Saturday we spent the day in Ghent. It's a town I've always wanted to visit. We took the train there and back in a single day. The bus would have been faster but more expensive and only faster by about 15 minutes.
For being a cold, windy October day, Ghent seemed crazy busy and full of tourists. Makes me wonder what the summertime is like. While I really enjoyed the day, I don't think I'm going to want to go back. Kind of like a been there, done that kind of a trip.
If I were to go in the summertime, I'd buy tickets to the castle and the Altarpiece in advance. Fortunately, the lines weren't too long for us, so it wasn't a big deal. But I could see how if you wait too late in the day you wouldn't be able to get in at all. I would also probably buy the boat tour tickets in advance, just to be safe.
For lunch we had a really good meal. We found a soup place that is simple but good. Basically you can choose from four different soup bases, tomato, pumpkin, cauliflower, or pea. Then you choose your toppings. I got all four toppings, parsley, cheese, chicken meatballs, and croutons. It came with an apple and a roll and butter, all for 7 Euro. It was warm and filling, perfect on a cold Autumn day.
After the boat tour we were freezing so we decided to get some hot chocolate. It was so simple and good. Basically, they melt Belgian chocolate and drizzle it in a tall glass mug. Then they pour warm milk in the glass. The warm milk slowly melts the chocolate. That's it. It was really good.
The castle tour was surprisingly interesting. The audio tour was spoken by a local comedian. It wasn't too funny, but easy to listen to. The one story that really stood out to me was about the room where people were tortured with 4 chains attached to a collar ring with metal spikes on the inside. When the victim fell sleep or moved, the metal spikes would pierce their neck. The story is of a man who sentenced to sit in the middle of the room with the spiky collar. His friends and family took turns to sit with him and encourage him not to move. They did this for 8 days. Finally the executioner let the man go. The comedian says that he now sees this room as a place to remind us of the power of friends and family supporting us.