Aaaaaaaah Ghent. My first thought every time I enter the city is accompanied with a sigh of relief. – Why didn’t I wrote earlier about Ghent? Oh yes, I haven’t been in the country for a while – This city happens to be my favorite city in Belgium and though Brussels is great, Bruges is picture perfect and Antwerp is considered to be the fashion capital and a shopping heaven, Ghent still feels the most like home. Not too big and not too small. Old and young at the same time, bubbling with lust for life and always celebrating. Arts go together with sports, tourists and locals mix each time.
I must confess. Wintertime isn’t my favorite time of the year. I prefer sun and warmth above the cold and mainly grey weather we have in Belgium. I love the buzzing vibe that gets going the moment the first rays of sun light up the sky. When you still need a blanket against the cold, but you can already enjoy a glass of wine or a beer on a terrace. When lazy sunday picnics become more and more frequent and sunglasses deserve their spot on your nose again. – You know, flowers and bees and little lambs and spring is in the air and all that – Nevertheless, I still love Ghent in wintertime as well. The atmosphere is one of cosiness and Gemütlichkeit, with short days and hot food. Lights – especially the days around the Christmas period – lit up the evenings and the air smells like bonfires mixed with sweets, chocolate milk and spilled jenever. You can feel the warmth and happiness of future festivities seeping through the cold outside.
What makes Ghent different from any other European city in winter? Not easily to explain, because to me Ghent has a certain ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’. Maybe it’s the decor in which everything takes place. Medieval in view, dotted with old buildings and canals and shops which bring you back to earlier times and give you a strong feel of originality and authenticity. Though a lot of those houses have been rebuilt in the beginning of the 20th century, also a lot of them are genuinely old. Cathedrals and a Belfort and churches color the skyline. Shops like Tierenteyn and bakery Himschoot date back from the 1700s. Oh hell, we even have a medieval castle in the middle of the city.
Maybe it’s not only the decor, but the mix of an old decor with a young mind? Coffee bars and tiny little shops from creative minds with big dreams. Quirky places where the Belgian pigheadedness drops off, filled with globes and posters, old postcards and a flamingo. A design museum. A museum questioning the distinction between normal and abnormal. Graffiti and street art spread across the whole city and concentrated in one street as well. – I think I don’t even now the name of the street. Just ask for the graffiti street, they’ll know. – Antique shops are bars and bars are antique shops. The newest of jewelry design bought across a restaurant based in an old cloister. Partying in a 14th century cellar. Young and old go hand in hand on every square, in every street, every bar.
Maybe it’s because the city seems to be made for hedonists and pleasure-seekers. People that like pretty things and good food. People that like a glass of wine. Or two. Or three. People that can indulge themselves in looking for the perfect place to eat. Hot chocolates in winter and ice creams in summer. Pancakes and those oh-so-delicious waffles. Stoverij with fries or just the fries. Café’s filled with oh-so-many different beers. Coffeehouses on every corner and two cuberdon sellers fighting for the best spot. – This really happened, hehe. – And of course, Italian food. And Asian. Turkish. Moroccan. Sushi and ramen. Burgers. Whatever you wish for, I’m pretty sure you can find it.
Maybe that’s why I love Ghent so much. Maybe because it’s the mix that does it. Maybe not only in wintertime, but also in autumn and spring. – I adore it in summer – Maybe because you always meet a friend, maybe one you haven’t met yet. Maybe because there’s always something to do. Maybe because you can walk everything. Maybe because it’s small enough to know every good club, but you still meet new people. Maybe because the cuberdons or ‘neuzekes’ are from Ghent. Maybe because I like elderflowers and therefore Roomer too much. Maybe because Ghent has a bar solely devoted to jenever. Maybe because it’s international as well and I never met anyone who disliked the city. Maybe because I feel more like coming home in Ghent than in my hometown.