Today we decided to go to Gent a small town about 30 minutes away from Brussels via train. So we picked up some breakfast at a cafe in the Royal Galarie St. Hubert. We followed breakfast with one more visit to the Menneken Pis, this time the little guy was dressed up to celebrate Canada, he had a touque on, and held a hockey stick - oh so Canada.
Next on the list was the train ride to Gent, the trip only took 30 minutes with one stop on the way. Once in Gent; from the train station we took the tram from the train station to the center of town.
Side note: we've taken trains from Brussels to Bruges and from Bruge to Briussels, from Brussels to Gent and Gent to Brussels, in Gent we took the tram from the train station to the center of town and back and not once did anyone ever ask for our tickets, if we really wanted to chance it we could have just got on any of these trains or trams and not paid a penny in tickets. They are incredibly trusting with their public transit system here.
We followed the walking tour of Gent in the Rick Steeves guide, which takes us from city center, through a number of really interesting town squares and points out some of its more interesting buildings like the old markets, post office and churches. Interesting thing about the town squars in Gent is they are all quite large compared to other towns, the reason for this is because each square was dedicated to selling specific goods. There would be one square for selling nothing but vegetables, another for meat and another for wool and linens. Gent back in the 1400's and 1500's was an economic power house, caught between the English and the French. This is why they needed all of this space for trading and selling goods.
The one thing that Krista was really looking forward to seeing was the Gent alter piece at the Cathederal, it was part of a book that she recently read. Its also the most stolen piece of art work, nothing has been more coveted. The alter piece is made up of a number of different painted panels, all but one have been brought back together. The missing piece was stolen in the early 1900's and has never been recovered, its still an open case with the police here. Well we went to get in line to see it but we couldn't even get in line, the entire day was booked, not a single opening was open all day. The FBI, yeah the US FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) booked all 400 openings to view the alter piece today, which means that anyone else that wanted to see it, couldn't. How rude, how american. So we didn't even get a chance to get a glimps of it.
We finished the tour of the town, one very cool part that we saw was Graffiti alley. The town had dedicated a single alley where artists could paint whatever they wanted on the walls. This is a great outlet for these artists, and keeps the majority of the graffiti in one place rather than defiling private property all over town.
The series of canals though the town are really nice, lined with building constructed anywhere between the 1400's to the 1900's (perhaps with a few modern buildings, but not too many). Slow moving boats filled with tourists taking water tours of the town filled the canals, not like it was back the day.
The end of the tour took us to a medieval castle in the middle of the town. Built not to protect the town but rather to keep the citizens in line, the ports for the guns were pointed to the homes of prominent citizens rather than to defensive positions. The king wanted to make sure that this lucrative town stayed in line.
We then took the tram back to the train station, and the train back to Brussels.
After lunch we tried over and over to check into our flights, we have seats booked from Brussels to Frankfurt but not from Frankfurt back to Halifax. Problem is the system that allows us to check-in is not working. So now we need to wait to see if we can get decent seats, or even seats together.
When back to Brussels we kept it simple, we went for a simple and early dinner then back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the trip back home tomorrow. The taxi picks us up at 8:30, our flight from BRU (Brussels) to FRA (Frankfurt) leaves at 11:20am