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Confronted With The History Of The Gravensteen

BELGIUM | Friday, 22 August 2014 | Views [1381]

The 834 year old living quarters inside the Gravensteen Castle now houses one of the rarest displays of original torture weapons from the Middle Ages in all of Belgium. Finger crushers, spiked neck collars, a table used for water boarding and heavy leg weights were all stored in glass cases for curious tourists to view and ponder. This now made the Belgian fries I had been eating just 20 minutes earlier seem less appetising.

I was hungry, and I had found myself in a busy square next to the castle in the town of Ghent. A pop-up cafe selling fries was located conveniently in the corner and I couldn’t think of better way to fix my appetite than by eating a typical Belgian dish in the shadows of the fort. I relished in my fortune at being able to enjoy the tasty potatoes right next to the first ever medieval castle I had ever seen.  I people watched for a while, wondering how many other people had never visited a castle before. As soon as I consumed the last of my fries I headed as quickly as I could to explore the interior of the stronghold.

Ghent Castle

My day so far had been quite astounding. I jumped on a train from Brussels armed only with a map of Ghent and a minimal amount of research. I planned on just getting lost on the city streets and that is exactly what I did. I had found myself wandering the halls of the Saint Bravo Cathedral and surrounded by the Belfry and Saint Nicholas’ Church. I followed the edges of the Leie and Schelde rivers as they meandered their way through the town. I sat in Citadel Park and let the tranquillity wash over my thoughts.

Then I was staring at a guillotine.

Ghent Church

Ghent Canal Bike

If I think about it now it makes sense that the castle would have such gruesome artefacts. The history I had learned from school all pointed to this time period in Europe being quite brutal. I just never really thought about it until I was standing in the fortress being confronted with tools of pain. I left the room and quickly shook off the images of barbaric abuse.

I walked around the outside walls of Gravensteen and looked up towards the peaks of its towers. The castle looked so majestic with the rays of the sun beaming on its 12th century stones. I try to let this last view of the fort be the one I remember instead of the weapons of torture. It is after all my first castle, and I want to have fond memories of it. At least the next time I eat fries again I will want to think of the Gravensteen in a positive light.

Ghent Church 2

Ghent Canal 2

Tags: belgium, castle, europe, ghent

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