I have been in the Low Countries for a few days and in particular in Ghent and in Amsterdam. As mentioned in a previous post here I have a lovely set of friends made through my online Reading Group. One happens to live in Brussels just now and another found herself travelling to Belgium with her choir. At just the same time I had a couple of spare days before a long-planned trip to Amsterdam. So what could be easier and more enjoyable than to bring forward my flight, book a train from Schiphol to Brussels and spend a day with these two friends? A kind invitation to stay in Brussels proved impossible to resist and thus I found myself last Wednesday in both rain and shine in the interesting city of Ghent.
There was much chatter, some eating and drinking and quite a lot of walking during the day. Ghent has some lovely old buildings especially those Guild houses overlooking the canals and some huge churches.
Het Gravensteen Castle, Ghent
The two highlights were a visit to St Baafs Cathedral, where we spent over half an hour inspecting Jan Van Eyck’s “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” in the Baptistry. The amazingly vivid colours are only a part of this exquisite multi-panelled treasure of Ghent. Included in the entry price is an excellent audio-guide explaining not only the symbols, characters and settings represented in the painting but also its fascinating history. One panel was actually stolen on the night of 10/11 April 1934. That panel has never been recovered. It is quite remarkable that this huge and complex altar piece has survived until today. Read more about it here.
The Baroque Pulpit in St Baaf’s Cathedral
The second event was attendance at a concert during the afternoon at St Pieter’s church, about a 15 minute walk from the city centre. The Valentine Singers from London were performing 3 concerts in Ghent (including one in St Baaf’s Cathedral). Interestingly Ghent was appointed Unesco City of Music in 2009.
It was great to see and hear our friend in performance as we have long known about her musical career. The varied concert of church-related songs included a beautiful canon “Praise God” by Thomas Tallis and other songs by English composers – including Purcell and Elgar. There were works by Schubert, Bruckner, Saint-Saens and others and some Negro spirituals. We joined a fair-sized and very enthusiastic audience but even a full house would have looked minuscule in this vast Ghent church.
The Valentine Singers prepare their next piece in St Pieter’s Church, Ghent
All too soon the good things in Ghent came to an end and the two of us returned to Brussels.
As with many of our “meets” this one also produced further ideas worthy of investigation and upon which we may centre future meetings.
What a wonderful visit Barbara, and a concert too. I’m beginning to think you get home long enough to turn the washing round and you are off again:-) mind you I’m in London again this week and having the same sort of time, home for a day and off again. I went to Dennis Severs’ House last night, I feel sure you have been, what an amazing experience.
I think you have the picture, Lynne. Yes, I have been to DS House – one Christmas a few years ago – magical and I treated myself to a night at The Rookery and meal at St John Bread and Wine so all in all a very memorable visit.
I stopped over in Ghent one night during a business trip (must be at least 10 years ago now) and managed to spend an evening looking round. I recognise many of the sights in your photos. I particularly remember having a very enjoyable meal in the little brasserie, t’klok huys, thats in your final photo!
Ha! fancy that! We had excellent meals at 2 other places but I din’t note the names. Thanks for looking!
What a terrific little summary Barbara – and a great souvenir of some of my stay there too! You clearly have a talent with words as well as a photographic eye!
Nick (Clare’s brother)
Hello Nick, Thank you for following the link and your very flattering comment. What a lovely day we spent in Ghent – just shows that even the weather cannot spoil such a fascinating place. Thank you for your company. All the best.