Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sat 5 Dec/Sun 6 Dec

Had a really nice weekend in Ghent. Saturday was spent wandering, admiring and people-watching. Went to a design museum in the morning (more fun that it sounds), which was handy as it was hammering it down at the time. It's pretty much rained everyday since we've moved here. The odd day of good weather, but it always rains at night.

Looked around the city-centre which was lovely, apart from the building works which they seem to be doing everywhere, meaning that every hundred yards or so you come across chunks of ground dug up, or buildings covered in scaffolding.

Had a coffee at a place recommended in The Guardian (naturally) and run by two English blokes. The waitress's English was so perfect I did actually think she was English at first.

During the whole time in Ghent I kept thinking I was in Holland, sorry the Netherlands, as you're meant to call it. God, it's a bloody minefield. Holland is in fact only a region within the Netherlands. The people in Ghent of course spoke Dutch and were a lot fairer (in complexion) than the French-speakers down south. They also share many other similar characteristics and interests. They may as well be Dutch! But, no, don't you dare call them Dutch. They're Flemish. Completely different people (yeah, right).

What I also learnt was that the Flemish don't regards themselves as Belgian at all. Many in fact would like to be a separate country altogether, although they pretty much already are from what I can tell. So, in Ghent I felt like I was in the Netherlands, and in Mons I keep thinking I'm in France. Basically, I don't feel like I'm in Belgium quite yet.

Other observations about Ghent, apart from it being a very hip, stylish and beautiful city: the women (look away now, C) are unbelievably gorgeous. They even look great when they're riding their bikes. No one wears a cycle helmet. Reminded me very much of the women in Copenhagen. Similar features. The architecture around Ghent also reminded me of what we'd seen in Copenhagen. It seems there are so many Dutch/Flemish/Scandanavian cross-overs.

Also, even though most tourists won't speak a word of Dutch, and the fact that the virtually everyone living there speaks incredible English, all signs, notices and menus must always be in Dutch. So, you'll never find a menu outside a restaurant or cafe, even in a touristy hot-spot, in English. Apparently, this is enshrined into Belgian law. Language preservation is serious stuff here.

Overall, a fine place with a lot going on (I've only skirted over some of the details) and somewhere where we'll definitely be returning, hopefully for their summer Jazz festival.

Home by 5 on the Sunday to find C's wallet still in her work bag. Not before she had cancelled most of her cards.

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