As my mother came to town for a two weeks stay I have been blessed to take a trip with 4 of women in my life, mother, wife and two daughters aged 8 and 2. Readers my freely find some sarcasm in these words. However, it is a pleasure to spend time time with my family, but to be honest there were moments where I did wish to kill myself. I did think about my twin brother a lot, what a great fun it would to take this trip together or as a suggestion to everyone, to take this trips alone and make it about yourselves and places that you are visiting.
We did get ready on time and left Luxembourg around 10:00 a.m. on the May 20th. and the only thing that i have to mention about 270 km drive is the condition of Belgium highways, the comment would be barely no condition, so keep in mind that holes, more than meter in diameter will occur every now and then, which not only can be, but is dangerous with high speeds. So Belgium when it comes to traffic did take a lot of Robin Williams’s French “We don’t give a shit, we are French” and when I think of it, it is on the south parts closer to France. It is funny how mentality in every country changes when it comes to North and South, scientists should look into it.
At one of the “pit” stops, I went to urinate and found the beautiful fields of wheat just swinging on the wind and it immediately took my thoughts home and to my occupation, sailing and I could see myself jumping with a sailing yachts over and over the waves of the green sea of wheat.
A short play of catch with my older daughter and we were again on the road.
It was a beautiful and sunny day when we arrived to Gent and as I did not sleep well the night before I immediately jumped into our apartment’s bed and took a beautiful half an hour nap, which gave me strength to withstand the long walk with my “girls”. We weren’t far from the city center, maybe a bit more than a kilometer, but I wanted to see as much as I could, not only the most popular buildings everyone is after, but also the residential parts of the city.
After making a wrong turn on the first turn we had, I took orientation and navigation under control and started to take photographs. I did limit my self with photos, imagining that I have 30 available, like I always do, to avoid spending my tours seeing everything through lens which does restrict a lot of personal experience, because photos we rarely take for ourselves and with the invention of digital camera the romance is just gone and it comes with the limitation, having one, two or ten films is slightly different than having 20 GB of space, where you can snap 20000 photos with a standard settings.
First place that we hit was a Catholic church in a neighborhood I would call a little Turkey
but it was still quite surprising for me how very few people are on the streets. There were a couple of Turkish guys standing and smoking on a parking bench, but everything else seemed as deserted. That is the scenery which I am quite used to Luxembourg as most of the places where I found myself at any time (except shopping malls)remind me of a Johnny Bravo cartoon which I watched as a kid, where he says “I thought what every normal American would in a given situation,, the time has stopped for everyone except for me”.
Anyway, it has never bothered me if the streets were empty, I know that some people get insecure when there is nobody around, which I never quite understood as the only harm that may come, will come from other people, as a young women could say “oh thank god there is someone there” and it turns out to be a rapist or a man doing the same when a criminal comes and stab him with a pocket knife for some change, so be careful what you wish for, loneliness is sometimes the safest place.
The other thing that I noticed in Belgium, wherever I went, is that it seems they have declared war to nature, probably long, long time ago. It surprised me already when I went to Arlon for the first time. Coming from Zagreb, where you wont find an alley without trees, most balconies or gardens without flowers and different herbs or plants and at the moment living in Luxembourg which seems like the lungs of Europe, the Belgians took their step away from nature seriously, as it reminds me the French did too.
I remember once staying with a family in France and they took me hunting one day. Me and all the hunters gathered in some place, nobody was drinking, what surprised me, as at the time I was drinking a lot and was looking forward to taste some of that French wine with local hunters, but it seems that “safety first” rule applies when it comes to hunting game. As I did my military service and I was a sharpshooter in infantry I asked if I could get a gun, they shortly replied “No”, then I went a little bit further and asked if I can get a knife then, supposing that if the animal is still alive when shot that maybe I can end her misery by letting the blood out, the reply was short again and even a bit aggravated “NO”. The last question, as I was trying to provoke, but in the good manners to get a smile out of those serious countryman,”can I shoot at lest with my camera?”. And that one I could, it was a “Oui” followed by a couple of smiles.
As they drive me in a van, where all of us were squeezed without a trench of light coming in, we came to the place where fields where stretching endlessly, the places where once a proud and old European forest stand and I saw something you may even call a bush. They where calling this bush a forest and the tactic was to put all the hunters in the circle around that bush, facing out, release 10 dogs with electrical gridlocks inside and if anything living comes rushing out, God help her soul!
You probably did get the picture what I was thinking of, if I didn’t get you lost now, but hey, now you know how it is in my head. Let’s go back to Gent.
In 630, a missionary bishop St. Amand founded St. Bravo’s Abbey on the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Lys where the old Celtic name of the city “Ganda” comes from. There is a lot of history about money, pride and rebelliousness. The result of constant ups and downs was that the town lost it’s status of one of the most important cities in Western Europe, however they are not the only ones, the humiliation and bulling continues to these days.
People still, when found, did take the best of what they could get. making the beach bar experience in the heart of Gent possible.
Not to bother further with history, it is interesting and available to learn, I will continue my walk on the streets of Gent.
The first stop that we had in mind was the Citadel park. I really wanted to see that park as it is the only peace of nature that I supposed to see in Gent and the home of two museums MSK and S.M.A.K.
Or you could just find the young and foolish making the ritual of promising themselves and giving away of something that it’s not theirs to keep, but I will restrain myself of commenting further about the everyday ritual of “love”, where people say “I do” and in a couple of years the think “I shouldn’t”.
After my mother complained if we were to stop every little bit as apparently she was keen on marching and going on, we didn’t spend much time sitting there as I did not have any problems with walking, bit I knew my wife could use a brake every now and then because of the medical condition that she has, but I knew that the outcome must get interesting at one point.
And it did, very soon after complaining why to take rest all the time, the complaints about walking a lot began. I only tried to make everyone happy, so I suggested to take the tram, but there was something that I wanted to see. On the map of Gent, there is a certain roundabout, coming from Eekhoiut street, with a great tree drawn and I thought to myself that I must see it, because it may be just a little stick coming from the ground (if we remember the French), however it was not! It was a beautiful maple tree, just standing there in the middle of lifeless Gent, a lonely loner.
A quick walk from the maple, we found ourselves on the the tram station. The trams are coming quite often, even on Sundays, so we did not wait for long. Back home it was a usual practice of driving for free, as we all in Zagreb always thought that the city owes us the free rides, but I changed my mind in the last couple of years, so I rather walk and those who wants to pay for driving 100 m for far overpriced value are free to do so, but in Gent it went sky-high. We needed to take only 4 stations and when I reached the guy to buy a tickets, he pressed some button on his driving chair, the chair turned and we started talking. The whole traffic stopped (back home they sell while they drive) until we sorted the tickets out. I asked for three tickets, the guy said 3 EUR each, I prepared 9 EUR and he asked me how far we are going and I replied one or two stations. I felt like he is trying to tell me something, but he didn’t as his English was poor, so I came back where my family was and just kept quite, playing dumb, thinking that I wont cancel the tickets now, but use them when we will be going back to the apartment.
The center of Gent is amazing, I was bought by it immediately. I may freely say that there is something in the air and it wasn’t just the smell of Cannabis which I have smelled a bit later.
And it was about to get better. I really wanted to walk by the canals as that is where most of the life is everywhere where I went, so I was always telling myself to search for the water to find life.
And there it was. As dirty as it may seem and I tell you that it is dirty, we did find the place where all the people would hang around. You probably wouldn't jump in for a swim, but most certainly you can sit and have a lovely afternoon on the sun.
It was a popular place!
But a couple of turns left or right, I could easily find myself away from all the fuss. Sometimes it is just what you need.
And there was it, a breathtaking moment, the Gravensteen!
Ever since I was a young boy I was a sucker for citadels, fortresses, castles or any kind of stone buildings and this one being placed just in the city center is something that I don not have the opportunity of seeing often. The Castel of the Counts was without a doubt the place of screams and horrors, but nowadays it is a the only remaining medieval fortress in Flanders. It had an unwelcome visit from the plundering Vikings, which forced the counts to convert the wooden structures into a keep.
Facing the Gravensteen is a Veerle Plein,a beautiful little square where we set for a drink, I have ordered a a glass of a very nice Le Fort beer and quickly jumped to a neighboring kiosk for a box of La Paz cigarillos to make the ambient even more delightful, even though I stopped smoking two months ago. Never say never again did work out quite well in this situation.
We set there for about an hour, surrounded by good vibes. My day just couldn’t be spoiled, even though there were some commotions when the waiter brought the glass of fuzzy ice tea for my daughter and when they complained, the waiter just replied that that is the only one they have and that he doesn’t know if it’s fuzzy or not as he doesn’t drink it. Ha, ha, that is 100% my style and brilliant. All the people should be easy going instead to yammer and whine. “Always look at the bright side of life” as Monty Python would say.
It seems that these two up there certainly are!
I really like the standard that people keep around this part north as they have far better standard then the people back home, but instead of going for the expensive stuff, they would spent as less as possible for their favorite transport vehicle, the bike! I was quite happy to see it as I bought my bike for 30 EUR, second hand and I both love it and on the other hand it wont “ruin” my whole life if it gets stolen one day.
It was already getting close to the time when the girls should go to bed, the “older” were complaining about swollen and achy legs and I also wanted to keep it slow and cool as the feeling that Gent was providing.
We went to the main city center again to fetch a tram and use that 9 EUR card which I had, but some higher force wanted to punish me for not using them before, so we had to go on foot and for the length of the walk back to the apartment, not trams did pass by.
Take it or leave it, I know for sure that
Next stop Bruges! See you soon!