Having had quite a morning of it in Bruges, I boarded yet another train - this time to Ghent.
I have to say, using the rail and tram systems in Belgium was an absolute pleasure. Cheap, efficient and really comfortable compared to what I’m used to over here in the UK. The most expensive part of this whole trip was just getting from Chester to London Euston!
Ghent is a predominantly university-centred city these days, but everywhere you look you can see centuries of history of what was once a prominent city-state in the Middle Ages. It's now a cultural hub, full of cool bars, cafes, the graffiti street etc.
I’d planned my day’s agenda due to one simple factor - geography. From Brussels Midi station, it’s a precisely one-hour train journey to Bruges. Along the route there is only one stop - Ghent - exactly half-way along the line. These three major cities all lie evenly-spaced in a straight line, linked together by a major rail line and roadways. (I’m sure the cities were there first, but that’s some forward planning right there.)
Honestly by this time I was getting a little weary. I’d been up and about since some unnatural hour, my backpack was getting heavier and my feet really were starting to ache. Luckily for me, Ghent is full of thriving independent bars and coffee shops, so I took full advantage for a couple of hours - and backed up my footage while I was at it. Unfortunately for my feet, it’s a good half an hour’s walk from St Pieter’s station to the “old town”. Why I didn’t hop on a tram, I still don’t know.
I found myself sat outside the Giri Cafe, a stone’s throw from the castle and other key architectural sights. I’d learned very quickly on this trip that most people you’re likely to talk to probably speak English just as well as you do, despite my mediocre attempt at learning some key Dutch phrases - I’m rubbish with languages. The coffee was fab, the vibe in the area was calm despite being very touristy, and later in the evening the beer recommendations were superb! If you’re at a loss in this city, I implore you to check out Giri!
Mid-afternoon the weather was still flat and boring, but I set out on a little scouting mission for potential shots that evening. Ghent is similar to Bruges in many ways, in the classic architecture, the waterways, the cobbled streets… but one thing I wasn’t expecting was even MORE bicycles. Thousands upon thousands of them. On remembering this is a university town, it did make more sense, especially when I realised just how vast an area the city actually covered.
As with Bruges, most of the blue hour and evening shots I had in mind were focused on using the river and canal-side reflections, taking advantage of the older building being lit up for display. While it was still light I made us of the abundance of bicycles in some shots, as well as another mode of transport more popular with tourists visiting the city - boats.
The one area on my daytime check-list was the Graffiti Street - more of an alleyway really, but where the brickwork acts as a public canvas for young artists to express their creative flare. It’s something to behold, walking through from one end to the other, not a square inch of brick is left exposed. And it doesn’t stop in the alley, everywhere you look through the city you’ll see tags and murals, many so large you barely notice them as part of the cityscape.
Locations scouted, I took the chance to enjoy some fritz by the riverside and waiting for it to go dark.
The main subject I wanted to focus on this evening was the castle - I love castles. This medieval example is surrounded by a motte and very well lit up at night. My first shot was taken during the blue hour - of course with little light to play with I was taking long exposure shots, and didn’t realise til I imported my images into Lightroom that there was a Grey Heron sat perfectly still right in front of the castle!
The blue hour didn’t seem to last anywhere near an hour unfortunately, but I carried on taking shots. I caught another angle of the castle which included the opportunity for some light trails from the traffic. I then moved on to a couple of other locations before returning to Giri for a beer before hopping on the train back to Brussels.
I really enjoyed my time in Ghent, and would love to spend more time there. I was pretty limited on time during this trip and probably tried to do too much in the time I had available - next time I’d like to take a step back and really take in the life and culture of the city.
You can check out the video below!