Even if you don’t normally drink beer I would recommend that you try one or two while in Belgium. The variety is huge, and with a bit of help from a friendly waiter (the ones we met in Gent were unfailingly so) you should be able to find something to your taste. After all, when a bar can claim to be a “Bieracademie” and offer 250 varieties (listed in alphabetical order to make it easier to find your favourite), there has to be something for everyone.
The beers I sampled in Gent were:
- Petrus blonde (my favourite of the lager styles I tried)
- Leffe blonde (also very good)
- Bavic (another lager - OK but less good than the above, I thought – though cheaper)
- Barbar Winter Bok (a warm dark beer made with honey but not as sweet as that would suggest – my very favourite)
If you’re looking for a good dark beer, a friend who was with us really liked the Petrus Brun which might be more readily available than the Barbar, while Chris and I have enjoyed Chimay Bleuw on several occasions. And the website below has loads of other suggestions.
The most well known article hanging from the ceiling of the Dulle Griet is a wire basket with a bell attached to it. Look closer and you will see that it has a pulley attached which runs behind the bar. For about 9 Euro they will serve you with a 1.2 litre MAX house beer which comes in a large Kwak style glass complete with wooden stand. There is a catch though because as a ransom for the glass you will have to surrender one of your shoes which gets placed in the wire basket and hauled back up to the ceiling. You get your shoe back when you return the glass intact. It is perhaps a bit of a tourist ploy but I suspect it brings in a few customers, it certainly prompted us to join in the fun as the pictures show.
A word of warning, it is difficult to drink out of these glasses so unless you want to risk walking home with one shoe don't try it after a long drinking session.
A kind of tradition in Ghent: the Gentse Feesten.
Some days (10) to party in the city. It was the first time I attended it and only attended one day. But, in fact, I just discovered that it has some roots back in old times. They have been organized for 160 years.
Again, the website of the city of Gent gives you an insight of the history of the Festivities.
In the Feesten, there were many festivals. Check here the program of 2003. The one I attended to was La fiesta tropical Pol? Pol?, a Latino festival.
Good coincidence, these Gentse feesten use to take place at a period of time that includes the July 21 celebration. Hence the exotic way to celebrate Independence day in Ghent. As far as I know, without the usual march past.. yet with the fireworks!
Gentsche Fieste anno 1800
The Kouter - a square in Ghent Center was famous for it's Gala 1800 ball.
Most of the visitors were dressed in clothes deo dato 1800 - dancing on the old fashioned way - but a lot of participants were famous - like the mayor - politicians etc.
Not at last - on the other picture - three famous VT members - March 2006
I think the most visited place during the GF !
It is located in front of the "Meathalls" called -"Vleeshallen" in the Center of Ghent.
Near het Galgenhuis - the smallest pub in Gent and besides "The house of beer - at the Waterfront "
Different kinds of "jenevers can be tasted - not cheap (about 3 euro/can) - but the atmosphere is unique !
BTW Het Galgenhuis was that time the last stationary for prisoners, before they were hanged (I'm wondering if they could had a last jenever before ...)
The Gentse Feesten are a "monument" in Belgium. Every year, in July, the city fills its streets with concerts, workshops, street animation,liquor and a lot of people!
During ten days, Ghent doesn't sleep. Day, evening or night: there's always something on.
If you're in Belgium during that period, than you simply don't have an excuse to miss it!
In 2005 the festivities take place from the 16th until the 25h of July.
It is not exactly a cultural guidance, but you may benefit of this tip if you intend to visit Belgium. Enjoy a typical local meal "Gentsche stoverij" and a famous Belgian beer
But even more ...
We have not only the best chocolate and waffels, we also have the best pancakes and warm applepie with cream and ice.
This all together with a banana milkshake, coffee or even a glass of water. Just delicious.
Buildings in Ghent, as in the rest of Belgium (and the Netherlands, northern Germany, Denmark and Poland) have traditionally been made of bricks, rather than stone or wood.
The choice of bricks as the main building material is logical when you consider that this low-lying region has no huge stone quarries or towering forests, but it does have ample supplies of sand and clay to make bricks out of.
By using bricks of different colors and shapes, architects can create a wide range of effects, as in this building on the Oude Houtlei from the year 1910 (first photo).
These young people in red T-shirts, from various European countries, were doing some sort of project for a summer school that they were on. They wanted to ask me some questions in English about European integration and also wanted to take my picture, which I said was fine if I could also take their picture.
Their English was somewhat rudimentary (A2 level, I would say) and I didn’t always understand their questions, so their teacher, the man on the right, had to help a couple of times.
I told them all the usual things: European integration is fine, Nationalism is a relic of the nineteenth century, young people should travel around, learn languages, meet and marry people from other countries. I think I also said that ideally each person should have grandparents of four different nationalities (which I later posted as my VT motto for a while).
Also I said Europe needs more young people but also more jobs for them. Europe is the only continent whose population is declining, but youth unemployment is at an all-time (I think) high.
I don’t know how much they understood of all this, but they took notes and no doubt presented it in some way at their wrap-up session on Friday morning, as we used to have our groups do in Birmingham. And the main thing is that they got out and tried to practice their English a bit.
The "Gentsche Fieste" is held yearly 10 days during a festival in Ghent/Belgium. The time is the end of July - the location "St-Jacobs" and the "Korenmarkt"- the center of the city. All streets are blocked for automobiles -only busses and trolley's may enter- but they are really the best way to enter the festivities.
You will find, besides the local restaurants and pubs, several food and drink stands. But this is less important. Of more importance are the special events. International street performers (Puppet Busketeers and Exces) and local bands are stealing the show in a scenery of historical monuments like "Gravensteen" and "Belfree". Musea and popular theaters launch new programms. On our national Holiday (21st of July), there are some brilliant fireworks to be enjoyed at midnight
We saw weddings in Gent, Brugge and Brussels, none of which took place in a church. Here in Gent we saw the bridal party posing for pictures after emerging from the Stadhuis (town hall). We do have non-religious civil ceremonies in the US that are performed by a justice of the peace or other government official so perhaps that was what we were witnessing.
There is always a cafe around the next corner. Makes for a nice day. Visit a sight. Plop down at a cafe for a Duvel Beer. Visit an old church. Sip a Grand Cru at the pub next door. Climb to the top of the Belfort for a commanding view of the town. Relax with a Chimay at the bar in the next block over. Never really got drunk per se, but definitely made the sightseeing more fun and interesting.
Can't decide what to see next or which restaurant would be best? Take a seat and discuss the matter in a civilized way over a Belgian beer. Surely inspiration will strike soon enough. If not, try a different beer. Often times there are dozens to choose from.
Or as Becky put it: "The How painful can we make your death museum."
The old guard Counts of Flanders did not mess around when it came to coercing a confession or punishing a malefactor. Lots of thumbscrews and racks and spiked collars (with the points facing inwards towards the neck) and guillotines and limb lopping instruments. Much of the collection came from the last official executioner of Gent when he finally hung up his hood.
The museum is housed in Gravensteen and is included in Gravensteen's price of admission.
One great aspect of Gent is the almost complete absense of cars in the central historic district. Only taxis (and I suppose delivery trucks) are allowed to drive the streets in the central district. This means that the area is terrific for pedestrians. You can wonder the streets and alleys without the fear that you are taking your life in your hands. Just watch out for the trams and bicycles.