Sampling the 'grandeur' of Ghent

Sampling the 'grandeur' of Ghent

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More 'grandeur' came in the form of a particularly impressive beer glass we spotted in a beer drinker's paradise looking onto Vrijdagsmarkt square.

I visited Ghent for the fist time this weekend. After only spending one night and a day in this beautiful and vibrant city, we are already planning another weekend.

The highpoint for the children was a visit to the well-preserved Gravensteen Castle, which was originally the castle of the counts of Flanders.

Cellars, torture chambers, a real guillotine, knights' toilets and spiral staircases leading to battlements with a beautiful view over the city sealed it for the children.

Our second cultural forage took us to one of the many amazing churches in Ghent, St Bavo's Cathedral (St-Baafskathedraal), which houses some original paintings by Rubens amongst its impressive collection, and currently has a temporary exhibition of religious artwork in the Romanesque crypt.

There was plenty more gore here again for the children who questioned me about the scenes of the crucifixion, Hell and the martyrdom of saints. They particularly focussed on a silver work of St John's head on a platter with endless questions leading from: "Why did his girlfriend cut off his head?"

We were all very moved by the spiritual atmosphere in the building and the magnificence of the gothic architecture.

More 'grandeur' came in the form of a particularly impressive beer glass we spotted in a beer drinker's paradise looking onto Vrijdagsmarkt square.

On ordering the beer, called Kwak, the proprietor said it was customary for the drinker to hand over one of their shoes first.

Evidently this tradition has developed to stop the drinker walking out with the glass, which looks like something out of a Victorian chemistry lab.

To the children's amazement, the shoe was hoisted up towards the ceiling in a basket, where it remained hanging until we returned the empty glass.

My boyfriend found there were more hazards involved with using the glass. When the glass is about half empty, on taking a slug, the air which is pushed into the bottom end of the glass rushes through the beer causing the foam to funnel up the thin part of the glass towards the drinker.

On researching into why the glass is shaped like this, it appears that in the days of the stage coach, while travellers stepped into the inn for a drink, the coachmen had to remain with the coach and horses.

Therefore, Paul Kwak, innkeeper at a regular stop for mail coaches in Dendermonde, designed a 'coachman's glass' which could easily be hung on the coach and be held by some one wearing thick riding gloves.

The glass is about a meter long and holds approximately 1.7 litres of the beer, which is 8 percent.

I went for a Kriek, the cherry beer; evidently a woman's choice.

Truely, looking at the comments on the beer lovers' site www.ohhh.myhead.org this figures:

"Dark cherry red. Big, offensive jelly aroma. Balsamic, candyish and very sweet. The fruit flavour feels artificial and it is way too sweet."

"Clear red. Sweet cherry lemonade with a dash of artificial juice. Fanta is more complex. There is beer in here?"



Natasha Gunn / Expatica

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