Old and New
Another gorgeous day - the sun likes Belgium!
I drove up to Ghent (Gent, Gand) today and Natasha led me right through the centre of town - into the restricted pedestrian zone and along the trams tracks. I would have ignored her, but I had switched my brain off and didn't realise where I was until the "ding, ding" of the tram behind me woke me up.
Luckily though, as I pulled off the tram track, I pulled straight into a free parking spot. I fed the meter with 4Euro and only had to walk about 100m to the Information Centre.
As a complete contrast to Brussels, Ghent has an excellent Info Centre with free maps in every language, precise and useful guides to walking, boating and other tours and a brilliant audio-visual display of the town's features. Well done Ghent!
So I took the walking map and followed it religiously - well almost - I kept seeing these fabulous buildings down side streets and then I'd have to backtrack to continue the "official" walk. It is a delightful town to walk around and you only have to avoid the trams, bicycles and scooters - and the occasional lost tourist in a car. It wasn't too littered with souvenir shops and it had lots of nice outdoor cafés.
Of course it is the buildings that everyone comes to see. Apparently they are spectacular at night but I won't get to see that. Dotted along the canal and many squares is a row of churches and castles and the Belfry which I didn't attempt to climb and hundreds of gothic(?) stepped gables in between. What I did find odd was the propensity to knock down the old and build new (very ugly) modern buildings. For a town which is trying to sell its "charm" to the visitor, there won't be much left if they keep destroying the old houses.
The new Town Hall looked especially hideous and I'd seriously question the town planners vision for the future.
Anyway, I had another delightful afternoon wandering (slowly, very slowly) around the cobbled streets drinking in the atmosphere of an old culture.