Since I had arrived too late in the evening to take a canal boat tour in Brugge a couple days before, I was determined to take one in Ghent. So I went over to the dock at the Vleeshuisbrug Groentenmarkt and took the next boat that was leaving.
This happened to be a tour with explanations in French, which had the advantage that our boat was not nearly as full as the others, so we weren’t so crowded together but had plenty of room to spread out.
The disadvantage was that the narration on this tour was not terribly informative. Perhaps he would have done better in some other language, I don’t know. His favorite word in French was siècle (century) and he was good at reeling off the ordinal numbers between tenth and twentieth.
Each time we went by an old building we were told that it had been built in a certain century, enlarged in some other century, damaged in yet another century and renovated in still another century. We came away with the certainty that Ghent is a very old town that has been through lots of centuries.
Still, it was an invigorating tour and we saw lots of old buildings. (Also some new ones which we didn’t hear much about.)
Gravensteen Castle was the residence of the ruling Count or Duke of Flanders in the Middle Ages, starting in the year 1180, but of course it didn’t look as fancy then as it does now.
After a long period of neglect, the castle was bought by the city of Ghent in 1885 and was remodeled in typical nineteenth century fashion, with all sorts of towers and turrets that probably weren’t even there in previous centuries.
So now it looks like something out of Disneyland or Las Vegas, but at least it is still at the same spot where the old Counts or Dukes had their castle in earlier times.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2019.