Day 4 12th April – Ghent and Brugges

We awoke to lightly clouded morning, with a few more clouds coming in by the afternoon. Overall again a pleasant day for sight seeing  as today we visited Ghent in the morning and Brugges in the afternoon. 

Again breakfast was welcome and every day we say we are coming down earlier to enjoy it at a leisurely pace rather rising to make the first onshore excursion. We left the ship and boarded the coaches waiting on the dock and were welcomes by local experts to show us the city of Ghent, partly by coach and partly  on foot…. Cobblestones! 

For those who stayed on board (not us) they sailed through Erneuzen Ghent Canal and Westerschelde which is an inlet of the North Sea. The Terneuzen Ghent Canal is a man-made connection between the Westerschelde and Ghent. 

In the afternoon we visited one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. This well-preserved medieval city is a delight for the eye. A canal boat cruise is part of the experience! 

Some of the sights we took in…

  • Markt square best viewed from the exquisite 285-foot-high tower (366 steps!) (we DID NOT do this) of the late-Gothic Belfort above the medieval trading halls, this large square is flanked by the 19th.century home of the West Flanders parliament and many street cafes.
  • Burg the smaller but finer, this square includes the  Holy  Blood Basilica, a two-story church going back to the 12th century containing a reliquary purporting to hold a phial of Christ’s blood. No less impressive, the Stadhuis is Belgium’s oldest City Hall (1376, with 15th.century facade).
  • Groening Museum.Home to one of the world’s finest collections of Dutch art, this has wonderful works by Flemish Primitives’ like van Eyck, Memling and Bruegel.
  • Memling Museum located in a medieval hospital, this presents six masterpieces by Hans Memling,as well as changing exhibitions. Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk the Gothic Church of Our Lady is notable for containing a small sculpture (Madonna and Child) by Michelangelo as well as the magnificent 15″‘-century gilded tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter, Mary. 
  • Begijnhof  which is close to the many pleasant cafes of Wijngaard­ plein, the Beguinage is a charming convent founded in 1245 that is now occupied by Benedictine nuns.

Flanders emerged as an important producer of lace(kant) during the 16th century. Made from threads of linen produced from locally grow n flax or silk, such filigree yet surprisingly tough patterned textiles were produced exclusively by hand until the 19th century, when machine made products using cheaper cotton swamped the market. In cities like Bruges, though. many shops have exquisite lace made in the traditional manner which is a highly skilled procedure involving braiding and crossing bobbins around pins stuck into a pattern. 
Such a pretty place that I am keen to visit again with more time to explore and enjoy it’ character and charm. With more time it would be a shoppers paradise only to be followed by great food to satisfy the appetite built up exploring the wonderful little stores. Belgian beer is an inexhaustible subject, apparently one can quickly get a good grounding by taking a guided tour of the small brewery so this is a must do for next time for me.

We almost crawled back on the ship for a very short break before getting ready for yet another three course dinner which was out of this world. 

One thing is to be sure, this cruise is not going to be as relaxing as I imagined.  

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