Early start this morning as I was going on an all day tour of Ghent and Brugge. Both cities are medieval cities that have amazing architecture and were “must-dos” in my guide book.
First stop was Ghent. Ghent was first founded well back in the Iron Age and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was traditionally on a major trading route making it a very prosperous town back in middle ages. The main attractions in Ghent is the main market square (circa 1200 AD buildings) and the Gravensteen Castle (built in mid 1100s). It is one of those castles you see in the movies that they use for movies of Merlin or King Arthur or something! You can totally imagine knights in shining armour on their trusty steads galloping over the draw bridge……
We rounded out our walking tour by seeing the St Bavo’s Cathedral, home to one of Ruben’s paintings as well as the painting by Van Eyck something to do with a “mystic lamb”. I had a look at Ruben’s painting (which was ok) but wasn’t willing to part with a 8 E to see the mystical lamb painting so can’t tell you whether it was worth the dollars!
From Ghent we continued on our journey to Brugge (about an hour away). Brugge is the quintessential medieval town (and apparently a movie was made recently that portrays this???). It is defiantly draw dropping and is a town that time has forgotten. Every building in the town was built in the 1300s-1500s and so it must be one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe?
We spent the whole afternoon here just wandering around the town. I made a couple of stops at two of the main sites in town; the Church of the Holy Blood and the Church of our Lady. The Church of the Holy Blood is the home to a major Christian relic, a vial of blood from JC (which was brought back during the second crusade). The relic was on display and was being touched by pilgrims (of which there would have been at least a hundred inside the small chapel) so even today there are believers who truly believe it will work wonders! Although I’m not a devout believer I was defiantly interested to see what a relic looks like! (In this case a silver case mounted on a red velvet cushion being guarded by the priest of the church) I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the average Joe can actually touch and see the relic (unlike the only other one I’ve seen in the Cologne Dom that was too far away from us plebs).
My last stop was the Church of our Lady, this time for a different reason. The Church of our Lady houses a sculpture by Michelangelo- the Madonna and Child. The Madonna is flanked by other marble sculptures of angels—the difference between the sculpture by Michelangelo and the ones by the no-name sculptures is profound. The Madonna almost looks like a real lady sitting in a chair nursing a child! It is incredible to think that this is has been sculpted from a block of solid marble! The Angel sculptures are good but just not in the same league… The folds of the gown that Michelangelo has sculpted on the Madonna look graceful and vibrant! It really is incredible that someone can make marble look like real life!
The other thing surprising about this church is that some of the tombs have been excavated and are now on display to the public (minus the owners). This is the first time I’ve seen the efforts of archaeologists inside a cathedral. It somehow feels a little sacrilegious (well at least to the previous occupants) to see inside their tombs whilst still praying???? I guess the previous occupants don’t care or they would have started haunting the church or something but still………..
Rounded out my medieval day by eating a really tasty Belgian waffle with sugar before boarding the bus back for Brussels and Dorien’s bbq!
Arrived back in Brussels quite late because the bus had a bit of engine trouble, which meant I was running late for Dorien’s party. She had about 15 people to her place for an evening of good food, drink and conversation. I was quite pleased (although I shouldn’t have been surprised) to discover so many of Dorien’s friends spoke perfect English and were more than happy to converse with me in my native tongue (which is good because my Flemish is completely non-existent—all I know is Hello (easy huh!) and Scholl (without the “k” sound which means cheers!)).
Dorien’s really lucky because she has this roof-top terrace that everyone in her apartment block has access to, so up we all went to cook her bbq. BBQ-ing in Belgium is different to BBQ-ing at home. For one, they are still able to buy coal to BBQ with—no heat beads needed in Belgium! We also had a slight challenge with the size. Size wise, Dorien’s grill is appropriate for small grilling.. which made it tricky as we needed to grill lots of meat to feed us all. It got to the point where Dorien and I were grilling away late in the evening (probably about 9.30/ 10pm) by the light of her wind up torch that she uses when she goes on hols!!!! What a crack up!
All in all we had a ripper of an evening, one I had to cut short as my silly hostel has a 1pm curfew so I had to get back to ensure I had a good night’s sleep as tomorrow I am off with Dorien to Antwerp to visit Betty and Johan and do some shopping and site seeing!!