What does Ghent, Belgium feel like?
Ghent, Belgium a place I never heard about almost a year back is my home now. It still feels like a dream that I am here and living the Ghent life (To know how I ended up in Ghent city, Click here). Maybe, not many people live the Ghent life that I am talking about, but it definitely does offer it.
If you land at St. Pieters train station and decide to walk towards the centre of the city and realise how it changes as you walk each meter, that’s how much the city is different from one part to another. From the crazy student street of Overpoort to the classy streets at the centre, from the man-made beach of Blaarmeersen to the beautiful Graslei (the lake in the heart of the city) it offers variety in abundance.
Sometimes I wonder how a city can be this beautiful, I have taken pictures of the canals against the moonlight, more than once of the same place because they keep making me look at them in awe. It has something about it which makes it special. You will not believe that you live in the same city, when you visit Overpoort.
Overpoort is not a street, It’s a culture. It is not a typical student party street, at least I don’t see it that way because, Overpoort does what Overpoort does for all the 5 days of the week (Unless it’s summer) and If you are in Belgium, you know that students go back to their homes during weekends and the student streets are usually dry. The bars, clubs and takeaways at Overpoort cannot be imagined anywhere near the centre because they are two different worlds to me. It serves as the perfect student haven providing cheap food, drinks and parties that last till 12pm the next day. The calmer you want your night to be, the farther you move from Overpoort (literally!).
This is just another night at Overpoort.
I love coffee and I like drinking them quite late as well, if there was one thing I would have changed in this city, it would be having dedicated cafe open till late (There is coffee still available at all the bars though). The Belgian beer culture is so strong that you almost forget that coffee existed, for me coffee is something that I would like to have at a relative calm place with not much music and lot of awkward silences (So that I can eat the ear of the other person, talking about everything and nothing 😀).
But what about food? Junk food (Not really junk, when you love Belgian fries) flows at all corners of the city at all times, if you can’t find any, there is this magic place called Overpoort – which is ready at your disposal. But that’s not real food maybe? Yes, don’t let that belly keep growing because Overpoort culture means bigger bellies.
Hmm, let’s think about a calm afternoon, having a coffee and finding good places is a breeze here. My obsession with terraces is an obsession of Ghent, They love terraces and you can just really ‘’CHILL’’. Vooruit, OR espresso bar are my favourite coffee places in the city. Trust me, you feel relaxed just looking at faces at these terraces, it’s almost like they are doing yoga with coffee ( sounds amazing, doesn’t it? ).
When you manage to chill down a bit you realise that this city has quite a lot of beautiful parks, Keizer park is ideal for barbecues, while St. Pieter’s abbey (A well hidden secret) is perfect to just chill, I usually see a lot of couples and book readers here. Graslei is an experience I keep wanting everyday, sitting by the lakes with your peeps, enjoying the beautiful bridge, and the buildings across while the moon lights up the whole theatre where boats cross you repeatedly feels a bit like a sport, but one where you can only win. You often see some one being pushed down their boat by their friends, to see the whole of Graslei applauding, it’s very soothing.
I have noticed small group of people bringing their own speakers and chatting around, it’s something I see a lot in Gent and it’s really cool. The history of the place adds a certain amount of aura to the whole experience in general, The Bars here are not only known for their beers, but also for their owners. Pol the owner at Dreupelkot is quite a character, He has a damn mood meter (How cool is he?).
I have also heard about Betty at Rococo, apparently she is full of stories, Hopefully I will meet her soon enough. The Dreupelkot, Speijker, Hot club, Dulle grief are few places with unique culture and amazingly tasting beers and jenevers (from Dreupelkot). For example, the legend of the Kwak beer at Dulle griet, where you leave your shoe as a part of tradition and at Dreupelkot you bow down to have the first sip, these are somethings I love in this city. I recollect that Edinburgh made me feel this way before, culture and tradition and lots and lots of stories ( Love ’em). It’s funny that I heard about this story of the Kwak from a friend when I was in the UK (I had no clue about my future self I Ghent), and now I am living in the city which lives the legend. If you love history, you have a lot on offer like the Stam museum, you must visit the Belfort and go on a guided tour, the guide explains everything about the city and it’s quite a story.
Want to know about Ghent’s history and it’s Infamous Belfry?
The city respects it’s history and many a times identifies itself by it, the story of the rebellion against Charles the fifth and the hangman nooses which the people had to wear, is still a part of modern culture, you can see some statues in the city, the Gentse strop beer and apparently even at the Gentse feesten you see them wearing these nooses. I almost forgot, they are Flemish people and they speak english very well. It helps, especially if you can only speak english like me.
If you love art, there is a graffiti street which is still quite active and you must have heard about ”The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, which is from Ghent and can be found at the St. Bavo Cathedral, the movie ”The Monuments men” is about this as well apparently, need to check it out myself. Bikes everywhere, most of the students here own or rent a bike here and Ghent has a strong bike culture, just like the Netherlands. I prefer walking most of the times though, because I have preferred being on my foot for most of my life so far.
Ofcourse, the city has clubs at Overpoort, But it also has the infamous Charlatan and the Decadance. Charlatan plays all kinds of music, depending on their calendar in two different rooms, While Decadance is a hardcore underground club playing Electronic and Techno music, Go there just for the music and you will find some serious music lovers partying all the way till 8 in the morning ( I did it once as well, was Epic!). Unfortunately, I do not have much clue about the classy restaurants in Ghent, I see a lot of them, but they are quite expensive, I am quite happy eating from the Burger places and Pizzerias or even cooking food myself. Ghent is something that needs to be experienced, I still have not experienced the Gentse feesten (I went to the festival later in July 🙂 ) – the largest open air festival in Europe, I have heard stories about it and I am looking forward to it in a week’s time. I think I can say ”WE” now, I guess we know how to celebrate. Yeah I almost forgot, Who doesn’t love chocolates, waffles and ice-cream? If you don’t think beer or partying is your thing, I am sure having one of those warm waffles with a nice Ice cream topping from Nonno would be lovely, though you find better ones in Bruges or Brussels. Someone told me that the city is bipolar, In the sense that they are extremely calm during the day and go nuts at night, well, it’s the Ghent life, what can you say?
Feel free to let me know what Ghent means to you in the comments section.
Disclaimer: Just like any other city, you can love it to its potential only if you have people to love. I always had the best ones (Lucky me!)
But, I have been to Ghent as a traveller as well, it suits both your bills perfectly.
Want to know more about my life in Ghent? Check this out.