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Our next stop on our Interrailing journey across Europe would be perhaps the least touristy of our destinations. This was down mainly to the fact we would be spending a lot of time with our Belgian friends who were familiar with Gent.
As we’d be getting a number of trains whilst in Belgium, we were advised to purchase a 10 journey ticket. This covered the two of us from Brussels to Gent, Gent to Bruges, Bruges to Gent, and Gent to Brussels again all for 54 Euros.
We were in Gent by midday, heading to the Gent Dampoort station from Gent Saint Pieters, the former being located close to our apartment, which was a superb find from Steph. It was located just outside Gent itself, but it was only 20 minutes on the bus into the centre which was more than ideal. All three of our Belgian friends, Alice and Tess being joined by Hanne, came to our apartment for dinner; it was great for a proper get together again with them all.
The night would be dedicated to a real student night out, with plenty of good Belgian beer (I’m yet to find a bad Belgian beer, to be fair) and enjoying what Gent has to offer. I was able to get my hands on Castel Rouge again, a red fruit beer which is both strong and tasty. My logic was, enjoy as much good beer before I head back to England; let’s be honest we aren’t blessed with great beer. Duvel and a Tequila beer whose name escapes me were also enjoyed and, without being too crass, that night was great but hard to remember. I’ll recommend a night out in Gent anytime, it’s fairly cheap and there are bars around every corner. The local students are also very welcoming. All in all, it was a great night out.
The following day I was hit with the horrendous hangover I was expecting. Yet this wasn’t going to stop anyone from enjoying a walk through the streets of Gent. We were shown around the cathedral, past the bell tower and the grand town hall; all of which were in keeping with that traditional European, slightly gothic styled design. The weather made the day's experience that bit better. Gent was sun kissed even if it was very cold.
The river Leie intersects through the city and we followed it for some distance before sitting down on its banks. Let me tell you, after roughly three hours sleep the previous night I could have easily nodded off once we’d made ourselves comfy; with my sunglasses on, I doubt anyone would have noticed. It’s fair to say all of our energy levels were pretty low, but there are worse places to nurse a hangover.
I felt that the trip to Gent was a direct result of my placement in Stuttgart. It is a place which I probably wouldn’t have ventured to otherwise, but I’m pleased I made it. Hangover or not, it’s a beautiful city.
We got a much needed proper night’s sleep which recharged mine and Stephs’ batteries for a trip to nearby Bruges. It is often grouped with other cities including Amsterdam as the "Venice of the North" (of Europe) due to its canal system which the city owed a great economic power to in days gone by. The whole city is a World Heritage Site, there’s a fact for you. The train station isn’t too far out from the centre; you’ll spot the waterways first. These can be followed deep into the centre and into the main square which is dominated by the medieval bell tower, a structure which can surely be seen for miles around.
As this would be the last full day in Belgium, it seemed rude not to enjoy one of the local delicacies for a final time. Belgian waffles are pretty special and fortunately, we got our hands on some before setting off on our walk around Bruges. I am going to miss them dearly and I hope I can get back to Belgium sooner rather than later.
We were back in Gent in the early evening to have a meal in the city with Alice and Tess. We’d said our goodbyes to Hanne the day before and it was their turn next. They’d been superb tour guides and there was talk of reunions before we’d even paid the bill. Sooner rather than later, we all hoped.
This brought the curtain down on five days in Belgium. Our final stop was over the border with France and into Paris. The end was in sight, but there was still plenty of things to tick off the "to see list."