Last night, we got all bundled up and walking around Ghent’s historically preserved city center. We delighted in the lights sparkling off the canal, the new, cute, modern shops installed in baroque buildings, and enjoyed dinner and drinks on the heated patio of a busy restaurant by the canal.
Swirling around in the street lights between our hotel and the building across the street, we saw what might be snow. We fully expected to awake to a white city…but alas, it was too warm and the snow hadn’t stuck.
Well, today, “too warm” wasn’t a problem. After a lovely breakfast at the hotel, we braved the chilly air and went to St. Bavo’s Cathdral, THE biggest thing in town. It was an amazing, ornate, complicated, historic,
artistic, church. Every inch, it seemed, was filled with wooden, stone or bronze sculpture, carving, patterns, or inscriptions. It was a few hours before we could feel that we had even seen enough to call it a ‘once over’ .
As we left the church (which I have not done justice to here) we saw that it was snowing for real…and we were cold from spending hours in the unheated St. Bavo’s. Just outside the door, underneath the optimistically still-running Giant Ferris Wheel of the Christmas Market, we found a cafe and enjoyed smoked salmon on toast, braised apples, ice cream , and “Belgian Coffee”, made with “Janever”‘, the Belgian edition of gin. Tasty!
What made it especially enjoyable was the good service of our waiter Michael and our window seats, which allowed us to enjoy the blustery snow without feeling its sting. We learned that in Ghent public schools, kids learn French beginning at age 8 and English at age 11.
To close our afternoon adventure, we walked to the Cloth Hall ( Ghent became a powerhouse due to the 15th century textile industry). The snow continued , so we didn’t feel any desire to go up the steps of the tower, but enjoyed the murals and cartoons on display in the relative warmth on the ground floor. The sun has set now, and we are warmed up and rested, ready to go see some more!