Traveling makes one modest: one sees what a tiny place one occupies in the world.
The small port city of Ghent is a quick 30-minute train ride from Brussels, making it a perfect day trip destination. Like Bruges, Ghent dates back to the Middle Ages and is known for its charming canals, historic buildings, belfry, beguinages, and cobblestone streets. The Use It map Mango and I followed introduced us to some great sights, from architect Victor Horta's first houses to the modern building in the city center resembling a barn. And of course I had to be a tourist and pass through the crammed but precious Graslei and city center to see the UNESCO-listed belfry and sample some regional Belgian candy (which surprisingly didn't involve chocolate). Enjoy the pictures of my quick trip to Ghent, a town with a rich medieval past but a bright future with its university and cultural scene.
(One sight that I missed was the Sint Baafs Cathedral with the world-famous Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, or ‘Lam Gods’, a panel of a large altarpiece painted in 1432 by Jan and Hubert van Eyck.)
Oh, before I go, two urban fun facts I learned from Ghent's Use It map: One, to accommodate cyclists, when the tram tracks are not in use they are filled with rubber so narrow bike tires don’t get caught in them. Two, in 1999, cars were forbidden on Graslei and this dramatically changed the city from being "sleazy" to being a picturesque tourist destination. (Do I smell a UNESCO designation??)
Barn for Ghent's urban sheep? Nope, this is the 2012 uber-modern Stadshal that caused quite the stir with its addition to Ghent's historic city center, with scandalous proportions that involved UNESCO. This large "canopy" is a part of the public space, and I don't thing there is technically an interior.
the 12th century Gravensteen, or Castle of the Counts; over time, has also been a prison, fort, cotton factory, and (now) refurbished castle museum