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.
Beautifully lit up houses along the Kraanlei.
Korenlei in the morning.
St. Michael and the dragon. The sloping street is named “St. Michael’s hill” after him.
The view from St. Michiel’s bridge.
Witches dancing near St. Michiel’s cathedral.
A bird’s nest crown for Mary on the outside of the St. Baafs cathedral
Visiting the Christmas market at the foot of the Belfort tower.
Groovy tilework inside the Belfort tower. During the Middle Ages it was used to look out over the surrounding countryside and spot enemy attackers from afar.
St. Pieter’s abbey.
Ghent, too, is on the rise. The statue is of Jacob van Artevelde, a rebellious merchant, and is located on the Vrijdagmarkt.
Statue of Emperor Charles V, who was born in Ghent.
Old Rabot meets new skyscraper. Can you imagine that Gent was once, in 1488 to be precise, invaded at precisely this spot, by Maximilian of Austria? So strange to think people once fought over stretches of land which are now densely populated.
The famous St. Michiel’s bell, which hangs in the Belfort tower and bears an inscription about the pride and loyalty of the people of Ghent.
Beautiful rococo pulpit in the St. Baafs cathedral.
A door in the small beguinage Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Hoyen.
The Korenlei. It didn’t actually look like this in the Middle Ages!
Reflection of the St. Baafs cathedral tower.
Web of trees near Ghent-St. Pieters station.
De Brug der Keizerlijke Geneugten, dedicated to Emperor Charles V, who was born nearby.
Dulle Griet, a monumental 15th century cannon that was used against the Spanish in 1578.
Holy light in the church near Klein Begijnhof.
‘t Gravensteen, a mediaeval fortress with a basically intact defense system. Sadly it was closed for New Year’s, so I couldn’t go in.
A gargoyle on top of the Belfort tower.
An enormous plane tree graces the roundabout of the Prudens van Duyseplein.