Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ghent, Belgium

Since my next few weekends are going to be rather busy with Paris next week and London the week after, I decided to take it easy this week and not venture too far away from Leuven. Throughout the past month, I've explored the majority of the touristy cities in Belgium, including Brussels, Antwerp, Knokke, and Bruges. For today, I decided to scratch off the last major hotspot in Belgium, Ghent.

Ghent is situated northwest of Leuven, the same direction as Bruges. The train ride from Leuven to Ghent took about 1 hour. I think I'm starting to get used to the transportation system here. I'm much more familiar with the general destination that I need to head to and I think I'm starting to look less like a tourist, minus the fact that I always have my camera in hand snapping pictures.

The medieval architecture throughout the city center here vaguely resembles that of Bruges. Ghent is much less lauded upon than Bruges, and as a result there are far fewer tourists here. Although they are present, the street-blocking mobs of tourist groups were thankfully absent.

The picture above is of a fountain right in front of the train station.

Unlike most of the cities I've been to so far, the train station in Ghent is a little bit of a trek to the city center. It took me about half an hour to walk to the center. Visually there was nothing really appealing to see during this brief walk. My guide book actually suggests just to hop on the tram and bypass the 1 mile journey to the city.

The Leie river runs through the city and that's what you can see in the background here along with one of the many bridges that connect each side.

My first stop for the day was the 14th century gothic St. Bavo's Cathedral. The highlight here is a 24-panel alterpiece of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

I had to paste this image from google images since taking pictures of the original was prohibited. It was completed in 1432 by Jan Van Eyck and is considered one of Belgium's masterpieces. The entire framework was at least 10 feet tall. Adam and Eve are featured in the top left and right panels, respectively. The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are symmetric about the central figure, who is either God the Father or Jesus. Van Eyck experts have yet to identify the central male figure, since elements of both God the Father and Jesus are represented.

In the background here is the town hall.

The above structure is the Castle of the Counts. It was originally built in 1180 and is surrounded by the Leie River. Over the last 2 centuries the castle has been restored to its original figure. This castle was known to have an active torture chamber. Inside the castle is a small museum dedicated to these torture devices.

The above picture shows original torture devices, a noose and a cleaver used for the detachment of limbs. A guillotine was also on display.

The framework of this guillotine is not original. Instead, it was based off a model and built in 1913. The blade, however, IS original. It's kind of creepy knowing that lives were lost due to this blade sitting in front of me.

In addition to torture devices, this castle also had a prison chamber.

I'm assuming prisoners were thrown down this hatch and left for dead. The pit is enclosed by 4 stone walls with a barricaded door on one of them. Definitely not the place to be.

The number of sites to visit in Ghent are far and few. It's relatively small in terms of touristy attractions. There are 2 popular art museums that feature Belgian artists, however due to the combination of me not recognizing the artists and the unstimulated artistic appreciation part of my brain, I decided to pass on these museums.


  1. Nice pictures! I'm from Brazil and go to Belgium in july/2010. Its very difficult find images and information about this country.
    Thank you!

  2. No problem! Glad to see that my blog is actually being read.