Friday 1 May to Tuesday 5 May 2015
travellingross rating = 7/10
Leaving the Western Front WW1 battlefields, we headed north to the outer suburbs of Ghent as a platform to explore some highlights of Belgium – beer, chocolate, architecture, paintings, the blood of Christ. We stayed in a nice house on a big block with an automatic lawn mower. A cross between a bed & breakfast and a motel with daily housekeeping, strange automatic lights, pathetic heating, a Spanish family living in another closed off section of the house, and a front door that we were told had “a mind of its own, so do not go outside without your key”. Odd like only the Western Europeans can do. But a comfortable and welcoming base where we did a series of day trips. Highlights:
- The traffic to get even near the main historic centre was ri-dic-u-lous. I was convinced that a concert was on or the Pope was visiting or something epic. But no, this is just a typical Saturday in Bruges. Mad busy.
- A canal city with many corners and hidden sections. There are two large squares with historic buildings surrounding them. I have seen the movie “In Bruges” so was re-living that.
- Basilica of the Holy Blood. Yes, they claim to have a vile filled with dried blood that was washed from the body of Jesus Christ when he was taken down from the cross. This relic is displayed a couple times per day and I thought it would be held up to be admired in front of the crowd. But you file passed it and place your hands over it in prayer while the crowd watches you do this. We were about 10th in line. I wasn’t ready for that! Can’t say this was a spiritual/religious experience as I was too occupied studying it for legitimacy while also trying to act in prayer as a couple hundred eyes watched me.
- Unfortunately a wet cloudy day, but a scenic canal town. Nicer than Bruges, but very similar.
- Hot chocolate that comes in a tea pot. With a chocolate on the side. Sickening is an underestimate, but gave me a sugar high for a good couple of hours. When travelling with Allyson, you need this energy haha.
- Adoration of the MysticLamb is in the cathedral. Never heard of it, but apparently a globally recognised masterpiece consisting of 12 hinged panels painted in the 1430’s. It is under restoration, but from the glimpse we saw, I can appreciate the incredible detail and value.
- On the way to Brussels we stopped at Waterloo to see where Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington in his final battle on 18 June 1815. A huge mound of grass covered dirt with a lion on top is the landmark they chose to honour this with. Interesting. Under a huge reconstruction/reno for the 200th anniversary. I like visiting places like this to learn history as I would never pick up a book or Google it to learn more about this battle.
- Brussels was my fav of the Belgian cities we visited. Maybe cause there was not a canal in sight. I liked the town square facades, the lack of tourist crowds, the chocolate shops, the delirium beer.
- A short stop for lunch on the way to Amsterdam. A flag filled town square, and a cathedral with Rubens painting. I don’t like Rubens I have realised. He painted people with too many muscles, which takes away any ability for me to be convinced by his realism. Keep trying mate, you’ll get it right one day.