Of castles and cuberdons

Ghent – Brussels, September 14, 2019

Ghent is a town in Belgium about a 45 minute train journey from Brussels, Belgium. A bus ticket from Ghent train station to the city centre of Ghent costs around 3 euro. When we arrived at Ghent, the city was empty and we were so happy to see it not inundated by crowds; but it did not last too long, for within 2 hours, the city was filled to the brim. Ghent, like Bruges, also has a belfry, and like the climbing aficionados we are, we trudged up the stairs to the top of the Belfry to get a view of the city.

Ghent (not unlike Bruges) also has a river flowing through the centre of the town and lends to the beauty of the town. Gravesteen castle is a medieval castle in the middle of the town centre of Ghent surrounded by a moat on one side. The entrance to Gravesteen castle is a hefty 12 EU – but believe me, it was well worth the cost. Gravesteen castle is explored with an audio guide (and this audio guide was by far the funniest and most entertaining audio guided tour I have been on), who regales you with stories of Philip of Alsace (whose castle it was) drawing remarkable parallels to daily life, as he takes you to the nooks and crannies of the castle, the palace rooms, and the dreaded dungeons. As you wander around, you can see everyone with headphones in their ears, smiling in delight whilst understanding the history of Gravesteen – a thoroughly enjoyable part of our visit. The day we were in Ghent marked the beginning of the Ghent festival, and we witnessed a parade of marching soldiers (on stilts), a Turkish dance group parading through the city and culminating with a dance, and delightful Tango dance classes.

Though not many people know of this, in the middle of the Ghent square, are the infamous “Cuberdon” local sellers, selling Cuberdons from carts. Legend has it that there are two carts selling “Cuberdons” in the city centre, and the two are always quarreling. Well – I saw only one, and he was selling Cuberdons in strawberry, blueberry and lemon flavour. You could get about 12-15 for about 5 EU, but believe me they are amazing. Not as widely touted as the Belgian chocolates, for me there were a fair competitor (and I am not a sweet person). Cuberdons are cone shaped sweets, hard on the outside, and jelly on the outside and when you bite into it, your mouth explodes with the flavour you picked – and the jelly like/ jam like liquid oozes out.

Just behind the cuberdon seller is the infamous Tierenteyn-Verlent shop, selling local mustard, spices, and jams. The mustard is locally made in the shop itself, which you can taste and sample, and you can see two huge barrels of mustard (one with the bits in, and one without the bits in) and the attendants ladling them into bottles of different sizes. This is potent crazy mind blowing mustard where one spoon could you leave you crying. The shelves are stocked with jams, essential oils, spices, and a hundred other local delights. We buy around 6 bottles of mustard to take home, and the wonderful cuberdon jam.

The infamous cuberdons

Munching our cuberdons, we decide the town has now become too crowded and laden with shopping bags, we make our way back.

Brussels this evening is hosting a concert in the city square called Tap Toes (which has a medley of marching bands playing. Grote Markt is cordoned off, with chairs arranged around, and two large stages. It is wonderful and the crowds are hooting, shouting and excitedly clapping, as each marching band makes its way around. After the show is over, we are in for a treat, as two of the marching bands make their way to the city, stopping just outside “Frietland” for an impromptu performance as cameras and video phones are pulled out and positioned at eye level.  It is wonderful end to a brilliant evening of music and dance.

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