Sunday, September 20, 2015

Last Views of Ghent.

On St. Michael's Bridge, gazing over at Korenlei.

I

    started my second day in Ghent with making breakfast for Z and I. It was nice to be back in the kitchen but more importantly, it was nice to not have to get dressed and go out for breakfast. I took things slow this morning. No need to rush. As expected, Z was still fast asleep.  The kitchen in our apartment is teeny tiny but very well equipped.  I found the two burner stove in a drawer and got it set up and plugged in, ready for the frying pan.


I cooked up the speck which tastes just like bacon, scrambled the eggs, sliced some bread, cut up some plums, opened up a carton of yogurt, poured out a glass of juice and then sat down and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.  It was a big breakfast and I enjoyed every bite of it.

I then woke Z up and as he slowly got ready for the day, I scrambled up more eggs.  I am determined to make sure he's got a fully before we head out today!

He's a happy camper.  What a luxury to wake up and have breakfast all ready for you!  Nice aunt :-)

It was around noon by the time we left the apartment.  Yeah, we're not getting early starts on this trip.  For the first time in I can't remember how many days, it was a bright, sunny day - barely a cloud in the sky.  Thanks to the sun, it was comfortably cool.  Perfect day for exploring the city on foot!

Z fired up the city app on his iPhone and away we went.  I can count on him to take us along a different route.  Today, we ended up passing by a book market.  It's Sunday and I presume it's a weekly thing here.  As you might expect, most of the books were in Flemish though I did spot a few in English.



Eventually, we made it back to the historic city.  Z had asked what we should see today and the first thing that came to mind was to go see the famous painting housed inside St. Bravo's Cathedral - Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by Jan Van Eyck.

St. Bravo's Cathedral fronts Sint-Baafsplein  (St. Bravo's Square).  Today, the square was filled with vendors selling bicycles.  Z is a bicyclist.  He was checking out a few of the bikes for sale - gasping at the prices.

Adjacent to St. Bravo's Cathedral is the Royal Dutch Theatre, a venue for classic as well as contemporary performances. 


The multi-colored mosaic depicts Apollo and the Muses.

I'm standing at the entrance to St. Bravo's Cathedral.  The Belfy is straight ahead
and the Royal Dutch Theatre is on my right.


We made our way to the entrance of St. Bravo's.  There's some sort of construction work going as the pathway leading up to the entrance was all under scaffolding.  Photography was not allowed inside.

Off to one side was a small kiosk.  All around were signs and displays providing information about the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.  Our timing was perfect!  We only had a few minutes to wait before the kiosk opened at 1pm.  Tickets were 4 euros each and included a free audio guide.

We entered into a small room that was very dimly lit except for where the 15th century panel painting hung.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece of 1432, ranks among the most significant works of art in Europe.

As described in Wikipedia:
"The altarpiece comprises 12 panels, eight of which are hinged shutters. Each wing is painted on either side, giving two distinct views depending on whether they are open or closed. Except for Sundays and festive holidays, the outer wings were closed and often covered with cloth. It was commissioned to Hubert van Eyck, about whom little is known. He was most likely responsible for the overall design, but died in 1426. It seems to have been principally executed and completed by his younger and better known brother Jan van Eyck between 1430 and 1432. Although there have been extensive attempts to isolate passages attributable to either brother, no separation has been convincingly established. Today, most accept that the work was probably designed and constructed by Hubert and that the individual panels were painted by Jan."

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. Use the scroll bars to pan to see the entire painting.

As described in Wikipedia:
"The outer panels contain two vertically stacked registers (rows). The upper rows show scenes from the Annunciation of Mary. The four lower-register panels are divided into two pairs; sculptural grisaille paintings of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist, and on the two outer panels, donor portraits of Joost Vijdt and his wife Lysbette Borluut. The upper register of the opened view shows a Deësis of Christ the King, Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. They are flanked by images of angels singing and playing music, and, on the outermost panels, Adam and Eve. The lower register of the central panel shows the adoration of the Lamb of God, with several groups in attendance or streaming in to worship, overseen by the dove of the Holy Spirit"
For display, the panels were fully opened and we could walk around the back to see the paintings that would display when the large altarpiece was closed.

Photo by Pol Mayer / Paul M.R. Maeyaert.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

I was done,  admiring the splendid painting, after about 10 minutes or so.  There were a few folding chairs on the periphery of the room.  I sat down on one, waiting for Z to finish.  We were one of the first people inside the room and as the minutes passed by, more and more people came in.  Most left after a few minutes but a few, like Z, got the audioguide to learn more about the work of art.  I was impressed that Z was so interested!  After a while, the room started to feel a bit claustrophobic to me so I left and waited for Z in the main part of the church.  There, I walked around a bit to see the interior and then sat down and waited for Z.  It was a good half hour before he appeared - he had most certainly made good use of his 4 euro entry fee....as well as mine!

Back outside, we made our way towards St. Nicholas Church.

Opposite St Nicholas’ Church stands the original 16th-century Gildenhuis der metselaars (Guildhouse of the Masons).  What caught my eye were the whimsical dancers that top its crow stepped gable.  On a windy day, they will turn.



We then made our way towards the square that is the venue for the weekly flower market.  Unfortunately, it was too late in the day - most of the vendors had already packed up and left for the day.  Apparently, locals come to this weekly market to not only buy flowers but also to have a glass of wine and fresh oysters.  As we walked through the square, I did spot a people clustered around tall tables, with plates filled with empty shells.   If only we had been here an hour or two earlier.....


We continued our stroll through the old city and I took photos all along the way.

Belgian Waffles!  For an extra 50 cents, it's worth getting the chocolate coating.

This square is near the Belfry and Town Hall.  I love the buildings!  Lots of people out and about, enjoying the day.

As neared the Belfry, I could hear the sound of live rock and roll music blaring out from speakers.  It was coming from the Market Hall.  There was a group playing on a stage, fronted by a young woman.  A small crowd had gathered to listen.  Z and I decided to check it out.  The music was okay, nothing memorable.   


Just nearby was a large green dragon.  It was for the kids.  They crawl in through the mouth, snake their way down the body and exit at the tail.


This comic strip coin, embedded in the cobblestone street, caught my eye.

Z led us back to St. Michael's Bridge.

View of St. Michael's Church from St. Michael's Bridge.

View of Graslei and the Old Post Office from St. Michael's Bridge.

As we gazed out over Korenlei  (to our left) and Graslei (to our right),.....



....our ears were captivated by the sound of piano keys.  Looking down at the water, we saw the small gondola, with a baby grand piano and  player on board!  Most certainly, not an expected sight!


We decided to head down to the dock to listen to the music.  Now, this was music worth staying and listening to!  Much nicer than the loud rock and roll music that was being played just a few city blocks away.  Ah.....so relaxing.  Mind you, I'm not a lover of classical music but even I could appreciate the beauty of this sound.


Graslei gets my vote for the prettiest part of Ghent.
The gondoliers gently navigated the boat - it basically moved in a small circle.  The backdrop for us were the gorgeous facades of the buildings of Graslei.  What an awesome performance venue!

Look how nicely the boat is decked out with flowers.


We ended up sitting and listening to the soothing music, watching the world go by - basically, just enjoying the day as the locals do!


We watched the gondolier navigate the boat dockside.  The first pianist got off and another got on board.  He continued playing from the same set of music sheets.


Okay, taking a photo of the boat and the piano was just an excuse to shoot more photos of Graslei.

By mid afternoon, I decided it was time for a meal.  All caloric remnants from breakfast had longed burned off.  While I am certain there are restaurants that serve a reasonably priced meal in Ghent, I didn't care to try and find them.


Today, I wanted to soak in the wonderful weather so I chose one of the dockside restaurants in Graslei.  And....we had to eat al fresco but under one of the umbrellas.....for shade.


Since today is our last day in Belgium, this is our last chance to have traditional cuisine so we both ordered up some classic dishes - waterzooi (classic Flemish chicken stew which originated in Ghent) for Z and moules frites (mussels in garlic white wine sauce served with French fries) for me. Z ordered a  dark beer to accompany his meal.   We shared a plate of tomate crevette (tomato stuffed with shrimp) and salad.


Verdict on our meal?  Tomato with the shrimp and salad - yummy and surprisingly refreshing.  Beer - two thumbs up!  Waterzooi - okay.  Mussels and frites - ditto.  All in all though, it was a nice meal and we enjoyed it.

A few sips of awesome Belgian beer will bring a smile to anyone's face :-)

We took our time to eat and drink.  By the time we left the table, I was feeling super relaxed and ready to continue meandering about town and take more random photos.

We happened upon a small flea market.  Everywhere around the world, someone's trash is truly someone else's treasure. 

A man selling cuberdons from a very cute cart.  I ended up buying a few from him.

There is no end of charming, quaint buildings in this town.

A quiet street in the Plotersgracht neighborhood.  No one has a front yard.

Z the Navigator led us to Gravensteen Castle and dates back to the Middle Ages. The present castle was built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace.


We entered but turned around when we realized we had to pay an entrance fee.  Neither Z nor I were keen on seeing the place.  Truthfully, I wasn't in the mood to wander about a castle/fortress.


Z brought us back to where we started - at Korenlei.  Another pianist was tickling the ivory keys and a small choir had congregated.  I looked like a performance as about to take place so we hung around to wait for it to start.  We waited and waited and not a note was sung.  We soon lost patience and left.


It was late afternoon and both of us decided we had seen enough of the old city to finally leave it behind.  Z would again take us the long way home.  More random photos of things that caught my eye as I strolled the streets of Ghent for the last time.

Beautiful St. Michael's Church.

Ghent maybe a historic city but that doesn't mean there's not any cool street art here.

Z led us to Citadel Park which was the venue for the 1913 World's Fair.


We walked past a very pretty pavilion which serves as a stage for musicians.



It was a pretty little park, pretty much empty of people.  I think everyone is down in the old city :-)

The path we were on took us to a set of buildings which apparently housed some of the fair's exhibits.  Okay, after the ultra modern Atomium in Brussels, these buildings were beyond dull and boring.  Super dull and super boring!  I felt like I was on the grounds of a university and not a former World's Fair.




War War I Memorial.
A small playground.  Surprisingly, there were no moms in sight, just dads!

SMAK stands for Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst.  It's a contemporary art museum though the building looks anything but contemporary....at least from the outside.

Museum voor Schone Kunsten aka Fine Arts Museum.


Muziekcentrum de Bijloke Gent aka Biljoke Music Center, a concert venue.  It was the very unusual art installation that caught our attention.

Not sure what the display is about.  We didn't go inside the center as it looked to be closed.



We walked and walked.   By now, we had been walking for a lot of hours.  My feet were getting tired.  Our walk took us through parts of modern day Ghent which, as you would expect is not as charming as the old city.  I couldn't wait to get home.

Soon, we were back in our 'hood.  Tomorrow must be trash day because I saw piles of stuff, placed outside entry doors, ready to be picked up.  I marvel at how little trash there is here.  Seriously.  Rarely saw a trash can - just the small yellow bags.

The Belgians are even green when it comes to trash bins.  No blue bins for recyclables.

Paper is just stacked and very neatly tied up.


Bottles are simply placed, upside down, in a bucket. 

Someone drinks a lot of wine!

Heading home!

Back in our apartment, I just relaxed the night away.  I wasn't even in the mood to go out for dinner - thankfully, I knew the big lunch I had just had would carry me through to tomorrow.  I would have gone out had Z wanted to but he was obviously feeling lazy as well, content with just cobbling together a few bites from the food I had bought yesterday.

It's hard to believe that tomorrow we leave for Paris.  Our time in Belgium will come to an end.  It's been just six days but time sure has flown by!

So, for the last time, goodnight from Ghent.