four-ish days in ghent

–Next time we go to Ghent, we’ll make sure not to go at the beginning of August. Half July, they have what is called the Gentse Feesten (a ten-day music and theater festival) and it turns out that after those ten days, many stores and restaurants take a well-deserved vacation and in doing so, close the whole store. You do not want to know how many times we stood before storefronts and cafés that had a hand-written sign saying they’d be back halfway through August. Including the bookstore selling American and English books (at American and English prices! I could only look at all the books I wanted to read through the window, coveting them at 8 euros a book) and a café we’d saved for the last day and had walked through the rain to get to. That was sad.

–There were a lot of tourists. Including us. Although we prefer not to think of ourselves that way (especially B. He likes to blend in, which, while impossible in Jordan was possible in Ghent, as long as people didn’t look to closely at me with my semi-sensible sandals and camera that would come out at unguarded moments. Plus, we had to look at the map a lot. You could see B. die a little more each time we had to stop and pull it out). We saw old ladies, students (lots of artsy students!), and tourists. That was about it. It gives an odd feeling to a city, almost as if it wasn’t real. I’d like to come back when the citizens of Ghent are actually around, see if the city feels different then.

–If you ever make it to Ghent, make sure to check out the STAM (Stadsmuseum Gent/Ghent City Museum). It opens with an enormous glass floor showing Gent on a Google map (you do have to don protective shoe covering to walk on it!) and ends with a big LEGO section, in which you can help build up the city by clicking blocks onto the Cathedral and other recreated buildings. We shared the museum that day with a big group of semi-elderly tourists, and they thought it was great fun to watch us work on our lego projects. Whatever, I helped build a church wall. And resolved to ask my mom about our old LEGO collection – it seems like a very peaceful hobby to take up.

–The Design Museum is also a lot of fun. To keep kids from being bored, they set out a scavenger hunt with Playmobil. The kids got a sheet of Playmobil figures to hunt down which were scattered among the objects throughout the museum. So you’d see a design vase with a little Playmobil elephant next to it, or a chair, as you can see here.

When we were about to leave, I asked about the Playmobil figures and the desk guy told me about the game, then solemnly asked my age (you’re about twelve, thirteen years old, right?) before handing B. and me two buttons, one featuring a king and the other a queen. I wore it on my bag for the rest of the trip. Thanks, museum guy!

–We also visited the SMAK, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst/Municipal Museum for Contemporary Art. That was quite…interesting. B. and I liked a couple of pieces, but came away with the feeling that we just didn’t know enough about the artists to actually appreciate their art. The museum itself provided very little context, which was too bad.

But we enjoyed ourselves, and since under-26s get in for a euro and although B. paid full-price, full price was usually around five or six euros,  neither museum broke the bank. Indulging in arts and culture on vacation is even better when it’s cheap. (I think this is my Dutch heritage showing.)

–Among the things we came back with were two bags (one for him, one for me – we came across them, fell in love, and rejoiced at the good prices and the lovely colors (mine is pink, his is green, and don’t worry, they don’t match), some food (yay for grocery shopping in foreign lands!), a couple of books (a Wodehouse for me and The Flavour Thesaurus for him) and our favorite: two cushions, each costing a euro, for the chairs in the garden we don’t have yet (both the chairs and the garden are hypothetical at this point, although the latter will probably become real before the former).

Our time in Ghent was short and sweet and although we could have done without the massive mosquito attack on the second night, we totally enjoyed it.


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