval streets, canals and chocolate shops. Ghent packs a lot in, through pleasingly without the crowds. A beloved destination to those in the know, the capital of East Flanders- which marks the centenary of the First World War this year- is made for strolling. A youthful buzz cuts through the classical architecture, much like in Amsterdam, and centuries-old buildings reveal feasts of hearty Flemish cooking, decadent confections and Trappist beer, too. Ghent has long been known as the city of rebels- and there’s always a surprise or two in store.
The best of view of Ghent is from the middle of St. Michael’s bridge. The ornate facades of the Graslei and Koreniei quaysides reflect serenely in the River Lys, while the city’s best landmarks- St. Nicholas’s church, St. Bavo’s Cathedral and the belfry – line up in front of you. Start with a pootle along the riverbank, where grain was unloaded by merchants as far as back as the 11th century.
Cross the trip-trap Grasbrug bridge, hopping out of the way of trams and bicycles as you go, and stop to admire the Groentenmarket, a tiny square that houses a craft market on weekends, flanked by the cavernous Butcher’s hall, Ghent’s smallest pub with a huge selection of beer.
Galgenhuis and shops like Tierenteyn –Verlent which has been making mustard since 1790. It’s still ladled out fresh into jars from a giant barrel. Nearby the town all, whose wings were constructed in starkly contrasting styles . Opposite, a stone relief depicts the Roman legend of prisoner Cimon, whose daughter kept him alive by breastfeeding him. It sits above the entrance to the old city jail, such is Ghent’s penchant for quirky humour. Around the corner, you can climb the narrow stone stairs of the 91m –tall belfry for a birds’ eye view over the rooftops. Next up, St. Bavos is an imposing Gothic monument that’s filled with artistic opulence. Flemish paintings, shimmering marble and a soaring vaulted ceiling aside, it’s also home to the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers, drawing the faithful since 1432. And for a heady dose of Flemish masters, check out the museum of fine arts- an impressive gallery where you could just as easily be viewing the works of 1920s modernists, too.
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