Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ghent, Belgium

On our way back to Brussels from Brugges, we stopped off in Ghent. Rick Steves suggests stopping off in Ghent if you're making the trip out to Brugges. Since we got a late start, we decided to head to Brugges first and stop off in Ghent on the way back since it didn't look like there was much to do and it's only 30 minutes away from Brussels.
During the Middle Ages, it was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. It was once considered the second largest city north of the alps, after Paris. Now days, Ghent is thriving as many young people choose to live here instead of in the countryside or the crowded city centers of Brussels and Antwerp.

We found a parking garage close to the city center (Sint-Michiels) and headed out to check things out (Note: This parking garage only accepts Credit Cards that you can put a PIN in) Ghent is a interesting city, the rich past can be clearly seen when viewing the imposing architecture of churches and the houses of rich traders. The best part of the city center is that it is free of cars, it is a very welcoming and open area, which does not fail to impress even the people who live there.

The Sint-Michiels parking garage is literally next to the Saint Michales Bridge, one of the focal points of Ghent. From the bridge you can see down into the heart of Ghent, Post Office building, the Church of Saint Nicholas, the Belfry, Gravensteen and St. Bavo's Cathedral. To be honest that's about all there is to do in Ghent.

I've heard that there are markets during the summer, but since we went in October and at the end of the day all the markets were closed.

The main point of our stop off in Ghent was to check out The Gravensteen, or the Castle of the Counts. It was built in 1180 by Philip of Alsace. It was modeled after the crusaders castles that Philip of Alsace encountered while he participated in the second crusade. It was a fortress designed not to protect the people of Ghent, but to intimidate the city's independence-minded citizens. Kinda crazy to think about that!

Over the years the castle was used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually decayed. Houses were built against the walls and even on the courtyard and the stones of the walls were used to erect other buildings. At one point in time it even served as a factory. At the end of the 19th century, the castle was scheduled to be demolished. The castle has been repaired enough to allow people to travel through it and climb on top. It is still partly surrounded by the moat. Inside is a museum with various torture devices (and a guillotine) that were historically used in Ghent.

The Sidles' in Ghent

Since we had Rylie with us, we walked around the city and enjoyed how cute everything was! It was a nice end to a busy day. I loved Ghent and thought it was worth a stop especially since it was literally on the way.