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Belgium Day 3: Ghent

BELGIUM | Tuesday, 1 December 2009 | Views [659]

We said goodbye to Jeff and Magda on the morning of Day 3 and checked out of Het Singelhuis. Magda drove us to the train station, and we took a train to Ghent. Or Gent. It's cool both ways.

The problem with Ghent is, the thing I remember most about it is the fact that this was where I experienced a total physical breakdown because of the cold. It's not fair to Ghent -- it's charming and pretty and lovely to walk around in.

I was sniffling non-stop because of the weather, and my nose was chafed from the constant wiping with tissue. The skin on my legs, usually dry even in Singapore, were now cracking. I didn't have any long socks, so the tops of my boots were cutting into my dry skin and making it bleed - you can still see rings around my legs where that happened. And after we climbed the Belfry, my right knee started aching so that every step - walking or climbing - was painful.

"I'm suffering. I'm really suffering," I told Lianyi.

"I know," he said.

Another thing that I remember clearly about Ghent was that this was where Lianyi got yelled at by a shopkeeper because he entered the shop just to use the toilet and he didn't ask for permission and he didn't buy anything. I wasn't there to witness it. I was sitting at a bench somewhere feeling sorry for myself, trying to figure out how to get us back to our B&B. (Eventually, I called our B&B owner while he was at work and asked him for directions. His accent was thick and I barely made out what he was saying but somehow we made it back without a hitch.)

Our B&B was called Su'ro, and it's the home of a man named Kristiaan who teaches at a hospitality school in Ghent. So he really knows what he's doing. The only drawback to Su'ro was that I had foolishly booked a room on the third floor, and the stairs in Belgium and The Netherlands are very steep and narrow. I felt like such an old woman climbing up and down those stairs with my busted knee.

When we checked into Su'ro in the morning, Kris was out at work but he'd given me instructions on how to let ourselves in and where to find our room key. Once we'd lugged our luggage upstairs into our room we headed back out to explore Ghent.

We started by having a huge amount of fries with ketchup, mayonnaise and onions at the city centre that we couldn't finish, then taking on the Lonely Planet recommended walking tour of the city to work off all the fats we'd just ingested.

During this tour we climbed up the Belfry that I mentioned earlier. I can't remember how many steps there were. It was probably not that many, and would've been easy peasy for a fit and healthy person. But I am neither fit nor healthy and by the time I reached the top, I was gasping. By the time I got back to the bottom, my knee was busted. It wouldn't get better until I got home so I pretty much had to drag my right leg around for two weeks.

But enough whining. The Belfry gave us a nice panoramic view of Ghent, and after we climbed back down we had a nice walk through the medieval centre. There are three huge towers that dominate the centre - the Belfry, St Nicholas Church and St Bavo's Cathedral - and when you're walking down one of the bridges into the centre, it really is kind of magical to see these medieval towers looming ahead of you. You can quite easily imagine yourself in a different age.

I didn't take a good shot of this but I found one online here.

Since we were feeling physically worn down we took quite a lot of breaks. We stopped at an organic café for juice and coffee. We stopped at a pub for hot chocolate. At the pub there was a friendly Belgian guy at the table next to us who kept looking over and talking to us, giving us recommendations on what to drink and asking us what we thought and where we were from. I think he was a student who was living in Ghent just for the school term because he said he came from some other city whose name I've forgotten.

By the time we were done with our walking tour, I realised there was no way I could go on without better clothing. So we went shopping! I bought two pairs of long socks and a turtleneck sweater and Lianyi got himself a thick sweater. These we would wear everyday for the rest of the trip.

That was pretty much it for Ghent. It makes for a pleasant day trip and it's cheaper than the other major tourist cities in Belgium but, you know, it's no Bruges.

Tags: belgium, ghent

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