Ghent and Brugge are two heritage citires of Belgium and are remarkably preserved. The water bodies and the beautiful old-fashioned buildings by their side provide a quaint charm to both of them. Both are in the Flemish region of the country. Ghent is closer – about 50 Kms from Brussels and the best way to get there is by train that takes around half an hour. We had Eu-rail passes and we preferred to use them though the distance to be covered was very short.
Ghent is the capital and the largest city of the province of East Flanders. Its municipality includes some of the nearby small towns and is the second largest in Belgium. The city dates back to the hoary past. At one time it was the biggest city of Europe after Paris, and that too almost a millennium ago. It has a history of woollen industry and is known for its well preserved madieval structures.
Ghent is situates on the banks of the River Scheldt that originates in France. Flowing through Belgium, it meanders into Netherlands and then drains into North Sea. Somewhere around Ghent it receives the waters of one of its tributaries to become somewhat of a river substance.
We walked around to see some of the mdeieval buildings. The most impressive was the 10th Century castle complete with a moat. It is remarkably well preserved. We were also impressed by the architecture of St. Bravo’s Cathedral, St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry and so on. The place is ittered with structures of madeival times and the efforts of conservation have been remarkable.
We completed our round of the town as fast as possible as the day’s outing had two places on the agenda – Ghent and Brugge. We had to catch a train and therefore rushed to the station. Ghent is half way between Brussels and Brugge. So, another half hour in the train and we were in Brugge.
Brugge is situated in the North-West of this tiny little country. While Ghent is in the East Flanders, Brugge is in West Flanders. Both are Flemish and both have more than a millennium old history. That is why these two cities are crammed with buildings of heritage value. Precisely for this reason they have been nominated as heritage cities.
Brugge, like Amsterdam, has a canal system round wich the life of the locals revolve. Because of its canals and the sea up north it was also known as “Venice of North”. Brugge or Bruges (the Dutch name pronounced Bruzh) are the two ways to call the city. I prefer to call it Brugge, its German name, as I have heard them pronoune the name as such on the public address system of the trains. I think it is here that famous satire on the Indian godmen “PK” was filmed for its initial introductory shots. But I could be wrong.The shot of Anushka Sharma cycling down a road along a canal couldn’t be from any other town. She was also shown on a bridge over the canal watching a boat go by.
Most of the tourists take a ride on the canals. We too joined them and it was fascinating. The boat took us through to the city, through the historic city centre which is a World Heritage Site.Some of the sites I took photographs of as best as I could in the murky weather but we missed out on the street scenes as we were riding the canal waters. There appeared to be some fascinating medieval buildings in immaculately preserved condition. In fact the medieval buildings of Brugge are considered to be some of the best preserved structures.
The town is old and the canals too are old. The City of Brugge had its golden age almost a thousand years ago because of trade through what was known as the Golden Inlet – a tidal inlet from the sea. Known for their maritime prowess, the merchants of Brugge travelled far and wide in pursuit of commerce and wealth and made a lot of money. It is all evident in the city with its buildings, their architecture and décor.
Some of the remarkable buildings are the Church of Our Lady, the spire of which seems to dominate the city’s skyline. The other popular tower is the Belfry. Apart from these we had some fascinating sightings – one of a row of pure old-style Dutch gabled houses that were colourful.