Friday, May 9, 2014

Ghent, yesterday and today, old and new

Yesterday we visited Blanka's old stomping grounds. Today we set out to see sites even older than those in Brugge - going back to the 10th century. Yes we did that but Blanka had a hidden agenda too, well, not too hidden. When you live with someone for 40 years or more you know that we are going to "just so happen" to find some stores that she discovers have things that she wants to look at and buy.
The cool thing about Ghent is that it is not centered around tourists like Brugge is. Real people, real shops mixed in with all the historical things.

First thing I saw after parking the car was this incredible construction site. You may not think it is cool but I do and if Blanka is going to take me to "shops" she will have to wait until I see this cool building site.
I was amazed at the scale of this project. They demolished the interior of the building but built supporting scaffolding to save the exterior facade. Two whole sides of the large, old building are being preserved.
This is my favorite photo of the day!

As you can see the entire inside is now a big hole.
Not only did they have to keep the walls from falling over, but they had to build reinforcements
under them to keep them from falling straight down. 

The Kouter (a large square) hosts the flower market every Sunday.
Music in the bandstand and lots of flowers make this a lively square, but not today.
Several of these large brass leafs can be found in the square.
In the Vrijdags Markt, not too far away, is a sculpture of more heroic proportions.
Jacob van Artevelde seems to be summoning up a rain storm and sure enough he was successful!
What better way to duck out of the rain than this! This is Blanka's not so hidden agenda, and to be honest I really liked the store too.
As you see in the following pictures this is William Sonoma on steroids. Virtually everything you can imagine
for the kitchen and dining room and a lot more that you would never imagine.

There was a shop right across the street that specialized in selling vinegars and oils of all kinds. And not too far away was this mustard shop. The mustard shop, called Tierentijn, has been around since Blanka was a little girl and a long time before that, since 1790 to be precise.

Blanka ordered their house specialty, a very fine and strong mustard that is scooped right out of the barrel.
Come visit us in Phoenix and you can taste it.
Now on to the 9th century castle, moats, canals, churches, guild houses and inns. Actually Ghent goes back to before Roman times, and is referenced as an Roman outpost in very hostile lands belonging to the fierce tribes of Gaul. That is where Blanka gets her spunk! Little remains of the Romans, but from the 9th century on we have lots to see.
At the heart of 9th century Ghent lies the castle, Gravensteen. Previously there was a moat all around it, but now it serves to move cars, trams, bikes and people in and around the castle. (The moat is still on the other two sides.)
Over time the city grew around the castle. Certainly an imposing site!
One of the "chapels" at Sint Niklaas Church
Sint Niklaas Church (early 13th century) as seen from the castle.
Directly across from the castle is the Fishermen's Guild. Directly behind it is one of the canals that
connect Ghent to all the other major cities and the coast. In past centuries these were the arteries
of commerce and power.
It seems like all day we had bit of sunshine, bits of rain and a lot of cloudy.
We ducked into this 13th century building for lunch and to get out of the rain.
On the ground level they have some of the original 13c walls visible. 
Roasted ham hock, fries and beer. A lunch fit for royalty.
Not cheap but really good.

The folklore museum is located in the alms houses that were originally
built in the 16th century to settle a dispute between two very wealthy families.
As settlement they had to build housing for the poor. 
No Rubens or Rembrandt in these humble rooms but displays showing
every day life from different time periods like this Apothecary shop.
Interesting collections of artifacts grace the wall
of this connecting hall between rooms.
They even had room showing typical artifacts for each
decade from 1920 to 1980! I think this is 1950s.
Yes, we stopped for Belgian Waffles in the afternoon!!!

To think that these ladies and gentlemen have been looking down on the comings and goings of many generations.

Sint Baafs Cathedral, a most impressive structure, is
the home of the famous alter piece "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb"
by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Painted in 1432! Said to be one of the
10 most important painting of all time.
The scaffolding hides the beauty of the tower but is in itself impressive.
That is a lot of tinker toys going up and up and up.
Not new, not old, but very fun to look at.