12.29.11

Eurotrip Destination #12: Ghent

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 1:44 pm by Benjamin Ross

This is the 12th entry from my 2011 Europe Trip.

Bruges is only an hour train ride outside of Brussels, and after an early morning start in Bruges, I found myself with some extra time in the afternoon.  Ghent, Belgium’s fourth largest city, is a stop along the Brussels-Bruges route, so I decided to stop off and check it out.

Brussels and Bruges are the main tourist stops in Belgium, leaving Ghent comparatively less touristed.  Like Bruges, it’s primarily a Flemish speaking city, where French is only marginally spoken and understood.
Ghent has a lot of the quaint features of a little Belgian town which made it a worthwhile place to meander through for the remainder of the afternoon.
canals
majestic buildings
open squares
churches
cobblestone streets
more canals
From my admittedly surface vantage point, Ghent doesn’t have much which stands out over and above Brussels and Bruges, so it isn’t a place I would necessarily plan a trip around visiting.  But with its convenient location along the Brussels-Bruges railway (which runs multiple trains on the hour), there’s little reason not to get out and explore Ghent for a few hours.  Next day trip:  Leuven

 

12.26.11

Ghost Town Chicago

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 9:21 pm by Benjamin Ross

I wanted to take a quick break from the Europe Trip series to post this impromptu video I made yesterday. As a Jew, every year Christmas brings an inevitable spell of boredom and understimulation. Since we abstain from celebrating the holiday, yet still live in a Christian country where offices, schools, and stores all close their doors, we find ourselves in the unique situation of having several days of complete freedom, but very little to do within that time (aside from the traditional Chinese dinner and a movie).

So early Christmas morning, I decided to visit some of Chicago’s most heavily trafficked areas to see what they would look like in the absence of humanity. The video starts in Wicker Park, moves downtown to the Loop, then along Wacker Drive, and then up Michigan Avenue, then back to the Loop, and finally returning to Wicker Park. Enjoy.


 

12.24.11

Eurotrip Destination #11: Bruges

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 5:22 pm by Benjamin Ross

This is the 11th entry from my 2011 Europe Trip.

Located in the heart of Flanders (the Dutch speaking province of Belgium) Bruges is Belgium’s premiere tourist attraction, and along with Amsterdam, often referred to as the “Venice of the North.”

A major trading center in the 12th Century, Bruges today remains one of Europe’s most well preserved Medieval cities.  Bruges is a big draw on the tourist circuit, and if you go, I highly recommend a) not going on a weekend, and b) going as early as possible to beat the crowds.
Bruges is a one-hour train ride from of Brussels, so it makes for an easy day trip from the capital.
Bruges’ high level of intactness makes it truly feel like a Medieval city at times.
Unlike Brussels where French is the primary language, most Bruges residents speak Flemish, the Belgian dialect of Dutch.
Here are some of the sites.
Bruges has also been a victim of its own intactness, and at times I couldn’t help but feel like the entire city centre felt like a gigantic tourist theme park.
Apparently Bruges is well-known on the Chinese tourism circuit as well.  I bumped into countless Chinese tour groups with their token colored hats and flag-toting leaders.
Bruges is world renowned for its canal network.  Although, after coming from Amsterdam and Utrecht, I was a little underwhelmed in this regard.
Since Bruges is so heavily dependent on tourists, not much happens in the city centre which isn’t related to the tourism industry.  Whereas in Amsterdam and Utrecht, the canal system is more integrated into the urban fabric, in Bruges the canals have little connection to the everyday lives of locals.
Not to take away from the scenery and architecture, which is indeed stunning.  But Bruges requires a little more imagination to invision what street life must have looked like back in the old days.
As a physical artifact, Bruges is a stunning and truly looks like a Medieval city.  From a purely architectural standpoint, it’s top notch.  But if you’re averse to heavily touristed and commodified travel experiences, Bruges may be a bit of a let-down.  This town entire town (or the city centre at least) is primarily centered on tourism, which makes the perception of any local flavor difficult.  It’s well worth a day trip from Brussels, but not more than that.  Next stop:  Ghent

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