Monday, June 06, 2011


So, a week ago we went to Belgium for my birthday which hasn't even come yet (a week from today)! I'll tell that story next Monday. But for now, it was the best gift I could have received from Astrid, with a B&B stay-over after our first day in Ghent (Dutch = Gent).

We didn't go to nearby and smaller Brugge because we've both been there twice in our past lives. We'll do that another time. This time it was Ghent, a new city for me. And clearly a Roman Catholic city in a country that is more Catholic than Protestant...the opposite of The Netherlands.

So immediately, as we drove into the city, I started seeing the religious niches everywhere:

To be honest, they startle me every time. I'm not used to them.
But then, Belgium is so close to France geographically, which also is Roman Catholic.

It took us only 1-1/2 hours to drive to Ghent from home in The Netherlands: 80 miles! That still blows me close we are to our neighbor countries.

But no matter how close or far, we're always ready for our koffie en appeltaart before starting out on our photo hunt. It helps us get the lay of the land. We always do our research ahead of time and knew we had three important architectural structures to see, if nothing else. And as it happens, all three were within a stone's throw from each other in the historic city center.

1. St. Nicholas' Church

I love starting with anything Nicholas because of my grandson in Atlanta!
St. Nicholas' Church is one of Ghent's oldest landmarks, built in the 13th century.

If you look carefully at these last two close-up collages of the pulpit and Madonna, you'll see a hazy film over them. That's dust! Astrid and I are often flabbergasted by all the beautiful art in these huge cathedrals that isn't kept clean. What happened to the Women's Guild! If I were a member there, I'd want to organize a cleaning committee to keep my church appealing to all the tourists, let alone congregants.

2. The Belfry of Ghent

Begun in 1313, the Belfry of Ghent is 91 meters high and is both a bell tower and a watch tower, overlooking this medieval city.

Once inside we knew we'd go all the way to the top but, along the way at the 6 different levels, we saw a veritable museum. The arias played by the bell tower are switched out and played on the huge music-box drum. Fascinating.

But as you'd guess, it was the top level we most wanted to reach for the 360-degree view of the city.
We spent a lot of time up there.
Look at all the other churches/steeples I found through my 300mm lens!
I was in heaven.

3. St. Bavo Cathedral

Saint Bavo's Cathedral is the seat of the diocese of Ghent, consecrated in 942.

This church was much darker than St. Nicholas and did not allow photos inside.
We still haven't figured that one out. What is the rhyme or reason?
If I can get away with it, I 'disobey' and decide God will be my judge.
However, not as many photos because, yes, I did feel guilty! :)

So, those were the 3 biggies...the 'musts' of our day. Everything else was frosting on the cake... the Ghent Clock Tower which was a former post office...

...and the Gravensteen castle from 1180.

This is one of the most exciting sundials I've ever seen, on all 4 sides of the chimney.
It's on Ghent's city hall. And you know what happens at European city halls!

This one was leaving as we got there.
We assume the bride and groom were inside?! Or the bride and bride??

And simultaneously, this one, getting ready to leave....

...followed by this one. Boom, boom, boom. Three in a row.
But then, it's a HUGE city hall!

To round out that first day (as if all that weren't enough!)....

...what I call the 'toppers' of Ghent....

...the paint jobs...

...some gevelstenen (gable stones)...

...and some weathervanes, of course.
I included the fuzzy one so you could get a hint of it (too far away).

Lots of miscellaneous impressions. Always.
In Ghent, if you are caught not cleaning up your dog's poop, you get fined €60!
You are forewarned right there on the sidewalk. No excuse.

It was time to leave Ghent for our B&B in nearby Belare, which starts next week's post...

...but not before stopping by the water tower of Gentbrugge, in one of Ghent's 25 districts!
It was built in 1937 and repainted in 1990 by Ghent artist Chris Demangel.

Happy, happy birthday to me, right?! :) And I still have one more week to go....


  1. Indeed, happy happy birthday to you!
    We both enjoyed Gent very much, of course we could not see the entire city in one day, but we got the most important things.
    Being on top of the tower was a delight, I stayed with the big drum to see and hear what happened if and when the clock would strike the half hour.
    Most fascinating, what a beautiful design.
    The water tower was a fun thing to look for, thanks to the GPS in the car....
    The pictures of Gent show that we did see a lot, you did a great job puting all of the impressions in collages, thanks again, I keep saying it, but it is true.

  2. It was great to see these pictures, Ginnie! Ghent is a bit familiar to me, as we spent an afternoon there last fall on our way from the coast to Brussels. I knew next to nothing about the city so could only gawk at the amazing architecture without knowing anything about the history. Now I'm armed with more details, and the next time I go back I'll be better able to appreciate what Ghent is all about.

  3. hahaha, an early b/day trip, we all could use one of those :)

    thanks for showing us places we'd otherwise never see nor at least hear. this one for instance. it's definitely my cup of tea as i love to visit churches.

    impressive architecture. so much history. who serves the best coffee so far?

  4. Astrid: I'm the luckiest birthday girl in the world, I'm sure of it. :) Hartstikke bedankt, MLMA. I love that we get the gist of a city in our first visit. Well, that's easy, since the city center is where it all started and that's the part that's most important to us. We can usually walk a few meters and hit all the main architectural wonders, like here in Ghent. I love out GPS. It has made all the difference in the world for our trips. Thanks again for this Happy Birthday!

    Deborah: I thought of you, wondering if this was a place you have visited. Brussels is another fab city, which we have both seen several times and will want to see again. Right now we're having fun seeing the cities we haven't seen, in case we have no tomorrow. So glad we can give you and others a peek into what is here at our fingertips.

    PC: Some birthdays just need to last a long time, Maria, right? :) I love it. I'm so glad we can show each other the places we have in your corner of the world and we in ours. It sure makes the world more accessible to us all. Thanks.

  5. An early happy birthday! Great pictures!

    Kind regards,


  6. Markosy: Thanks a million, Antonio, for stopping by and commenting. I love birthday gifts like this! :)

  7. ...Ginnie - there is SO much to see, I have no idea how you keep track of it all. Do you take notes as you photograph? The skyline of Ghent is stunning. I am also astounded that many Catholic churches don't allow photography. I can only think that maybe the want the atmosphere to be worshipful and prayerful and not touristy. BUT then, how many people were using it for prayer and photography as a complimentary form of art work... (I would have snapped away a bit too! ... and felt a tad bit guilty, but just a tad!) :)

  8. Margaret: Actually, I do take notes in some cases, especially when we drive away from the big city and drive through several smaller cities, like what my next post will be about. If I don't take notes, I follow the map, and that helps. :)

    I still haven't figured out the no-photos churches. We can take pictures in some Roman Catholic churches but not all. I know flash used to be a consideration because of the harm it can have on the art. But NO FLASH photography is the cure for that. I've decided I'll ask forgiveness rather than permission. So far so good. :)

  9. Ghent is as far from you as Grand Rapids is from us. :D

    Aww, St Nicholas church. 13th century, imagine. That's when Rumi lived! And St. Francis. I LOVE the white brick interior. (I'm smiling at your cleaning zeal :)

    The views of the city are gorgeous. And the toppers, wow. Don't you just love the architecture, of those stacked triangular facades? And what a fine watertower. I look forward to the B&B as much as I did the appletart. ;-)

  10. Ruth: You can just imagine how much these cities and their proximity thrill me! To Astrid, this is far away, though she is starting to see things through my eyes now. :) I still think about how crazy you would feel to be only 5-1/2 hours away from Paris. Lots of people go there just for the weekend...a nice drive away.

    I'm working now on the rest of my birthday trip. It's so fun. Thanks. :)

  11. Wow, it just suddenly occurred to me how long it must take you to process all of these photos, put togther the collages, and then create a post with your words and photo collections. And we are the beneficiaries. Thank you.

    Hope you have an incredible birthday. You are so lucky being less than 6 hours drive from Paris. Yes, that could be a weekend trip by North American standards. (And if it were a long weekend, so much the better.)

  12. Karen: Wanna know the truth? The time I spend on my photos is about equal to a full-time job, almost 8 hours a day. Seriously. I often tell Astrid, "This is my job!" The nice thing is that I can do it at home and at my own pace. I feel very lucky. Too bad I don't get paid for it, other than in personal satisfaction. Thank you for noticing. :)

    Astrid is cooking for my birthday weekend, which will be very special. But the 'trip' part of the occasion is what I'm working on now. More on that in my next post. :)

  13. Wow! this just put me in overload! I've never in my life seen churches like these before, you know how those southern baptists are! Looks like you girls had so much to see.
    Ginnie, I'm sending you birthday wishes but I'd sure like to know when it is ... all the best, my dear!

  14. Ghent looks like another great historical Belgian town. You are very fortunate to be so close to all these great cities. I was amused at your finding so many churches. You know, maybe because I was brought up in France, I rarely notice churches – they were always in the background, just like pharmacies and such (I mean no disrespect.) While in Brussels I did take the picture of one church, or cathedral maybe, thinking about you and your pleasure with these buildings, but then I forgot to place it on my current post…. I’ll get back to it for my next post (but I did not go inside.) It’s true that there is so much to photograph in Belgium and in Holland as well, that if you don’t keep looking up, down and sideways you may miss something interesting. Happy early birthday.

  15. WS: Oh yes, Susan. I know exactly what you mean. One day I will write a post about the difference between these churches and the ones I grew up with! Thanks for your birthday wishes. My birthday is Monday the 13th, when I'll have another post to talk about it specifically. :)

    Vagabonde: As I just told Susan, I have a post percolating on the difference between these European churches from the ones I grew up in. It really amazes me, to be honest. I don't think they'll ever be ho-hum for me...but I can imagine what they were like for you growing up, seeing them everywhere as a matter of fact!

  16. Yes, Happy happy Birthday to you!!!! *singing loud for you*

    Amazing architecture everywhere I can see! I fell in love totally with the St Nicholas church! AWESOME!

  17. LC: Thanks for the Happy Birthday. :) Sometimes these churches start running together for me because they're similar in many regards. But there's always something that sticks out to make them unique. Thanks!

  18. Impressive architecture and art work as always from you! And keep on posting those weather vanes. I like them!

  19. Tim: Thank you. You know I will post all the weathervanes I ever find! :)

  20. I love the toppers and vanes, and three wonderful cathedrals!!! The music box drum that played the cathedral was a surprise. When Jane and I got married centuries ago, our wedding gift to each other was a large, antique music box. They are amazing. Ours plays six tunes. The drum makes a microscopic jump to the side after each song so aas to line up with a new set of pins and play a different song. If you come visit, we'll play it for you.

  21. Ted: I would LOVE it if one day we can visit you, seriously! We could even go on a photo hunt together. Wouldn't that be fun. :) I have a feeling we like the same kinds of things, and that's the fun of blogging. Thanks for stopping by again.

  22. Before even reading your post, a reminder popped up that it is your birthday tomorrow. Of course, now that I'm almost a week behind in reading this post, I will wish you (here) a Happy Birthday early in case my brain stutters tomorrow and I forget. That way, if I'm a day early and then a day late, on average I will have gotten it right! (all this to maybe give you a chuckle...)

    On to my comments on your marvelous collages... first... I am so glad you "sinned" and took a few interior shots of the St. Bavo Cathedral... that is one lovely collage! :-)

    I enjoy every time I read one of your posts your inclusion of your stop for appeltaart! I'm afraid I'd gain back the pounds I've lost indulging in such treats... but it doesn't cost any calories to drool over your images!

    The detail on the old churches of Europe always amazes me... your images show the workmanship up beautifully.

    The 360° view of the city and the clock tower collage are two more of my favorites from this post. I recently learned something interesting about how to get great views of Washington, DC without going up in the Washington Monument. I will have to check it out myself before too long... apparently a visit to the Old Post Office Building (which now belongs to the National Park Service) gives one the opportunity to have a free tour of "its 315 foot Clock Tower..." which offers a sweeping 360 degree view...!"

  23. Victoria: It is indeed my birthdy TODAY, the 13th, while I type this reply. THANK YOU for remembering me here. That means the world.

    I love that you love the appeltaart stops we make because that means you'll really like Astrid's gift to me for my birthday. :) My post today.... We figure that we deserve all the appeltaarten we eat while on our photo hunts, because of all the walking we do. Something to really look forward to.

    I love that there are places where we can get spectacular 360° views, even in D.C. Good for you to find out about a free kind. :)

  24. Just discoverd your wonderful blog through a post on Vagabonde's blog !! I can not savor it all in one go.. want to look at every detail ..
    congratulations and happy birthday
    warmest regards from Brussels

  25. TIB: Awwww. Thank you so much, Anni, for stopping by from Vagabonde's blog. I have actually met her in Atlanta, where I used to live and she still does. It's a small world after all! Thank you for your birthday wishes. You are not that far away from us. One day we will go back to Brussels and maybe will be able to meet you then. :)

  26. Hey !! yes, glad to meet you too ! I know Atlanta very well because I have family there... it's a small world after all, indeed ! Hope you enjoy living in the Netherlands.

  27. TIB: OMG! The world just got smaller. It's amazing, isn't it. I LOVE The Netherlands. It feels like Home to me. :)

  28. I double-clicked on the first mosaic to get a closer look at the niche in the lower right corner. Based on the quality of the draped blue cloth, I'm guessing their faces are every bit as beautiful. OMG! (Oops, I guess it's sacrilegious to use that expression in the presence of Mary and Baby Jesus.)

    Too bad that appeltaart was not home-made by Astrid, but the plate that it's served on is stylin'!

    The wood carving of the pulpit in Sint-Niklaaskerk is impressive. Great job on capturing the beautiful angelic profile in the lower right photo.

    Did you know that the technology of the music-box drum and the jacquard weaving contraptions in France are the forefathers of the modern computer? The early computer punch cards use the same principle for creating ones and zeros, provided there are no hanging chads. This factoid brought to you by your geeky friend Dutchbaby.

    I'll be nursing the black eye I got from the tongue-lashing I received from weather vane in the same mosaic. Probably because of my sacrilegious behavior or for boring you to death with my nerd-talk.

  29. DB: This is so fun, Diana, to get these tidbits of info from you. You can be as nerdy as you want with us because we eat it up. Those hanging chads. HA! I was a student at the U. of Michigam when the computer lab was an entire room and students would drop their punch cards on the sidewalk between classes. Those were the days. Man!