Day 33 – Gent briefly, Parliamentarium

So the hostel nicely had maps for all the smaller towns around the area. I had grabbed one for Gent and one for Brugge (I’m sticking with those spellings, too many options, have to pick one). They’re of the Use-It variety, which I’ve found a couple other places and really enjoyed some of their suggestions. They say they are the maps/guides for the young traveler. Anyways, the one for Gent told me that the castle and cathedral are both open on Mondays. Score. That’s what I wanted to see there.

The joy of being able to take as many trains as I want with that Eurail pass. Just hopped on and suddenly you’re there.

Gent hosts a large festival around the Belgium National Holiday (21 July, tomorrow) called Gentse Feesten. Lots of concerts, carnival type things set up, etc. I’d equate it to the state fair at home.

Anyways, that was all set up, but at 10am, not much was going on. That was fine, large crowds of people speaking a foreign language when you’re by yourself is not a particularly fun activity.

I got to the castle, which not surprisingly, looks like a castle. What’s weird is that it is is pretty much in the middle of town now.

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As noted by this view from somewhere up top of the castle, where you can see all the festival tents set up right below.

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I enjoyed the castle tour. After that I wandered over to the cathedral.

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It gave me a pretty good laugh when I got there and saw this. It’s a nice historical place. One of the top listed things to see in Gent. But currently, it’s also home to the biggest stage area. The door is right behind the stage actually. The cathedral is giant, but there really wasn’t much you haven’t seen before. A lot of really old artifacts from the church of the area. It was nice that you could go down into the crypt area. And they had a nice explanation of the time line of evolution of the crypt. And there are a lot of large side areas where if you’re really rich, or famous, or something, you can have your grave there, all separate from where everyone walks. The name for that is escaping me.

After this I headed out to find some fries. I’ve been looking to find “the best” fries. So far nothing had totally wow-ed me. So I followed my trusty map off to a couple different fry places. One was closed on Mondays. One was closed from 2-4 (I got there at 2:15). No fries for me. But amusing that in this walking I ended up in this wide open plaza with nothing in it, while the rest of the town is packed. It’s really not far away.

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Caught the train back to Brussels and headed up to the Parliamentarium. Part of the head of the EU Government is in Brussels, and being there, I figured I should check it out. It also has a visitor center that explains about the evolution of the EU. I found this very interesting. I was sad that I hadn’t left myself more time to spend there (I got there around 4, they close at 6, free entry!).

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Since wandering around and checking out parks appears to be something I enjoy, it wont surprise anyone that I decided to check out the large park in the uppertown area near the parliament buildings. (Side note, unlike Minneapolis, the upper and lower town areas here make sense, upper town is on top of the hill, lower town isn’t)

There’s this awesome building in the park. What I could gather from signs is that it was built for the centennial celebration. That could be wrong, don’t go quoting me. What I do know is it had museums in it now, and that it is an energy neutral building. Funny what the signs in the park tell you and what they don’t.

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Hopped the metro back home from there. That was enough for one day.

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