Friday, September 14, 2012

Ghent - Gent: It's All in a Name

Chocolate from Antwerpen

From a Sea of Bicycles . . .

Ghent:  A City of Canals, Cathedrals and Chocolate

Sometimes travel raises questions you can’t immediately answer:  What historically would lead to the construction of four large cathedrals or churches in the small medieval City of Ghent (Gent in Dutch)?

(With the Internet one should be able to find the answer quickly, but with the slowness of connection on shipboard, this is a question that will await future surfing expeditions).

Traveling there, we saw them all – the castles (2) and the Cathedrals (4) as well as the many canals.  There’s the intriguing Castle of Gerald the Devil and the Castle of the Counts – both set along beautiful canals that wend their way through Ghent.

Peter Paul Reubens in Antwerp
St. Michael’s church contained Anthony Van Dyck’s painting of the Crucifixion.  This was also the church with beautiful modern glass windows.  At St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Peter Paul Rubens’ painting of the Saint’s conversion tells a story of a young man from wealthy upper class man becoming a monk caring for the poor.  The sweep of Rubens grand picture juxtaposes the images of wealth and poverty.  In this church is usually seen the Van Eyck Brothers’ Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a triptych showing Adam and Eve toward the outside and centered on Jesus Christ as King with Mother Mary and John the Baptist as the next most important figures. 

Another lovely church was St. Nicholas built in 13th century in Gothic style.  Finally also St. James Church.

They are all running together in my head now and I need the photos to recollect each one.

Then there was the chocolate.  We went to Collette’s for hot chocolate, and . . .  chocolate pie.  Belgian chocolate we knew about (of course the cocoa comes from elsewhere – and hopefully we will see that in Ghana and perhaps Brazil – I know Costa Rica also grows cocoa beans).  But we had never had the “noses” of Ghent, a cone shaped candy flavored with strawberry, cherry and blackberry with a soft center.  According to our vendor, they have been produced in Ghent for 500 years.  The vendor was so charming I bought a packet. 

Another charming person was our waitress in Ghent, a student from the Belgian countryside.  I enjoyed a rich Flemish stew of pork that had been cooked in a beer sauce.  Extremely yummy with Belgian fries! (and salad.)

Weary but satisfied, we snapped some final photos of the western sunrise as we walked out of the old city toward the train station that would return us to Antwerp in 40 minutes.

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