Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ghent is bigger, noisier and more colorful than Bruges, where I stopped earlier in the day.

A mixture of historical elements, the existence of multiple breweries and colorful street art scene brought me to Gent for a half day. I arrived in the afternoon directly from Bruges, another beautiful old city perfect for touring on foot.

As an American, I was familiar with the name of the Belgian city and vaguely aware of it’s prominence in the Middle Ages but had no idea it was a colorful busy place. Although initially interested in wandering through the well-preserved historical town, I was put on to the local street art scene by a friend from Paris who recommended I check it out.

Did you know Gent has a Graffiti Street? It connects Hoogpoort and Onderstraat and many mural however many works can be found in the old city area. From the north side enter via tunnel that will be exploding with color. Inside, a little walled street with graffiti covering every inch of surface. This space is for artists to use openly and has existed as a designated street art canvass for twenty years.

There are a lot of paid walking and biking tours of both the current street art scene and the historical architecture but they may not be necessary, especially if you are already a seasoned urban explorer.  A good tour guide should be able to recognize the work of local artists and able to point them out and also explain why a certain area is chosen to display a mural or art. A poorly run tour will just take you to street art hot spots and offer no context or show you reoccurring themes or local artists. Be wise should you go this route.

An entry to “Graffiti Street.”

As for a self tour, I would recommend searching online for “street art map Gent” and pulling the most recent dated maps. These stops can easily be layered on top of the “fixed” historical buildings and squares that are just as colorful and whimsical. A building still stands in Gent from each of the last several centuries. Seeing the well preserved and beautiful layers of different architectural styles was really amazing for my American eyes. Not since I visited Barcelona had I come across so much color and careful detail densely packed into a European city.

From Gent-Sint-Pieters station walk north along Elisabethlaan to the intersection with Kortrijksesteenweg. Take a left and follow the winding road which will move to the Leie canal and into the old city. The name of the road will change several times but a tram goes up and down the street making it easy to find a way back to the station.

I moved in a counter-clockwise direction around the compact old town past Sint-Michielsbrug bridge to Korenmarkt and then through Graffiti street and into Friday Market. From there I visited the Gruut Brewery and then crossed over the canal at Krommewal and roamed around the smaller streets near the canal until finally passing by Gravensteen Castle.

Multiple trains run daily between Ghent and Brussels and buying a ticket is as easy as just showing up at the beautiful central train station. All the medium sized cities in Belgium are connected with a web of rail lines, making car free exploration simple for a foreigner.

Thanks for reading,

Ruby

Mending Myself

One aspect of travel I know I have not yet addressed in this blog, is how for certain people, taking a break from routine and exploring your boundaries can mend a damaged spirit. With proper introspection. Now I can finally speak to this and it’s not coming out so natural because I have not been especially personal in this blog, but I will try.

For about half a year I’d been seeing someone I thought would be around for a long time and they also happened to be the first person I’d felt seriously about in several years; he was someone I’d been waiting for. However, this summer I was faced with an unwelcomed ending of that relationship.

Then began internal conflict. Feeling lonely and rejected at a certain times, I worried I would not be mentally or emotionally prepared to be completely alone and abroad with the stress of the unfamiliar, or possibly worse, not in the mood to actually enjoy the experience. I thought I needed to be with known people whom I can count on to make me feel valued yet I felt smothered in my home. The site of formerly warm memories that I could no longer stand. If I was already feeling down could it hurt to just try a 10 day holiday?

Probably unbelievable to some, I greatly dislike being vulnerable but at the same time very predictably, I enjoy pushing my limits. It’s odd. I want to be thrilled and experience things and maybe have complicated things happen but not when I’m already feeling poorly about myself. I process things internally.

Behind me is emptiness.

Knowing myself (introverted, curious, wanting newness), I went on with the trip which turned out to mentally be the easiest I’ve taken, although obviously due to cumulative experience. It doesn’t mean I never made mistakes, got bored, or worried. I just reacted to those things in a more constructive way.

Now at home, I’m so overwhelmingly relieved that quite varied  people everywhere I went valued me as a stranger to talk with or friend for the day. It’s easy being outgoing and engaged when there is alcohol or a structured activity but on you own without those things just it can be hard to connect. You have to guess what will make a person want to talk with you; why am I any different than all the other people they’ve met today. These people don’t necessarily know I am not around anyone with who I have an existing bond.

It was especially nice to come across women who were out like me, doing their own thing. I think they ended up being the most comforting people to meet and those I needed to explain myself the least to, if at all. They shared things about where they’d been and what they enjoyed and what motivates them. I was flattered that some of these women wanted me in their company.

Anyways, in a small way I’m more confident that as a person I’m worth knowing and I can make people happy even when I feel ugly. Also, my lense has been bit corrected; the world is so many endless things, people and places and I need to focus more on the positive whole, what is waiting for me and enjoy changes and not focus on the small things in the past I’m powerless to control. I am back to being content with how things are and being the version of myself that I believe is “real.” It could not have come sooner!

Thank you for reading,

Ruby

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

-Antione de Saint-Exupery