Brussels is a lovely city. It has beer, chocolate and lots to see. The first thing we saw (if you exclude the Atomium which we passed underneath of course) was Mini-Europe. This contains scale models of many famous sights in Europe, many of which I have seen (and usually photographed) the real one.
It also has trams. Some of those actually run underground, which was a real novelty for me. So here is the requisite list of tram journeys.
Gare du Midi
Gare du Midi
Gare du Midi
Port de Hal
Much to my surprise (some of) the trams are made by Bombadier.
While in Ghent we visited the Belfort, a large bell tower near to the cathedral. As well as housing some impressive bells it is topped with a gilded dragon and boasts some impressive views of Ghent.
The Belfort was built in 1313. In 1999, the Belfry was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The largest bell is the Roland’s bell which rings every hour. There is also a carillon played from a large metal drum.
Like many cities Ghent has a cathedral. It was a cold day when we visited but the crypt was warm and full of the most amazing vestments and more monstrances than I have ever seen. I’d recommend a visit on those grounds alone.
However St Bavo’s Cathedral is famed for more than that. It is home to the polyptych by the van Eyck brothers known as the ‘Mystic Lamb’. It once hung in a side chapel but it was moved to another part of the cathedral and in fact is undergoing restoration panel by panel.
In the chapel where it once hung however is a life size copy and an inscription. in fact it is two inscriptions. The first is a copy of the inscription on the painting itself and you can read how we unravelled its secret here.
The second half is a much later addition. The inscription was made on the occasion of the Lamb’s return to Ghent after the rescue from the Austrian salt mine of Alt Aussee, and the subsequent examination and restoration in Brussels. Dated in 1952 it reads as follows:
ARTIS OPVS SACRVM SERVANT PII AB ICONOCLASTIS GANDAVO EX BELLIS TER SALVVM REDDITVR ILLVD NON IGNIS NOCVIT NEQV TEMPVS NAM RENOVATAE VIVIDA VIS TABVLAE VOS CHRISTI SVBDIT AMORTI
Pious [hands] saved the sacred work of art from the iconoclasts; Saved three times from war, it is [now] given back to Ghent. Neither fire nor time caused damage [to it], and yes indeed, the living power of the renovated altarpiece submits you [again] to Christ’s love.
Like the upper inscription some of the letters are picked out in red. In this case, read downwards they spell out ‘Agnus Dei’ – the subject of the painting.
I noted that the panel has room for yet more writing. I hope if one day anyone ever adds another inscription they will continue the theme of hiding a puzzle for enquiring minds to ponder.
Translation kindly provided by Can. Prof. Dr. Peter Schmidt
I’m only a recent tram enthusiast I must admit but I was thrilled when visiting Antwerp to be able to use trams to travel around and see a little of the city.
We decided to make good use of our all day ticket (sold to us by a very helpful lady tram driver who thankfully spoke excellent English) to travel on several different lines in a slightly random adventure.
Our afternoon’s tram rides went like this (times approximate):
It was built in 1958 for the Expo 58, the Brussels World’s Fair. It is 102 metres tall and represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It was originally covered in aluminium but this was replaced with stainless steel when it was renovated and it shines beautifully in the sunlight.
Inside the space feels quite Tardis like (and I should know, I’ve been inside the real thing). This is partly due to the styling, all grey metal and railings, and also to the fact that the structure when viewed from outside seems so delicate that although it towers over you, it is hard to comprehend that there is space for rooms, staircases and escalators within.
When you tell people that you’re visiting Belgium it seems most people reply with ‘Bruges is very nice’. When I replied that I was going to Antwerp and Ghent someone commented that the only thing they knew about Ghent was the poem “How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix”. So, with profuse apologies to Robert Browning here is my tale of our adventure.
How We Took Ourselves To Ghent For Cake
We woke up one morning and started our day,
On train bound for Harrow we rumbled away;
Then dragging our cases we hurried along
To underground platforms with commuting throng;
Our line Metropolitan, we got on board
A slow train to London, through tunnels we roared.
At King’s Cross St Pancras we next disembarked,
The statue was shrouded in black we remarked;
With passports in hand, now security bound,
The Eurostar terminal easily found;
The train sped away and to Brussels we flew,
It would carry us there in an hour or two.
Our first stop in Belgium excited went we
Toward the Atomium eager to see;
Then later that evening we boarded a train
To take us to Antwerp for panto again,
Admiring the buildings without traffic jams
We happ’ly spent afternoon playing on trams.
Two nights we stopped then returned to the station,
To journey this time to our last destination;
Arrived at Gent Dampoort and damp it was too
But here as before we found plenty to do;
Espying a café towards it we went
The sign it said ‘pi’ we had found cake in Ghent.