Shutterspeed: Ghent

Having spent this last New Year’s Eve peering at dull flashes and occasional showers of sparks desperately trying to penetrate the thick fog in my hometown, Utrecht, I reminisced about spending the same night in the Belgian city of Ghent two years ago.

On New Year’s Eve, I whiled away the hours before midnight by sitting in a delightful café, “De Trollenkelder,” drinking beer and reading a book. After enjoying the fantastic fireworks display that was organised on a boat in the middle of the Leie river, which runs through the city, I went back to the hostel. The next morning, I had the streets to myself in the golden morning light. My hostel was right next to the St. Michiel’s bridge, standing on which you can see down the Leie river in both directions; furthermore, you have a gorgeous view of three mediaeval cathedrals looming up in front of you, and one behind.Because there is hardly any traffic allowed in the centre, it feels as though aesthetically, little has changed in the past centuries. Interestingly, much of Ghent’s gorgeous mediaeval-looking architecture is the result of a frenzy of restoration in the early twentieth century, in preparation for the 1913 World Fair.

Since it was the New Year’s weekend, lots of museums were closed, but I didn’t mind it too much. The weather was sunny and it was lovely walking through the city with my camera, occasionally stopping for coffee or to visit a church. This was the first time I’d been anywhere by myself, and it was a wonderful experience. Consequently, despite all the place I’ve been since then, it still has a special place in my heart: it feels like “my” city, somehow.

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