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My Belgium & Amsterdam Adventure: Day 2

By Sunday, July 14, 2013 , , , ,

Ghent was full of small one way streets and we ended up driving in larger and larger circles trying to find our hostel... And then find parking nearby. We couldn't check in until a few hours later, so we left our stuff there and headed to the castle nearby.

The castle has the perfect name for a somber grey fortress: Gravensteen. I really love castles, but I often find that the building called castles are either small outposts or palaces, rather than the turrets and battlements I picture. Yes, this probably makes me a castle snob or something, but having family on the welsh border will do that to you. 

The castle also had a museum inside, with suites of armor and weapons. The descriptions on the exhibits were all in Dutch, but you could pick up a laminated copy from a booth in a variety of languages to read about them, too.

From the top of the castle there were amazing views of Ghent.

After exploring the castle, it was time for lunch. Being responsible adults we decided to forgo the balanced and nutritious lunch and head straight for coffee and waffles.

There are three towers in a row near the town center. Two are churches and one is the belfry. The first we visited  was St Nicholas , built in 13th century.

Then we came to the belfry containing the famous bell Roland. Roland rang both to warn of danger and celebrate victory and has become a symbol of Belgium and sometimes personified as an individual.

 Finally we visited St Bavo Cathedral, the tower was covered in scaffolding but we still went in. Although photography wasn't allowed, I managed to snap one photo before we saw the sign. The crypt especially was filled with interesting books, works of art and vestments. The oldest parts are from a church built in 942, but the largest expansion was started in the 14th century. There was a museum in the crypt with books, art and embroidered vestments.

Even thought it's not very big, I really wanted to at least walk by Geeraard de Dulvelsteen (Castle of Gerard the Devil). According to inyourpocket.com:

The grim fortress was constructed in the early 13th century by the legendary Gerald Vilain, who was the son of the viscount of Ghent and got nicknamed ‘the devil’ due to his dark appearance and black hair. From its construction until 1378, the castle had been inhabited by nobles and knights. After that, the city bought the colossal building and used it for a whole variety of purposes. To sum it up briefly, the castle has been: an orphanage, a monastery, an asylum for the mentally insane, a music academy and a fire station.

The official websiteduivelsteen.be has some of the legends about Gerard Vilains's cruelty, but the translation is pretty confusing. I also remember that the torture equipment at the Gravensteen Castle Museum came from here. 

We missed that the statue near our hostel was wearing a gas mask until we were walking back to our car from the hostel the next morning.

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  1. Oh man, driving (and parking!!) in crazy European towns. At least the Belgians probably follow traffic laws ;)