The Living City of Gent
The sun was brightly shining when we woke up this morning- the perfect day for a canal boat ride. The flat bottom wooden boats glide silently along the Leie and Shelde Rivers past canal houses with gabled roofs and low hanging willow trees that brush the water's edge. As we glided along we could hear the city bustling with life: small ensemble bands, trolley cars clanging their bells, and the clip clop of horses hooves on the cobblestone streets.
We rode the modern sleek trolley to the Fine Arts Museum where we saw paintings by Brueghal the Younger, Rubens, and Jan Van Eyck. They were restoring several church altarpiece paintings in one room using technology to analyze the original paint colors and artistic techniques.
In the courtyard was an excellent cafe with a newly trained chef. We had mussels and salad. The chef even brews his own beer using a combination of Belgian beer and India Pale Ale (IPA).
The City Museum or STAM, traces the history of Gent from Medieval times to the modern vibrant city it is today. Part of it is housed in a 15th century Abby reconstructed in the 1920's. There were two especially interesting exhibits. One was a multi-media presentation showing changes over time in Gent. Covering the floor was a satellite- google maps type image of the entire town. A second interesting display followed the mystery of the theft of one of the panels Just Judges from the world famous altarpiece by Van Eyck we had seen yesterday in Bavos Cathedral. Apparently in the 1930's a mysterious person with the initials DUA led the town on a wild goose chase to find the painting, but it has never been found.
One room contained old artifacts from the 50's and 60's. In a glass case in the middle of the room was a View Master. I discovered if I crouched down low, almost to the floor, i could look through it. Apparently they must have CCTY. A security guard dashed into the room, but left with a sheepish grin when he heard me talking about the photo of the town I could see through the lens.
Throughout Gent this summer there's a photography exhibition called 80 Days of Summer. Today's exhibit featured large portraits of albino children. I thought about a display I saw yesterday featuring people with deformities. I thought it was troubling at the time, but I have now come to the conclusion that the photographers want to portray that all people regardless of their appearance, share a common humanity.
Tonight we walked around town. With European vacation starting the town is alive with people. Down by the canal at 10:00 pm, people were renting kayaks with torches attached to the back which looked really pretty in the dark. Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam.