A lot is there to be said about the merits of Christmas in Europe, whether one is a believer or (as in this case) not. Truth is there is a certain allure to the smell of Gluhwein in the air and the sound of iceskating, combined with distant caroling and “Ho Ho Ho”s (no pun intended).
As a sucker for twinkle lights and festivities, I consider it a personal tradition to attend a Christmas market every year. For the non converted souls, this is a kind of street market in cute little wooden huts that sell all kinds of useless trinkets, such as Christmas tree decorations, Made In China slippers that will fall apart after the second wash and “bio” spices from a local market repackaged and at thrice the original price. Nevertheless, if you do not have kids, it is a definitely romantic venture.
As a tradition originated in Germany in the 17th century, where local craftsmen depicted their goods for the elite in order to feed the fam for Christmas. Despite having lost its significance, it is one of the most pleasant traditions as well as the reason to visit Germany in December, rather than October.
Belgium falls behind in the ranking but for Ghent in particular being a fairytale city with amazing character, adding a sprinkle of pixie dust and it becomes a totally different experience. Plus Google insists that it has the best Christmas Market – aka Weihnachtsmarkt – of the whole country, so who are we to talk?
Ghent can be reached from Brussels airport in ca 50 minutes by catching a train to Brussels Nord station and then a second one to Ghent. Alternatively, if close enough, regular bus companies like Flixbus run very regularly and you can reach it for a dime.
Once you get there, I have only one word to say : Clementine.
That is, if you want to spend a couple of days in a huge warm Belgian house, with a ceiling high Christmas tree, two adorable cats and a crazy host who will go out of the way to make sure your stay is memorable. Clem is not the owner but runs the house like a charm and while it is not a hotel, beds are very comfy and cleanliness top notch as they do have people from all over the world all the time. The location is also great, 2 min walk from the city centre and the castle. Wonderful experience. (for the link to Clem’s house click here )
The city itself is designed for decadence, to stroll around from cafe to cafe to restaurant for beers, pastries and french cuisine with a view. Its only landmark is the castle, which after seeing it was completely rebuilt 80 years ago I felt disinterested in, but I have heard it is worth the visit. That is to say, Ghent is made for a relaxing weekend, where you can stroll downtown admiring the picturesque buildings facades and well dressed locals, taking pictures of the impressive canal reflections and sipping nice coffees and munching on fresh waffles. Ah.
the aforementioned tree
did anybody say fairytale???
Santa comes on a boat in Ghent
eternal gluttony : amazing street dish at the market
contained a gift from the miracle host for my namesday
That was all folks. Happy Christmas time Ghenting!