Thursday, February 19, 2015

Back through Ghent

DSC01492 (1300x974)The black ice is finally off the E40, the major highway across northern Belgium.  It was time to head back to England, back from Carnival, back to fundraising.  The drive to the ferry at Dunkerque was familiar, skirting again the two dominant cities in Flanders: Bruges and Ghent.

Both were major centers for trade in woolens in the Middle Ages, both suffered in the sixteenth century from wars and declining political and economic influence as power shifted east to the Brabant (the cities of Brussels and Antwerp).

I like both, perhaps giving an edge for Ghent with its picturesque central harbour and trio of church steeples.  Ahead of schedule, I pulled in for a walk and a lunch.

For me, Ghent is water: connected to the Western Scheldt bay by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal.   This feeds waterways throughout the city (rather than around it, as with Bruges), and I particularly like the Leie river tributaries that meander through the town center.  A waterside cafĂ©, Falstaff, under a blanket with a bier and a tagliatelle is a nice break, with canals and castles nearby.

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My other landmark is the three church towers aligned along CataloniestraatSint-Niklaaskerk (left, below), Het Belfort van Gent (the Belfry, a watchtower), and Sint-Baafskathedraal (both right, below).  Here, I have a preference for Saint Nick (interior pictures, below), more intimate and interesting.

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DSC01509 (1300x944)From there, another hour’s drive to the ferry and a late afternoon crossing back to Dover.

‘would be nice to linger, but its an aspirational goal for now.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Carnival 2015

Carnival is the annual pre-Lent party and the biggest thing going in Maastricht, late winter.  Sometimes it snows, other times rain, but all times it’s a feast of bright colour, boundless creativity, diluted beer, and questionable taste.

This year dawned cold and clear: when I went out early to ick up milk and croissant, there were only a few costumes tumbling along the cobbled streets, scant tricolours hung.

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But at the Vrijthof, the square was filling quickly with families, themed groups, carts, and music.

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The ‘t Mooswief rolled in and the crowds swelled.

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The Raising was a bit anticlimactic because the confetti failed to deploy, so the mayor fired a few extra cannon shots for effect.

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Then back to the ‘skade to watch the parade pass beneath the windows.  Its one of the best things going about my apartment, especially when a beer truck sets up just downstairs.

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And the revelry, the oompah music and the Brazilian drums, the bier en frites, laughter and shouts, rolled down every street and echoed through each alleyway, all the night long.

Many more, and many better pictures on my Flickr site.