In Ghent
August 27, 2009 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm leaving for Ghent, Belgium on September 2nd and I will be staying there for 5 months. Let me know your opinions about the city, what I should do there and if there is anything I can bring from the United States that will thrill the locals.

Also feel free to tell me interesting things to do and see in Europe. I'm a scientist so science related things will appeal to me most.
posted by Lord Force Crater to Travel & Transportation around Ghent, Belgium (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I regularly advise friends who are travelling Europe for the first time to take a detour to Ghent. I'd say it is my third favorite city on the continent, after Berlin and Barcelona. This is heavily influenced by one wild night I had there a few years ago, but I also really enjoyed strolling the streets during the day. I would say it has almost the perfect blend of old- and new- vibes.

In regards to the wild night I had, look for a bar in the central square that has a huge selection of beers and requires you to use your shoes as a deposit on one particularly expensive beer stein. Can't remember the name but they lower a bucket from the rafters for you to put your shoes in ... when you eventually finish the mammoth glass of beer, they ring a bell and lower the bucket for you to get your shoes back. Which is pretty pointless, because if you are like I was at that point, attempting to walk won't get you very far...
posted by mannequito at 5:20 PM on August 27, 2009

...and because I hate to leave a good drinking anecdote half finished: shortly after that, I blacked out, came to around 4am in a nightclub without any of my friends, and was standing at the bar nodding while some guy spoke to me in Flemish. I, uh, don't speak a word of Flemish. Europe is fun!
posted by mannequito at 5:23 PM on August 27, 2009

Best answer: When I visited Ghent, I was surprised at the number of locals who approached me for a friendly conversation in English.

I love the work of Van Eyck and Bosch and you are in the heartland that informs and inspires their work.

The Altarpiece of the Lamb (Van Eyck) at St. Bavo's Cathedral is a tour de force. You could learn a lot about the iconography of the work as much of it is a sort of rebus.

I brought back a Netherlandish compendium of rebus like folk-sayings identified and explained for my folk here in the outback in Kentucky. They just loved the similarities of "folk wisdom" offered by the works.

There's a 10th century castle in Ghent that was one of the most outstanding structures I visited. The castle is very well preserved. A couple was getting married in the torture chamber (!) near the rack, all dressed in white with little flower girl attendant. Much better than your average Tarantino movie. ;)
posted by effluvia at 5:33 PM on August 27, 2009

Best answer: The castle that effluvia's referring to is called Gravensteen. It's known for its collection of torture devices, and all the students in nearby towns take field trips to visit it. The bar with the shoe thing is Dulle Griet. One night at that bar, I received flowers from a Swedish lady who commented on my enormous hair. My friend couldn't stop laughing that night.

Yes, the architecture is incredible and you will have a great time walking around. I'm kind of disappointed that it was the only European college town I visited, because now I think all European colleges are gorgeous.

There's a fantastic restaurant called Soup Lounge that serves these huge bowls of soup for 5 or 6 euros. I ate there at least four or five times, because it's the perfect antidote to a cold winter day. If you're a comic fan, I remember there's a big store in downtown Ghent. Be sure to grab the city guides, because they have all this stuff listed.

It's unfortunate that you'll be missing the Ghent festival, but at least be aware that it happens. If you're having trouble meeting locals, try meeting people through Couchsurfing (either by attending events or messaging people directly).
posted by yaymukund at 8:15 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you're in Belgium, hop over to Brugge/Bruges for a weekend. You can get some of the best chocolate in the world at Dumon Chocolates. Rick Steves says it's a city where you feel like a tourist— but you don't mind, because there's so many fantastic things to do. I completely agree.
posted by yaymukund at 8:18 PM on August 27, 2009

My husband and I honeymooned in Belgium last year, and Ghent was our very favourite spot. It was a relief from Bruges, where you definitely do feel like a tourist. Bruges feels like medieval disneyland. It's lovely, but...yeah. Ghent is a real town with real architecture that has been lived in. Brussels was also very nice, but we preferred Ghent because it was more walkable. We were both sick at the time with flu, but we really wished we could stay longer in Ghent. Have fun!
posted by Hildegarde at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2009

Best answer: I dont have much to add, except that I've been all over Europe and the Ghent Altarpiece at St. Bavo's was literally the most amazing piece of art i have ever seen in my entire life. It's worth the trip itself. I cannot stress how fantastic and mind-blowing this thing is.
posted by silverstatue at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2009

Best answer: Nthing the altarpiece. Also, eat some frites and drink Delerium Tremens.

For an outside of Belgium suggestion, you should check out the Musee des Arts et Metiers if you get to Paris. It's full of science-y goodness!
posted by fantine at 12:39 PM on August 28, 2009

It's "Gent", without the 'h'. The 'g' is pronounced in the normal Dutch/Flemish way - a bit like the 'ch' in Scottish 'loch'.
posted by mr. strange at 5:01 AM on August 30, 2009

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