Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Square Life in Ghent

Squares are a big deal in Europe - virtually every city, town and practically hamlet has at least one.  They are a place for folks to hang out, show off their new clothes, gather as a community; also for tables to be set up and markets to be held, not to mention for sidewalk cafes to fleece serve the tourists. 

This is the Friday Market Square, the place we never managed to get on a Friday morning to buy presumably cheaper food.  Don't ask me why, it just didn't happen.  We did come here a number of times otherwise, however, as it was the first square one reaches from the bus stop on the bridge.   According to this, the Friday Market is the everyday ordinary sort of hang out place.

There are a number of interesting features, such as the very old post box (no good for me to post a birthday card to one of the sewing ladies as I had no stamp; the Post Office?  No, that was now a museum).  Also a statue of Jacob van Artevelde,   known as the 'wise man' of Ghent, or maybe it's the 'famous man' of Ghent.  I could argue with either appellation given he managed to get himself killed by a mob for his politics and I've never heard of him before.  Nice statue, though.   The marvelous buildings on his right are socialist workers buildings or something to do with their national health service.   

Also the oldest tower in the city and a public toilet.  The latter is only of interest because it is unisex, in that there are just a load of stalls where anyone of either (I started to say 'any') gender can go in.  I can just about cope with that.  What weirds me out are the urinals in full view across from the stalls.  Then again, I don't have to be shy, I just have to not look.  Bill noticed some poor woman on her own who wouldn't come in the door until he exited the whole area.  I don't altogether blame her.   The best thing about these toilets (yeah, I'm probably obsessed - it's what I miss most about home when we travel) is that they were free, not something one can count on in Europe.

Moving on, we passed the Town Hall. 

I thought my photo was terrible, but seemingly so is everyone else's.

Three lovely young ladies asked Bill to take their photo outside the city's oldest pub. 

We would have gone in but it was lunch time and we didn't want to eat just then; it was a tiny place so we left the space for diners.

I did like their table cloths though.

St. Baaf's Cathedral

Another main square where we did eventually eat another day is that of St. Baaf's.  There was an awful lot going on there that we got to watch whilst having lunch.  It was obviously a more upmarket place, given the presence of the horse and carriage,

not to mention a busker playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on his accordian, I kid you not.

I recognised the tune, of course, but Bill could name it; isn't he amazing?  (You'll recognise it, too, and we've just watched this video of what reminds me of the Cuisenaire rods I used in grade school, whilst sipping our morning coffee.  I'm sure my brain cells are properly exercised now.  And OMG, Georges Cuisenaire was a Belgian primary school teacher; I'm claiming him as my fourth Famous Belgian!)

There was a group of middle aged Americans on a bicycle tour that took them through the square.  They all came out of a lane on our left and promptly stopped and dismounted when they encountered the stairs just off to our right. 

They were fairly dispersed and they probably filled about 20-30 minutes of our viewing time, showing up and dismounting and then making their way around that bit of the square to find colleagues on the other side.  The peculiar thing was, none of them seemed very confident on their cycles (not that I have much room to talk).  I remarked to Bill that I wondered what sort of sales pitch they heard that convinced them they wanted to do a cycling tour of Ghent. 

Also, I discovered there was a man hanging high above us on ropes doing something on the tower of St. Baaf's cathedral, whilst some woman with a tripod took his photo - almost as many times as I did. 

 If he fell it was seriously going to ruin my lunch.  Good job he was wearing his safety helmet, though.

Across the square, some men were using a contraption to load boxes into an upper floor of the building.  We'd always heard that the very narrow, steep staired (or even laddered) houses in Amsterdam sported a large hook to facilitate putting furniture into the upper windows as it wouldn't fit up the stairs. 

This seemed a different take on that process and sure beat hauling them up flights of stairs.

There was a very interesting lady lunching with her daughter.  I saw another of those couples I spot now and then, where she is very well dressed and walking nose up next to a very well dressed man and he's always carrying shopping bags with expensive shops' names on them.  Do you ever see those where you live or travel?  It's so outside of my experience that I'm fascinated by them.  Some interesting scarves and shoes a couple of women in leopard print walked past. 

Where we ate.

Of course we observed  a million people on bicycles going about their business, in business or casual wear, carrying or towing every assortment of thing I've ever thrown in the back seat of the car.  It makes the price of lunch worth every penny, watching all these things go on.

As often happens, I lost my heart to the building on the corner, the one with at least five floors and perhaps more below, a balcony, a window box, turrets and spikey things on top.  You can see it had a lot to love.  

And as also frequently happens, it wouldn't give itself completely to me, making me compete with the tree and the wall of St. Baaf's cathedral.

It broke my heart, but Bill patiently pulled me away to wander down that lane to see what all those silly cyclists had seen.

I think they may have been onto a good thing, actually.

1 comment:

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Shelly - I am amazed by your photography and of course loved your play bye play of your experiences. Your humour is the best! I love architecture more than I love Dr. Pepper and chocolate, so I totally understand your admiration for beautiful buildings and leopard scarves of course!! So good to hear from you and amazing that we both are in the U.K. now. Just thought this day would never...ever come!! Looking forward to more of your travels.

All my best to you! xx Deb

P.S. - tell your husband, he's got great legs!