Ghent, Belgium

Graslei - undoubtedly the most beautiful street in Ghent
I had no expectations, no impressions, no emotional attachments as far as our day-trip to Ghent was concerned. Having visited it over the weekend, I cannot relay the amazement at the beauty of the city!

Once again, a less-than-an-hour train ride took us to the Ghent station. After the first unsuccessful attempt to reach the historic centre of the city by a tram in the wrong direction, we entered through a street that opened to a stunning view of the canal and cathedrals' skyline. It did take my breath away!!! While Bruges is celebrated as the gem of medieval Flanders architecture and has an established symbol of the most beautiful Flemish city, Ghent is frequently referred to as 'unsung' and is often overlooked by visitors on their Bruges -> Brussels trips. Maybe exactly for the reason of having no expectations and the town's dazzling personality, I have truly loved Ghent!

The historic centre is very compact and I found it easier to navigate than Bruges. It's not as overwhelming size-wise either, with most sites situated right on the canal or a few side streets -you could probably walk around it in two hours and see all major sights. Somehow, Ghent felt so much bolder and more forward, whereas Bruges was much softer and serene.

The star of Ghent shone brightly in the Middle Ages, when its population reached 65,000 people in 13th c. rivaling Paris only, making it the 2nd biggest town in Europe. Its location on the confluence of two rivers made trade an important part of the economy. The Counts of Flanders made Ghent their residential seat and built a castle there. The next few centuries saw shifting ownership over Ghent (Flemish, French, Spanish) up to the end of the . Today it is a major university centre with 250,000 inhabitants.

We walked the town what would have been quite leisurely had it not been for the oddest weather. On the photo below you will see a bright blue sky with no clouds. This would last for half an hour and it would get so hot and sunny that we'd take off our jackets. All of a sudden it'd start pouring, with heavy torrential-like rain which would stop in 10-15 minutes. After the 7th downpour and 7th desert-like sun, I stopped counting. We just took frequent rain breaks to stop at numerous cafes, chocolate shops, and restaurants to try a new beer (and warm chocolate milk for the Little Nomads made with REAL chocolate!) We skipped a visit to the oldest Brasserie in town with the image of Cambrinus still fresh in mind.
Castle of Counts built in 1180 was a seat to the Counts till the 14th c.

The Little Counts of Flandres

The Impression of the Day. Yes, I testify that Belgian mussels are much bigger, more succulent, and definitely tastier than their French counterpart (just like in Texas).

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