Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gent, Belgium Part 2

We enjoyed Gent soo much we decided to dedicate another posting to one of our new favorite cities.

Rumor had it that the sun was in the forecast and sure enough by our third day it was out and so were people. We did a 45-minute afternoon boat tour along the Leie. The guide spoke no less than four languages and cracked some good jokes about the passengers.

A building along the Leie 

Can you say Warregarenstraatje? In English to tourists like us it is called "graffiti street" located Vrijdagmarkt section of the city.

Graffiti Street spans about 100 yards and changes often.

Goedroen and Harry own and operate a screen printing business supplying all the soccer teams, pubs, and other businesses in the region. The work the two of them do is impressive.
While reading the Gent Visitor's Guide it had mentioned that the city was the center of all beer breweries and that Gruut (Gent City Brewery) was "bringing this lost tradition back to life." It sounded like the ideal breakfast spot. For 5 euros we got to sample the Wit Beer, Amber Ale, and Bruin. Ana liked the Wit (wheat) while the Bruin was my favorite. The Amber Ale was voted off the island.  

A boatload of tourists on Leie going under the Saint Michael's Bridge. If you had enough gas and some time to kill, you could ride all the way down to Northern France, but why would you want to do that.  

The other side of the Saint Michael's Bridge.

Huis de Alijn (House of Alijn) is what I would call a museum of Gent historic and popular culture dating back 100 plus years. I have been to my share of museums and this by far held my interests the longest. Upon entering the grounds it is an open and neatly manicured courtyard housing three separate building of exhibits. As a bonus a pub is tucked in the corner to conclude the visit. The articles are arranged thematically with care while the lighting created  a mood of eeriness. The first couple of rooms we entered questioned "the meaning of birth, illness, suffering, and death" from a cultural perspective in a religious context. I picked-up the free pamphlets along the walls to learn more.  The photo above deals with death. I learned that "the relatives wore black clothing in order to be unrecognizable for the deceased."  

A child's toy horse bike.

"...After the delivery, the mother stayed at home for forty days. For the Church considered that every condition which resulted from sexual contact, was unclean. During this period, the new mother received the visit of her neighbours who brought coffee, gingerbread or eggs. On these occasions the woman drank a glass of jenever, "the people's wine", and ate pancakes or gingerbread." 

Then there was the Boxing exhibition in the second building.

...and the stain glass of Saint Katherine.

The locals seemed to know who this character is, but we didn't.

There were some drawings that illustrated a story in the third building before entering the the room of old "found" home movies. The black and white footage of super8, 8mm, 9.5mm, and 16mm is compiled and sectioned into three films on 2 dvds. The first of the batch deals with the arc and scope from birth to old age. The images are spliced together in the style of the "deleted kissing scenes" at the end of Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso or Taesem Singh's The Fall homage to the early stuntmen of "moving pictures." To say the least, the mentioned above are both moving and nostalgic and are set to an appropriate score. Ana and I were fixated by what little we saw and was enough to encourage us to purchase a copy of the film.     

What a difference the sun makes. The people of Gent sitting along the banks of the Leie taking in the afternoon.  

On our final evening we met up with Goedroen, Harry, and their friends for some bocce ball, drinks, snacks, guitar playing, and all around fun. 

Their friend Els is also known as "100%." She is an amazing and colorful artist and makes much of the furnishings in her studio. The house has a sauna she built, a crazy kitchen, courtyard where she grows most of her food, and a studio where she constructs her creations.

Bottles aren't complete without warmers.

Another room.

The dinner was all natural and delicious hence the name 100%. All that was served came from her garden or her dad's farm outside the city. The bread was one of the finest I've ever tasted. There were cats and a dog running around and the conversation was lively. After dinner we all piled into Goedroen and Harry's van and headed to their friend's Christophe birthday party. A cemetery laid behind the house, there was a slide, and the Obama "yes we can" toilet seat. Thanks Goedroen, Harry, and our new friends for a great time!   

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