Some history on Gent in Oost-Vlaanderen in België [Ghent in East Flanders in Belgium]


Gent Cafés

Brugge may be chocolate box pretty but it is jam-packed with tourists. Gent is increasingly a tourist attraction but it remains a working city with a university. Away from the central area one can feel a good deal of authenticity and stumble upon some fabulous sights. In terms of beer it is fantastic. If you are new to Belgian terminology the pubs and bars all tend to fall under the banner of café ....

Gent Cafés

Tips for Gent

We have visited Gent on a number of occasions. For one reason or another we had a gap between 2009 and 2018. However, on that trip we soon settled back into the swing of things as Gent can sometimes can feel like a comfy pair of slippers. However, the city is dynamic so there is always a surprise around the corner. We have explored the streets in fine detail during our visits. Consequently, we wondered whether we would find enough new things to do in 2018 but, as it turned out, we did not have enough hours to do all the things we had planned. There was nothing for it - we planned to return! We had to wait until after the Covid lockdown but came back for another great trip in 2023. One palpable change in the city centre was that there are less cars and traffic. The local authorities have seemingly realised that people want to visit Gent on foot and bicycle - besides, if you really want to be transported about there is a superb tram and bus network. There is even a FREE Wandelbus on which you can hop on and off anywhere on its designated route.

Gent City Card

If you are new to Gent then the first port-of-call is the Tourist Information Centre to pick up your free guide and map. However, do not miss out on the advice from the friendly team behind the desk, especially if you get stuck with the multimedia table. There is also a good vista from a glass viewing point that looks out onto the old gateway at Sint-Veerleplein. I fully recommend the purchase of a Gent City Card. For €35 we purchased a 72 hour card with which we could visit 17 museums, use all the trams and buses, get a full day's bicycle hire and also a guided boat trip. What a bargain!

Gent : Vlaams Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 13th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

Bike hire arrangements in Gent has changed quite a lot over the years, particularly with the advent of electric bikes. We have tended to use De Fietsambassade Gent, an organisation with several pick-up points and workshops around the city. In 2018 we hired the traditional red bikes from their base at the Stadshal. The customer service was very friendly and they were generous with the rental period so we got half a day extra for free! These bikes were fairly basic but the three gears are all you need for Gent which is mainly flat. In 2023 we hired the big green electric bikes from Onder De Krook and gave them a hammering around the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders.

Gent : Track at Vlaams Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx [2018]
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On bikes there is a good canal route out towards Vlaams Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx. On a previous trip to Gent we paid homage at the city's famous 't Kuipke Velodrome in the Citadelpark, the venue for legendary 6-day races and the place where Tom Simpson became a favourite with the locals. On this trip we just wanted to look at Belgium's version of British Cycling's set-up. Unfortunately for us, it was a quiet day and there was no red-hot training action to watch. Still, it is another cycling venue notched up by suckers for anything velo. At certain hours of the day it is possible to ride the track here. In 2023 a day pass could be obtained for the modest sum of €7.50. No suitable bike? No problem - you rent a track cycle on site, which costs a fraction more than the day pass. If you want to ride full gas then it is advisable to bring your own pedals and cycling shoes.

Gent : Toerende Fietster [2018]
© Photograph taken on February 13th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

With bikes we tend not to have a strict plan for sightseeing and just go with the flow. On this day we simply enjoyed cycling around the streets of Gent, some of which have original pavé which is rather exciting. The canal paths have, in places, become cycle superhighways. Typically, the Belgians have made things easier for cyclists by building projecting ramps and jetties so that riders are overlooking the water and not having to worry about negotiating road junctions and historic canal infrastructure. This is how to make a place cycle friendly. In comparison, the UK is a total joke. In my region, the Rea Valley Cycle Route is an attempt to create a commuter run in-and-out of Birmingham but compared to Gent it is a half-hearted endeavour to get people on two wheels. Indeed, in places the Rea Valley Cycle Route is quite pathetic. On the streets of Gent all other vehicles gives way to cyclists - it has become a cultural understanding that is instilled from birth. In recent years a restriction on cars has been imposed and visitors can be fined for driving into Gent. Do yourself a favour and use the trams to park-and-ride into town. Better still, visit by train.

Photographs of Gent

Gent : Lieven Bauwensplein [c.1892]
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This photograph was captured from what is now Vlaanderenstraat, part of the triangular Lieven Bauwensplein, named because of the statue erected here commemorating Lieven Bauwens. The statue is still in situation, though the building behind has long gone, replaced by a more modern edifice. Livens Bauwens is regarded as the great industrialist of Gent. In an act of industrial espionage, he smuggled a Spinning Jenny and steam engine out of the UK, subsequently founding an industrial textile manufacturing base in the city. When this photograph was taken in the late 19th century this space was known as La Place Saint Laurent. I am not sure of the date of this image, though what is certain is the building to the right of the photograph was erected in 1888. Designed by E. Van Hoecke-Peeters, the building stands on the corner of Reep. Unfortunately, the photograph does not show the spectacular neo-Baroque entrance door. Just beyond Reep is a bridge spanning the Nederschelde. On the other side of the watercourse stands Geeraard de Duivelsteen, a fortress for the city port with origins dating back to the 13th century. Limburgstraat continues to Sint-Baafskathedraal, the impressive structure erected on the site of the former Chapel of St. John the Baptist.

Gent : Geeraard de Duivelsteen [c.1892]
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From this angle, with the statue of Lieven Bauwens to the left, there is a fine view of Geeraard de Duivelsteen, the Castle of Geeraard the Devil, the ancient fortress that served to protect Portus Ganda, the main port of the city. Apparently, Geeraard Vilain's nomenclature is nothing more sinister than his dark hair and complexion. No doubt the preservation of the building is largely due to the former castle being utilised for a number of religious, educational and civic roles, in addition to serving as an asylum and prison.

Gent : Sint-Baafskathedraal [c.1913]
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Captured from Limburgstraat and featuring the monument to the Van Eyck brothers, this image shows Sint-Baafskathedraal, the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Bavo of Gent. Erected on the site of the former Chapel of St. John the Baptist, construction of this Gothic structure commenced around 1274. It took another 300 years of additions for the building to assume its present imposing form. In medieval times there was not one, but two, wooden spires that were destroyed by fire, the result of lightning. However, the locals apparently blamed the destruction on witches. One woman, a waegenmaekerswijf named Kerste was singled out for accountability and, following the customary torture to gain a confession, coupled with kangaroo court proceedings, the poor woman was buried alive. The Cathedral is full of art treasures but is most famous for the polyptych altarpiece known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a work attributed to the aforementioned Van Eyck brothers, Hubert and Jan. The altarpiece has suffered from damage, fire and theft, notably by the Germans during both World Wars. However, the most bizarre theft was perpetrated in 1934 when one of the panels was stolen from the Cathedral. The panel was sliced vertically in half, one section being left by the thief in the luggage department at the train station. The plunderer then sought to extract a ransom of one million Belgian francs for the return of the missing half panel. Alas, the thief never received his ransom loot. Of course, there have been endless speculative theories on the possible whereabouts of the missing half panel but, despite many investigations, the search has proved fruitless. A case perhaps for Inspector Jacques Clouseau?

Gent : Sint-Niklaaskerk [c.1908]
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Captured from Belfort van Gent, this photograph shows the imposing character of Sint-Niklaaskerk in the heart of Gent. Built in what is known as Scheldt Gothic, work on the building started in the early 13th century. Standing next to the historic trading centre of the city, the various guilds of Gent had their own chapels added to the structure during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Gent : Belfort van Gent from Botermarkt [c.1895]
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This view of Belfort van Gent was taken from Botermarkt. The left-hand side of the thoroughfare has seen buildings changed and plenty removed to form the modern Sint-Baafsplein. The large building to the right, which looks pretty much the same today, is the City Hall, or Gemeentehuis. The façade to Botermarkt is in the Renaissance style, featuring a sea of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian three-quarter columns and pilasters in the style of an Italian palazzo. However, the main focus of this photograph is the Belfort van Gent, construction of which commenced in the early 14th century. The project was completed in 1380 and, today, it is the tallest Belfort in the country. Over the centuries there has been a number of spires finishing the campanile. During its turbulent history, the bells have often been used to warn the city's residents of imminent danger or attack.

Gent : Drie Torens from Sint-Michielsbrug [c.1930]
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This inter-war view of Gent's Three Towers, was captured from Sint-Michielsbrug, the best location for capturing all of them in a line. The bridge also provides excellent views of Graslei and Korenlei. Replacing an earlier swing bridge, this arched structure spanning the River Leie, was designed by the architect Louis Cloquet and constructed between 1905 and 1909. The same architect was responsible for the ornate post-office seen here to the left of the photograph. Cloquet was a friend of, and had studied with, Émile Braun, who just happened to be the Mayor of Gent when the contracts were awarded. Not that he wasn't qualified to build a bridge. In 1871 he graduated as an engineer of bridges and roads from the Engineering School. Featuring a superb central lantern with a bronze statue of Saint Michael by Remi Rooms, this bridge is a particularly fine structure and, following its completion, Cloquet moved on to design the remarkable railway station. The sculptor, Remi Rooms, predominantly worked with wood and is known for some of the finest church furniture in Belgium. There is a counterpart to his statue here in Gent, it being placed in Sint-Michiels-Bruges.

Gent : Statue of Jacob van Artevelde in Vrijdagmarkt [c.1895]
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Some of Gent's violent history is commemorated by the magnificent statue of Jacob van Artevelde erected at a time when Flanders ardently celebrated key historical figures in order to cultivate a national identity within a relatively new nation state. Also known as the Brewer of Ghent, Jacob van Artevelde made a fortune in the textile industry and, through the guilds, was elevated to a key position of influence. In order to maintain trade with England, he outmanoeuvred the French rulers by securing a trade deal with the English on whom the city depended for the supply of wool. It is claimed that he even persuaded his countrymen to recognise King Edward III as sovereign of France and overlord of Flanders. The English monarch regarded him as Prince of Flanders. Trade flourished under Artevelde's semi-dictatorial rule and life was good ... for a while. Jacob van Artevelde is alleged to have promised Edward III funds for his war chest against the French in the Hundred Years' War. Coupled with allegations of corruption and excommunication from Rome, he was forced to seek refuge in England. His return to Gent coincided with a weavers' revolt and during the unrest Artevelde was killed by an angry mob.

Gent : Achtersikkel and Gardens [c.1910]
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Best viewed from Biezekapelstraat, this lesser-known tower of Gent is dubbed the Achtersikkel as it is to the rear of the Grote Sikkel on Hoogpoort, named after the Van der Zickelen family. The attractive gardens around this tower have been lost but the buildings, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, can still be admired from the street. In addition to the tower, there is an arcaded east wing and a Gothic chapel.

Gent : Gravensteen with adjoining houses and shops [c.1908]
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Judging by this early 20th century photograph, the people of Gent had little sense of sentimental nostalgia for their castle until more recent times. Either that or there was a squeeze on urban expansion so they built shops and houses around the fortification. As can be seen there was even a café next to the main entrance. The castle was formerly surrounded by water on all sides but the canals eventually silted up, facilitating a change of land use. There was a re-evaluation of the site's importance in the late 19th century and, combined with the advent of modern tourism, work on restoration was commenced. All of the surrounding buildings were eventually removed which revealed the splendour of the old stone structure. Work on the restoration accelerated towards 1913 when the castle formed an important part of the city's attractions during the World Exhibition.

Gent : Gravensteen with a view along Rekelingestraat [1881]
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An earlier view of the buildings adjoining the Gravensteen. This image affords a view along Rekelingestraat where, as can be seen here, the thoroughfare was lined with retail outlets. The removal of these properties allowed for the restoration of the outer defence wall and turrets. Those who lived in the houses next to the castle lived in poor conditions, a legacy of the period in which the Gravensteen was used as a cotton mill.

Gent : Gravensteen with a view along Rekelingestraat [c.1881]
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Back at Sint-Michielsbrug, this view was captured from or near the older swing bridge and the camera lens is pointing towards Graslei, the historic quay where much river trade was conducted in former times. This is the reason for the numerous Guildhalls being constructed on Graslei. The most famous of these is the Guildhall of the Free Boatmen, a body that occupied the Brabantine Gothic-styled building from the mid-16th century until the second half of the 17th century. Following its acquisition by the North Sea Port company in 2011, followed by extensive restoration, the former Guildhall, now known as the Havenhuis, is open to the public for tourism.

Gent : Graslei from Grasbrug [c.1935]
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This inter-war photograph of Graslei was taken from Grasbrug. It is interesting to compare this image with the earlier photograph as it shows the transformation of the old quay during the early years of the 20th century. In the earlier photograph it can be seen that many of the buildings had façades dating from the 18th century. The restoration of the Stapelhuis following an extensive fire in 1896 led to the city acquiring the Schippershuis for a similar project. This would lead to the restoration of the entire row along Graslei. Critics may lambast such a fanciful recreation of former times but there are few who can argue about the overall aesthetic. Other towns and cities in Belgium would rebuild their centres in a similar fashion in the aftermath of war. Here in Gent, the World Exhibition of 1913 resulted in the acceleration of the restoration. One of the buildings, the 16th century Metselaarshuis was removed from its original site in Cataloniëstraat.

Gent : Sint-Veerleplein Groentenmarkt [c.1905]
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Here is an oddity. This image is taken from an early 20th century postcard that was labelled Groentenmarkt. This is the area next to 't Galgenhuis. However, this image shows part of Sint-Veerleplein, the photographer being stood close to the Gravensteen. The view is along Geldmunt and Kleine Vismarkt. Whatever, it is clear that vegetables were sold here at Sint-Veerleplein at some point because there are a couple of stalls trading on the corner. Despite some modifications, the buildings seen here have survived into the 21st century.

Gent : Muinkschelde from Kuiperskaii [c.1907]
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If this were the scene today the trendy lot would call it shabby chic. In fact, the buildings are still a little untidy in the 21st century. The photographer would have been stood on Kuiperskaii and pointing the camera lens across Muinkschelde towards the properties backing onto the quay from Brabantdam. The tower of Sint-Baafskathedraal can be seen in the distance. As the name suggests, this was an area where the coopers of Gent were concentrated, though the craft faded from the city in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Gent : Lievekaai looking towards the Gravensteen [c.1910]
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Known as Academiebrug, a stone structure now spans the Lieve Canal where these children can be seen standing on a metal swing bridge that operated here between 1867 and 1951. The bridge's name commemorates the city drawing school or the Academy that operated here from the early 19th century. The Academy is thought to have been founded by the Flemish painter, Philips Karel Marissal, who first established an educational facility in his home in 1748. The school was based here throughout the 18th century until moving to the Korenmarkt.

Gent : Sint-Antoniuskaii [c.1907]
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Taken from an elevated position, this photograph affords a better view of Sint-Antoniuskaii in the early 20th century. A row of willow trees tends to block the view these days though, of course, they are a welcome element of green in the locality. Today, this part of the Prinsenhof Quarter is a relatively quiet, romantic part of Gent but once it was a busy harbour during the golden era of Gent's textile trade. The Lieve canal was excavated in the mid-13th century and connected Gent with Damme.

Gent : Shops on Groentenmarkt [c.1935]
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During our visits to Gent one of my favourite shop interiors has been that of Telesco, a hat and umbrella shop that proudly boasts the date of 1939 on the window panes. The shop interior has hardly changed from when it was fitted out just before the Second World War. Here, the premises can be seen a few years before when the building traded as a restaurant. Dating from the early 16th century, the building was once the Gildehuis der Visseller, or Guildhall of Fish Vendors. Note the wonderful door with its lovely cast-iron fanlight. Featuring a delightful art deco frontage, the tea rooms and patisserie next door is fondly remembered by the people of Gent, many of whom recall the ice cream served here. The cheese shop to the right of the photograph is also much missed by locals. The business was operated by Maurice Roggio. The latter two properties were redeveloped. Note also the arched doorway between the former Gildehuis der Visseller and the tea rooms. This led to the narrow Schuddevisstraatje, a name that references the brothels that once operated along this dark thoroughfare.

Gent : Sint-Jacobskerk from Vlasmarkt [c.1895]
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This late 19th century view of Sint-Jacobskerk was captured from the open space where the weekly flax market was once held in Gent. In addition to yarn, clothes were also traded at the market that had its origins in the early 14th century. There was also a livestock market held here in later centuries. Sint-Jacobskerk stands on the site of a wooden church erected in the 11th century and dedicated to Saint James. That building was destroyed by Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror. Construction of a Romanesque church was initiated in the early 12th century. Over the years the church has become more Gothic through enlargement and modifications, along with restorations, notably when one of the twin western towers was destroyed by a fire around 1400.

Gent : Café near Beestenmarkt at Ossenstraat [c.1920]
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This photograph was taken to the south-east in the Machariuswijk neighbourhood. However, what links it to the previous photograph of Sint-Jacobskerk and the Vlasmarkt, is that this was also the site of a livestock market. In the 1880s I am told it was known as the Nieuwe Paardenmarkt, or New Horse Market. However, I believe it was also a cattle market - indeed, the street to the right here is Ossenstraat, or Oxen Street. The image shows what looks like a café in a square, though these days housing stands on the site. I am wondering why the café is dry? Well, at least no person has a drink in front of them, despite the woman in the centre appearing to be the hostess. The people around the table are playing a card game and a small dog is sat on the playing surface. In the distance, on the corner of Puinstraat, there is a café operated by George Van der Molen-Maes. He would also have a café near the site of the old cattle market at Beestenmarkt 1. The premises seen here continued as a café for some years before becoming a shop.

Gent : Justitiepaleis [c.1900]
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The person operating the camera for this shot would have been stood in Lindenlei in order to capture the Justitiepaleis or Gerechtsgebouw. This is actually the rear façade of the building constructed over a ten year period, and completed in 1846. It was designed by the city architect Louis Roelandt, the man credited with being responsible for the revival of Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Classical architecture in Belgium. Note the higher central roof in this photograph. This covered a massive central hall which lasted until 1926 when a disastrous fire destroyed much of the interior. The large hall, once used for festivals and concerts, was not rebuilt, being replaced by a central courtyard area. Rather surprisingly, it was not until work on the reconstruction was started that a decision was made to construct the large pediment for the main façade, a feature crowned by a Grecian frieze, including Themis, the goddess and personification of justice, divine order, law, and custom. This was the work of the renowned Gent sculptor, Geo Verbanck. The site of the Justitiepaleis was once occupied by a Recollect monastery.

Gent : Het Rabot [c.1895]
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A view of the Rabot around the turn of the 20th century. This is the only preserved gateway and lock on Lieve Canal, a 13th century waterway that opened up a trade route to the North Sea. The word Rabot is a reference to the heavy oak beams used in the wooden lock. The importance of this communication link made it necessary to construct a fortification from which to defend it during a siege. Consequently, construction with limestone started in 1489. The lock itself was flanked by two round towers with conical spires. Like other entrances to the city, a toll was charged at the lock but when such fees were abolished the gates were left to decay and demolished. The Rabot is the only restored building to remind visitors of the importance of this former trade route, though the restoration has been criticised for being overly romantic.

Gent : Het Groot Begijnhof Sint-Elisabeth [c.1905]
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A nun scuttles towards the camera after passing through the main entrance of the Great Béguinage of Sint-Elisabeth. This complex was constructed at a remarkably rapid rate between 1873 and 1874. In less than two years a total of 80 houses, 14 convents, a large house, an infirmary, chapel and a church were erected. I wonder who occupied the post of project manager! In the 21st century there are no Beguines but once there were 600 living here. The site is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Gent : Het Klein Begijnhof, Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Ter Hoyen [c.1905]
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The smaller Béguinage, Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Ter Hoyen, has origins dating back to 1234 when founded by Johanna van Constantinopel, the Countess of Flanders. The walls to the south and west of the complex were completed in 1281. The original housing was of wooden construction but slowly replaced by stone from around 1600. The church and chapel are of a later date, being constructed during the 17th century.

Gent : Het Toreken on the corner of Kammerstraat and Vrijdagmarkt [c.1900]
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This building, known as Het Toreken, is located on the corner of Kammerstraat and Vrijdagmarkt. The site was originally occupied by fur and sheepskin traders who operated from a wooden building during the 14th century. A group of tanners rebuilt the structure in stone during the 15th century when it became known as the Huidevettershuis. Locals dubbed it the Meerminne when the tower was completed topped with a mermaid-shaped weathervane. The influence wielded by the guilds was eroded by Emperor Charles V and the building was subsequently used by individuals engaged in a variety of business interests. Het Toreken was restored in the 1980s, during which the Klok Maria was re-hung in the tower. Manufactured in Mechelen by the bellfounder, Joris Waghenens, it had been in storage within the Museum van het Belfort.

Gent : Dulle Griet [c.1895]
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In another corner of Vrijdagmarkt is the Dulle Griet, dubbed "Mad Meg," a large-calibre cannon that once belonged to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. The weapon was forged in Flanders during the late 15th century and was supposedly capable of firing a 330-pound stone ball over a distance of several hundred yards. The name comes from Dulle Griet, a female warrior of Flemish folklore. She was the subject of a 1563 painting by the Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He depicted her leading an army of women to pillage Hell.

Gent : Goudenleeuwplein [c.1895]
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Goudenleeuwplein, or Golden Lion Square, is in the heart of the city between Sint-Niklaaskerk and the Stadshal. It was original called Leeuw ten putte, a reference to a well close to the house Den Leeuw. Up until the 19th century it was a closed square. The buildings seen here, at the head of Klein Turkije and Donkersteeg, still stand. Dubbed De Spiegel, the building to the left, though much altered with doors and windows, dates from the 13th century. To the right is a building known as "Huis De Valk" [The Falcon] Built on the site of the former "Paradisken," it was erected in 1755 in the Louis XV style. There was once a Golden Lion here for some 500 years. Around 1900 it became the Grand Café. The building later became a furniture store but was totally destroyed by fire in 1957.

Gent : Sint-Pietersstation [c.1913]
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An image of Sint-Pietersstation around the time of completion - just in time for the 1913 International Exposition. It was built in an eclectic style to the designs of the city architect Louis Cloquet. An earlier design of his was rejected. He wanted a central dome and gable roofs on the side wings to create a harmonious appearance and accentuate the square in front of the station. The finished article is not to everyone's taste but I think it looks quite remarkable. However, some of the modern additions, such as the glass canopy, detract somewhat from the original concept.

Gent : Sint-Pietersstation Verfrissingsruimtes [c.1936]
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There are many townsfolk of Gent who preferred the old refreshement rooms of Sint-Pietersstation to the modern Costa-style arrangements in place today. Although the buffet or Verfrissingsruimtes were simply a place to seek refreshment whilst waiting for the train, Louis Cloquet made them a palace in which the traveller was pleased to linger - maybe even miss a train and catch the next one! In order to impress visitors to the 1913 International Exposition, the interior of the railway station was widely decorated with murals and ceiling paintings of other cities in Belgium, thus advertising the rest of the country to those from other nations. Featured places included Mechelen, Brussel, Oudenaarde, Ieper, Brussels, Antwerpen, Brugge and Kortrijk.

Gent : Zuidstatie [c.1910]
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Prior to the opening of the Sint-Pietersstation the main railway station of Gent was the Zuidstatie, seen here around 1910. It would seem that a prerequisite of those seeking employment here was that they were also green-fingered or had a qualification in horticulture! The station has long gone, the site being largely occupied by Koning Albertpark. Built on the Muinkmeersen, a pasture area worked by the monks of Sint-Pietersabdij, the station was opened on September 28th, 1837, and acted as the terminus of the Gent to Mechelen railway line.

Gent : Holland Palace at Gent International Exposition [1913]
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One of the celebrated events in the history of Gent was the International Exposition held between April 26th to November 3rd, 1913. The fair was held on an area of 130 hectares. A number of Belgian cities had a pavilion and an artificial town, called "Oud Vlaenderen" was created. The man who set the wheels in motion for the exhibition was the industrialist Gustave Carels, a manufacturer of steam engines and railway locomotives. He died two years before the event so the project was taken over by Emile Braun, the Mayor of Gent. The Holland Palace was one of the buildings occupied by foreign countries, the UK being another important exhibitor. However, the buildings were dominated by the French. Over 9 million people visited Gent for the International Exposition which boosted the prestige of the city. However, the event operated at a financial loss, calculated at some 4½ million francs.

Gent : Royal Casino [c.1913]
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The Royal Casino was part of the improvements to Citadelpark for the International Exposition of 1913. The building would also feature the Azalea Restaurant. Citadelpark had been created in 1875 on the site of the Dutch citadel of Gent that became disused around 1870. The restaurant and casino was reportedly torched by the Germans towards the end of World War 2. The buildings were subsequently demolished.

Gent : Bakkerij Bloch on Veldstraat [c.1910]
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Bakkerij Bloch was a much-revered bakery on Veldstraat. It was, as can be seen here, formerly known as Boulangerie Viennoise. A tea room was opened before the First World War and it became an institution in Gent. The Bloch family suffered tragedy during the Second World War when those who attempted to keep the business running were arrested and sent to Auschwitz where they perished. Surviving members of the family managed to regain possession of the premises in 1945, the business continuing until 2008 when economics forced a sale of the premises for redevelopment.

Gent : Publicity photograph for a revue of Madam Walker's Pompey Girls at the New Circus [c.1920]
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This is an Anglo-België photograph in that the people featured are from England whilst the postcard is a publicity item for their revue at the Nouveau Cirque de Gand, or the New Circus. The building, or at least the shell of the place still stands, the entrance being in Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat. Based on a similar building in Paris, this building was designed by the architect Emile De Weerdt and erected in the late 19th century. There was a terrible fire in December 1920, though it was rebuilt as a theatre. However, by the Second World War the building was occupied by Ghislain Mahy who opened a garage and car showroom here. After years of neglect, in 2019 the building underwent a restoration in order that it could become a space for art and events. The dancers were widely known in the UK as Madam Walker's Pompey Girls. Nellie Walker, a fine singer herself, established her Victoria Academy of Music within a building erected by her grandfather in the family's back garden in Portsmouth. Around the time of the First World War this evolved into the Victoria Academy of Singing, Dancing and Stagecraft. With those who came through her school, she started to tour with her troupes on the international stage during the 1920s.


Contemporary Photographs

Gent : Augustijnenkaai from Lievebrug [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

A photograph taken from Lievebrug, affording this view along Augustijnenkaai which, although close to the city centre, is a tranquil and lovely pocket of Gent. Indeed, this is perhaps one of the most romantic locations in the city. However, despite the presence of the historic monastery, this part of the Prinsenhof Quarter was once a busy harbour during the golden era of Gent's textile trade. Here there was once a large turning area for canal barges and a crane operated by kraankinders. The basin created a peculiar dichotomy of lifestyles between the alleged debauchery of beer-swilling boatmen of Lievekaai and the piety displayed by the friars across the water.

Gent : Statue of Jacob van Artevelde in Vrijdagmarkt [c.1895]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

In this photograph within the Vrijdagmarkt, I was trying to incorporate both the statue Jacob van Artevelde and the building colloquially known as Ons Huis, the 'our' element being the proletariat. The structure has great significance with Ghent's early socialist movement. Located on a site once occupied by the Utenhovesteen, it was erected in two halves, one in the late 19th century and the other in the early years of the 20th century. The latter's full name was the City Hall of the Socialist Workers' Associations. Designed by the organisation's favoured architect, Ferdinand Dierkens, the building has been described as being in the macaroni style, in that its classical influences have been pick 'n' mixed. Modern architectural reviewers possibly describe more kindly as eclectic. The interiors of the combined building originally featured a cinema, function hall, a cooperative department store and the ubiquitous apotheek. However, these facilities were later transferred to the larger Vooruit, leaving this building to be occupied by offices for the trade unions, and Bond Moyson, a health insurance society.

Gent : Ons Huis in Vrijdagmarkt [Fernand Dierkens, colored pen drawing - AMSAB, Gent]
© Reproduced with permission under
the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

This is the ink drawing by Fernand Dierkens for Ons Huis, work on which was completed in 1902. The façade comprises bluestone with a dome-shaped cover with neo-Renaissance œils de bœuf. The first floor is contingent with the ground floor by round-arched windows and fluted half-columns. A new cast-iron construction technique facilitated the spandrels of a semicircular window. Faithful to its early ideals, Vooruit provided study, meeting and social activities within Ons Huis, along with meeting rooms, library and a banquet hall. I believe that Ons Huis still contains the oldest trade union flags in Belgium.

Gent : Sint-Niklaaskerk from Belfort van Gent [2018]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Even if experienced previously, a repeat panoramic view of Gent from Het Belfort is great fun. Once we got our silly photographs and selfies out of the way, we spent some time looking down on the cityscape of Gent and surveying the view out across the suburbs. The landscape around Gent is pretty flat so you can see for a considerable distance. Thought to be the largest Belfry in Belgium, the townsfolk, under the direction of master mason Jan van Haelst, started to construct their watchtower in 1313. It was almost seventy years before the task was completed and the gilded dragon mounted at the top. There have been additions and alterations over the centuries, most noticeably the neo-Gothic spire which, in its original form, appeared in the mid-19th century. The Belfort was used to store the city's treasures and documents but, most importantly, was used as a lookout for enemy forces and to sound the alarm if a fire broke out within the timber buildings down below. Dating from 1325, the ancient Klokke Roeland was installed and if this sounded then the citizens would either have to ready themselves for military action or to assist with extinguishing the flames of a fire.

Gent : Stadshal from Het Belfort [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 14th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

In 2018 one of the most surprising changes to the city since our previous visit a decade earlier, an addition with which I was somewhat taken aback, was the relocating of the famous Klokke Roeland. You can see it in its new position in the above photograph - I will discuss this bell in more detail when I share the divine experience of supping an ale named in honour of it. But, the surprise of the bell's relocation, was nothing compared to our first sighting of a stonking great building that had been erected since our last visit. The Stadshal, a large canopy construction, appeared in 2012 and due to its large size and use of modern materials, has been lambasted in some circles. The City Pavilion, as it is also known, certainly has a detrimental visual impact on the surrounding historic buildings. Moreover, it has sparked controversy because the existing landscape around the famous three towers has evolved over time and is lodged in the minds of every citizen, whereas the forcible introduction of a such a striking new building will take some getting used to. Perhaps the people of Gent will grow to love it? For now, however, the jury is out.

Gent : Stadshal bij Nacht [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 14th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

Whatever one thinks of the Stadshal from the outside, there is no doubting that it is a completely different experience when under the canopy. As one can see from the above photograph, it is quite enchanting during the dark evenings. I have since learned that many of the locals have dubbed the building as the "Scapenstal", or Sheep Stable. Reportedly costing some €18m, the Marmite structure was planned by the architectural practice of Robbrecht & Daem, the principle designer being Mare-José Van Hee. Open on all sides, in the style of a Renaissance cloth market or a British buttercross, the 40 metre-long structure perched on four concrete pillars, hosts a variety of art events, exhibitions and craft fairs.

Gent : Stadstheater from Het Belfort [2018]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Returning to our elevated view from Belfort van Gent, this photograph shows the Stadstheater fronting Sint-Baafsplein. Formerly known as the Royal Dutch Theatre the structure was built in was built in the late 19th century as a permanent venue for the Nederlands Tooneel van Gent, a company that had previously played in the Gentse Minardschouwburg. Considering that the Stadshal was squashed into the historic centre, there is some irony that the Royal Dutch Theatre was erected on a site occupied by older buildings that obstructed the view of Sint-Baafskathedraal. Designed by the architect Edmond De Vigne, it was erected between 1897-9. The eye-catching features include the four male statues dressed in 17th-century costumes representing the four chambers of rhetoric in Gent, the work of Louis Mast. The enormous central gable features a round-arched tympanum containing a mosaic consisting of 70,000 ceramic stones in 500 different shades. Designed by Constant Montald, it depicts Apollo in his sun chariot, accompanied by the Nine Muses of Greek Mythology. The gable is surmounted by a bronze female designed by the sculptor Aloys Buyens. The piece features a female statue with a lyre, representing the Genius of Music.

Gent : Stadhuis from Het Belfort [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 14th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

Another elevated view from Belfort van Gent, this time looking at the Stadhuis on the corner of Emile Braunplein and Botermarkt. This part of the Stadhuis, fronting Botermarkt, was built in the Renaissance style and features a long display of three-quarter Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns and pilasters inspired by the palazzi built by wealthy families of the Italian Renaissance. A later addition is the Counts of Flanders within the niches.

Gent : Lakenhalle [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 14th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

The Lakenhalle, or Cloth Hall, was erected around 1425 and adjoins the Belfort van Gent. Well I say 1425, but two decades only seven of the eleven bays had not been completed. Check out the delay in completing .... it was not until 1903 that four additional bays were added to the structure. The original seven bay building did however become the centre of the wool and cloth trade, where the city's chief export product was inspected, appraised and sold. When the textile trade went into decline, the building was put to other uses, including a militia Guild and a fencing school who occupied the Lakenhalle in the 17th century.

Gent : Het Belfort Kannenschijters [2018]

One of the things I love about the Belgians is their irreverent use of words. For example, one looks at the level of the Belfort's clock face one will notice a stone sentry at each corner of the building. These eventually replaced the human lookouts that had to stand on watch for hour after hour. The medieval shift was a long one indeed - none of your nine 'til five in those days! In a case of "once you were up you were up," a sentry was not allowed to clamber down the stairs to visit the toilet and read Ye Olde Newspaper. If they did, enemy forces would simply wait for a call of nature to launch a surprise attack on the city. Consequently, the lookout guards were each issued with a can which they brought back a little heavier than the one they carried up the stairs. The stone statues you see today are colloquially known as kannenschijters or can shitters!

Gent : Sint-Baafskathedraal [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 14th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

There are many websites that will provide you with a wealth of information on Sint-Baafskathedraal so there is little need for me to convince you to visit a church filled with art treasures, one of which is regarded as one of the most important works of the early Northern Renaissance. The story of the theft of part of this work is remarkable.

Gent : Klokke Roeland in Emile Braunplein [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

The Klokke Roeland is one of the most famous bells in Flanders and is a tourist attraction in its own right. The bell can be seen here in its position prior to the redevelopment that included the construction of the Stadshal. The bell was first cast in 1314 and acted as the city's alarm bell. When it sounded, all men were required to gather on Vrijdagmarkt and be ready for armed conflict. The original bell, named after the knight Roland, was melted down and recast in 1660. Its condition in the belfry deteriorated in the 20th century, partly due to mechanical ringing. In 1950 the cracked bell was taken from the Belfry and placed in Emile Braunplein. And there it remained until 2009 when it was removed for the redevelopment of the area. The bell, known as "De Grote Triomfante," was renovated and hung in a rather unembellished concrete chair. I guess fans of Brutalist architecture will appreciate its new location.

Gent : Stadshal en Het Belfort [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 14th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

One can see in this photograph the scale of the new Stadshal and why it has been a controversial addition to the central landscape of the city. After taking this photograph, we nipped inside Sint-Niklaaskerk, a church on which work started in the early 13th century to replace an older place of worship. Constructed with blue-grey stone from Tournai, the style of the building is known as Scheldt Gothic. We both like the atmosphere and character of this church and prefer it to that of Sint-Baafskathedraal which is rather forbidding. It is worth wandering inside Sint-Niklaaskerk just to see the organ made by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. It had been packed away for half-a-century whilst the church was renovated and has only recently been restored. How wonderful it was to hear it being played during our visit.

Gent : Sint-Baafsplein [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

A view of the buildings fronting Sint-Baafsplein, a square re-modelled in the late 19th century and renovated in the late 20th century. On the left of this photograph is the aforementioned Koninklijke Nederlandse Schouwburg [KNS Royal Dutch Theatre] Next to this are three interesting houses with commercial ground floors. Whether this was always the case I am not sure. However, it is the upper floors that provide the main interest. Dating from the early years of the 20th century, the house to the left, finished in red paint, has four bays and three floor under a slate mansard roof. The building has a façade of white glazed bricks and features balconies with railings on the first and second floors. Next door at No.21 is a narrower building but also of glazed brick. The first floor of this Art Nouveau structure features a large bay window crowned with ornate railings. The segmented basket arch window above is particularly nice. The yellow brick house at No.23 is a much smaller building in terms of depth but compensates with its eclectic frontage. Again, this is an early 20th century confection.

Gent : Biezekapelstraat-1 [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Restored in 1993 by Dirk Steyaert, this eclectic building stands on the corner of Sint Baafsplein and Biezekapelstraat. It was constructed at the turn of the 20th century from the draft plans of Jules Van Den Hende. Although elements of Gothic Revival are discernible, the building comprises many elements of Art Nouveau. The symmetric composition presents a harmonious building with a great sense of aesthetically-pleasing proportionality and balance.

Gent : Art Nouveau Door of Biezekapelstraat-1 [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 12th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

If art nouveau floats your boat you will love Gent. True, this form of architecture is not quite as prolific as that lining the streets of Brussel but you could easily fill a week in Gent taking photographs of superb buildings erected here in the early 20th century. This beautiful art nouveau door is in Biezekapelstraat. The date 1901 can be found above the part-foliated and part-grotesque circular door hood moulding. The theme of foliation has been extended to the wrought-iron used in the door window.

Gent : Achtersikkel from Biezekapelstraat [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Despite the loss of the attractive garden, it is still possible to view this tower, dubbed the Achtersikkel, from Biezekapelstraat.

Gent : Sint-Michielshelling [2018]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

I took this photograph from Sint-Michielsbrug with the camera pointing towards Sint-Michielshelling and two of the so-called three towers. For my photograph I wanted to include the clock tower of the former post-office building. Click or tap here to view a photograph taken from Sint-Michielsbrug some 70 years prior to me clicking the button on my camera.

Gent : Voormalig Postgebouw on Korenmarkt [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 13th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

The weather was simply gorgeous on this February day. Cold, but the sunshine was near perfection for the time of year. Just the weather to wrap up and do some cycling. Before collecting our hire bikes as part of our city card deal. We walked past the richly decorated former post-office building on the corner of Korenmarkt. The building had not long opened as a luxury hotel with a shopping centre on the ground floor. Featuring a 52-metre tower, the old post office was designed by Louis Cloquet in collaboration with Stéphane Mortier, and erected between 1898 and 1910. The eclectic style of architecture has been described as neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance. The structure's key influence, however, is the façade of the Guild House of the Free Boatmen on nearby Graslei.

Gent : Korenmarkt [2018]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

This row of buildings on the west side of Korenmarkt are just along from the former post-office. I cut off the building on the corner of the narrow Hazewindstraatje as it was occupied by Burger King. Among other large chains, Gent also has MacDonalds desecrating another fine building. Who comes to Belgium to dine out at a junk food chain restaurant? One idiot on Trip Advisor even remarked that the coffee at MacDonalds was the best thing about the city. This side of Korenmarkt is dominated by restaurants, though I suspect that many of the patrons are tourists who tend to stick to the city centre or cannot be bothered to walk into other parts of Gent. Having said that, diners could look up from beneath their umbrellas and admire the grand façades of the buildings on this side of Korenmarkt. The stepped gable building to the left, known as "De drie Posthoorns" or "de oude Diligentie" and "Het Damberd," dates from around 1640, unification of the pair taking place in the late 18th century.

Gent : Louis XIV-styled building at Korenmarkt 20 [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 13th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Next door to "De drie Posthoorns" is this rather wonderful building. When the business is trading it is not easy to take a photograph with all the umbrellas up. I managed to take this early one morning before they had got going. It is a Louis XIV-styled building known as "De Wapens van Zeeland," a house with bold pilasters and Corinthian capitals between which there are four bays. The windows on the second floor are arched whereas triangular pediments were deployed on the first floor furnishing them with a different appearance. The painted frieze has the date of 1702 and the lettering suggests it was erected in a period when it was free of tax. The dormer window provides further interest and the building is crowned with an octagonal turret incorporating a mechanical weather vane.

Gent : Corner of Korenmarkt and Klein Turkije [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 13th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

This building in brick and sandstone stands opposite the former post-office, on the corner of Korenmarkt and Klein Turkije. The latter street has a rather curious name and there seems to be no definitive explanation how it came to be called Little Turkey. One theory, claimed to be a fairly authentic source, was that there was a house of this name in the street up until the latter years of the 18th century. However, others claim the name is much older and is a reference to those who returned from the Crusades. A less likely tale is that there was an emporium in Little Turkey that traded Oriental goods. I guess the visitor can simply choose the theory that they prefer. There were once houses and shops built against and abutting the nave of Sint-Niklaaskerk, some of which remained until relatively recent times.

Gent : Vismarkt From Boat [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 16th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

We have jumped into a boat a couple of times when visiting Gent. On the second occasion the ticket was part of a City Card offer so why not hop in and enjoy views that cannot be seen by land-lubbers. This view was captured in 2008 before work on restoring the old fish market, or Vismarkt, got underway. The building now houses the Tourist Information Centre. Located at the confluence of the Lieve-Kanaal and the River Leie, this is where fishmongers sold their stinky offerings until the 1960s. From the middle ages the trading of fish took place on Groentenmarkt square but the market was moved to Sint-Veerleplein towards the end of the 17th century.

Gent : River Leie and Zuivelbrug from Boat [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 16th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

In this view we are chugging along the River Leie towards the Zuivelbrug, named as such because of the dairy market that once operated at the Vrijdagmarkt where butter, eggs and cheese were sold. That was when the road crossing the Leie was called Suvelsteghe. The metal swing bridge that spans the river nowadays cannot be seen here as it was not installed until 2013. In order to facilitate the passage of large boats, there had been a swing bridge here since the mid-18th century. An earlier stone bridge dated from the late 14th century. The earliest known bridge, called Boudinsbrug, was constructed with wood. Drifting along this section of the Leie one can get a sense of the former industrial character of Gent.

Gent : Kraanlei 27-9 from Boat [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 16th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

As the boat heads back towards Vleeshuisbrug, an opportunity to view and photograph Kraanlei arises. On land, these buildings are relatively difficult to view from the opposite side of the river. This street marks the edge of the Patershol district, an area of Gent transformed in the 21st century through some gentrification and the emergence of trendy bars and restaurants. The narrow streets are a very intriguing pocket of town in which to explore. Located on the corner of Ballenstraat, the tall step gabled house is typical of the buildings erected here in the 17th century - brick built on a sandstone plinth. The premises next door, painted in yellow, has a 19th century frontage with delightful first floor windows. Like the neighbouring property on the corner of Hertogstraat, this building probably dates from the mid-late 18th century.

Gent : Kleine Vismarkt 2 from Boat [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 16th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Just before the boat heads under Vleeshuisbrug, there is an opportunity to capture Kleine Vismarkt 2 from the river. This building was partly reconstructed in the 18th century but is an important landmark as it was once the Gildehuis der Wijnschroeders of Kraankinderen, the young children engaged on the cranes along the quays of Gent. The eleven-bay building is thought to date from 1755 and erected to the designs of the architect David 't Kindt. Certainly, MDCCLV has been applied to the centre of the frieze. The older building attached was once the classroom of the guild, a structure restored in 1912. The children, generally in their teenage years, would have to walk a treadmill that operated the hoist of the crane in the loading or unloading of goods on the quays. Prior to the street commemorating the wooden crane on this quay, the road was known as Ajuinlei, thought to be the locale where onions were sold in a row of shops. Records point to the crane being built in the 14th century, mostly for the lifting of heaving wine barrels, meaning that the area had to be secured and guarded.

Gent : Il Cortile on Kraanlei [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

Back on dry land, this photograph shows an Italian restaurant on Kraanlei so one could ponder the history of barrels of fermented fruit lifted by crane along the waterfront whilst trying out the wine list at Il Cortile, an eatery where, according to online reviews, offers curt service but good food. The light emitted through the stained-glass windows contributes to Gent's Light Festival. Flanked by glass featuring lemons and a chef tending a pizza oven, the central pane depicts what appears to be a Trinacria, the three-legged symbol of Sicily. So I guess the lemons depicted are also of Sicilian origin, the fruit that is attributed to the rise in power of The Mafia after it was discovered that the fruit prevented scurvy and boosted the island's economy in 18th and 19th centuries.

Gent : Huis van Alijn [2008]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

The Italian restaurant is named The Courtyard, probably a reference to the complex a few metres further along Kraanlei. Our visit inside was during February 2018 by which time the former Folklore Museum had been rejuvenated as the Huis van Alijn, the former children's hospital charity or Kinderen Alijnshospitaal.

Gent : Katharinazaal de Voormalige Kapel [2018]
© Photo taken by author on February 15th, 2018. DO NOT COPY

The above photograph was taken from De Binnentuin and shows De Catharinakapel. The story of the old building is somewhat lost amid the museum's focus on the daily life of the ordinary citizen. However, the chronological displays augmented by video and audio, is a most engaging experience. Some of the old footage is simply wonderful. The only negative aspect of wandering through the exhibition is that you see your life passing in front of you! As you can see, the courtyard was a bit soggy during our visit but on a sunny day this is a very nice place to enjoy a cuppa from the museum's café. Oh, the chapel dates from the mid-16th century but the history of the hospital goes back to the 14th century, the result of a feud between the Rijm and Alijns families.

Gent : Klokhuys at Corduwaniersstraat-65 [2018]
© Photo taken by author on September 14th, 2008. DO NOT COPY

't Klokhuys forms part of the rejuvenated, trendy narrows streets of the Patershol district. I believe that the brasserie serves good Flemish dishes, though us veggies are unable to delve into such plates. The corner house has a long history of being a café serving beer. An old photograph shows that it was formerly known as The Philippine and an outlet for beers produced at the city's Brouwerij Excelsior. The building, dating from 1716, has been renovated, though the there is no winding the clock back for the weathered stones and cartouches of the façade. Note the oculus above the attic window, part of the stepped gable.


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Gent : Hotel de la Poste Luggage Ticket [c.1913]

Related Newspaper Articles

"Ghent is once more in German occupation. On Saturday and Sunday an heroic effort was made to save the city from the dire consequences of a fresh German visitation. The fighting round Melle on Saturday turned to the advantage of the defenders, as did that on Sunday. A certain regiment was engaged with the enemy around Wetteren throughout Sunday morning, repelling several furious German attacks. In the dawn of Sunday the defending forces and the enemy had crept within a few hundred yards of each other's position. Hundreds of wounded were lying uncared for in the immediate front of the opposing armies. The German rifle fire during the night had been continuous; they fired on everyone approaching their line, and did not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Here it was war à outrance. Each side seemed animated by but one single desire - to kill without mercy. An unhappy incident seem to inflame the blood lust of the Germans, who rarely throughout this war have been noted for any feeling of compassion for a fallen foe-man. A body of 200 German infantry were enfiladed by machine gun fire. There was no escape, and after being terribly punished the survivors decided to surrender. They raised the butts of their rifles in the air in token of submission. Perhaps it was that the signal was not observed in time, or perhaps it was remembered that a simulated surrender has been the favourite ruse of the enemy, when he found himself in a warm corner. At all events, the fire did not cease until the ranks of the trapped Germans had been decimated. At the moment when the defending forces were successfully rolling up the enemy threatening Ghent a large German cavalry force was reported to be moving north upon Ypres with the intention of raiding the main line of communication running from Ostend via Bruges to Ghent. The raiding cavalry, who had nothing to bar their path, moved rapidly. Leaving Ypres, they were rumoured to be pushing on towards Dixmude. It was a critical moment. There was not much time for reflection, and after a careful review of the situation a general retreat was decided upon. Passing by way of Ghent, the infantry made a forced march to Bruges. Every moment was of importance if the army and its communication were to be preserved intact. From Bruges a large force moved south, and in the neighbourhood of Dixmude this morning came into action once more, and arrested the onward march of the German column. The men, despite their long and arduous march, gave the enemy a severe shaking. The Germans appeared to be in great strength, but the defending force is holding on, undismayed by the fury of the German infantry assaults, supported by heavy artillery. The evacuation of Ghent led to something in the nature of panic on Sunday night. The unfavourable news spread in every direction. There were trains from the city towards the coast town, but vehicles of every description, from dogcarts to ramshackle horse vehicles, were requisitioned, and the inhabitants of Ghent fled with some show of confusion from the enemy approaching their gates. By midnight the last citizens who could scrape together the money for the hire of vehicles of any kind, the last soldier and large proportion wounded had quitted the city, taking the road to Bruges and Ostend. The streets of the city were silent and deserted, and the Hotel de Porte, which had been used as a residence by the headquarter staff and the correspondents, was practically empty. Four or five correspondents, of whom I was one, remained overnight, not from choice, but from necessity. My automobile had been returned from Ostend. Twelve wounded in the hotel were attended by two ladies of the Belgian Red Cross Society, who refused to quit their charges even when doctors and stretcher-bearers abandoned their posts and vanished from Ghent. The wounded were in a feverish state of excitement. Somehow the news of the evacuation reached their ears, and they implored the nurses to have them transported elsewhere, for not one of them relished the idea of falling wounded into the hands of the Germans. But what were those poor nurses to do? The military authorities had gone off, and had made no provision for the removal of the wounded lying at the Hotel de Porte and at the principal military hospitals. We all spent a very anxious night in discussing plans for our escape and for the taking away of the wounded. It was in vain that we sought aid from the city authorities, more or less distracted by the prospect of a fresh German incursion. They eventually said they had no news to give, and, no doubt, they were right. It was with a feeling of genuine relief that I saw the first grey shafts of dawn creeping in at my bedroom window, for I found it easier to be optimistic when the sun shone above the horizon and the black veil had lifted. It was six. The wounded were still in the hotel, fretting at the long delay, and no vehicle, not even a dogcart, was obtainable, and the Germans might appear at any moment. One of the nurses, whose brother was severely wounded and lying in the hotel, had bravely faced a long night vigil, but now she began to show signs of the emotion that was racking her sisterly heart. "What am I to do?" she asked in despair. "I must save brother from these dastardly Germans." When things looked blackest the American Vice-consult pulled up in his automobile at the hotel door. He was on his way to Brussels, and called upon the friend who was to accompany him. The American Vice-consul is a big-hearted, sympathetic American, and when heard of the plight of the wounded his eyes filled with tears. "Bother Brussels and official missions," he said; "I will never leave these poor boys here to be taken prisoners by the Germans." He was as good as his word, and in a few minutes the wounded had been brought down to the Consular car and taken in turn to the railway station. Every man was taken away from the hotel to the railway station in readiness to leave for Ostend. Afterwards the American Vice-Consul took his automobile to the military hospital and carried off six injured soldiers whose wounds precluded them from walking. They had to be carried on stretchers. Many of the wounded left behind in the military hospital, but who were able to walk, had earlier in the morning made a brave attempt to save themselves. They hobbled forth painfully, supporting their tottering limbs with crutches. Others were helped along by the kindly arm of some lad or woman. Some of the wounded lay with a half hospital blanket to shelter them from the chilling effects of the raw morning air. Sometimes they groaned aloud in the agony of suffering. One train filled with wounded did get away from the station before the entry of the Germans, but a second, also loaded with brave fellows, was left behind and abandoned to the mercy of the enemy. There were no doctors and but few nurses to assuage their pain. As to myself, I left Ghent by the Bruges Canal road as the Germans were entering at the other side the city. Their advance guards were already in Ghent. As 1 gained the station of the Eecloo railway the trains had stopped running, and a clamouring crowd carrying bundles of personal belongings were waiting before the engineless train for some means of transporting them beyond the present sphere of German influence in Belgium. Finding there were no trains to Eecloo, two colleagues and myself did not attempt to escape from Ghent on foot, but we found conveyance containing English civilians leaving for a spot about twelve miles beyond the city, apparently on the way to Bruges. At the end of the journey were induced to go further, and proceeded to Eecloo, about fifteen miles distant. There we boarded a crowded train for Bruges. There we found a train bound for Zeebrugge, and from this latter point we made our way to Ostend, via Blankenburg. The Germans entered Ghent quietly and without any opposition from the quiet inhabitants. At ten o'clock they arrived at the Hotel de Ville, and took over the quarters occupied only yesterday by the Belgian Military Staff. The burgomaster and several other citizens were taken as hostages for the good behaviour of the citizens. The American Vice-Consul, who treated with the Germans on the first occasion of their appearance in Ghent, was sent for by the German commander."
"On The Road To Ghent" by M. H. Donohue
in Western Mail : October 14th 1914 Page 5

Poster for the Ghent International Exposition. Printed by J. E. Goossens, Bruxelles [1913]

Gent : Facon's Oudenaards Brouwerij Bieretiket

Railway Poster : Visit Ghent And The Towns Of Art Of East-Flanders

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