In Ghent

We’re in Ghent for a 10-day holiday. The old part of the city is crowded with bicycles, cars, trams and pedestrians. There don’t seem to be many rules. The trams have precedence, otherwise there is an uneasy but generally polite truce between everyone else. This is also true of the architecture. The streetscape is a mixture of medieval stepped-gable houses, Baroque and Classical residences, Gothic churches, and Art Deco public buildings. Perhaps Camillo Sitte could make sense of it; I can’t. It’s just all jumbled together in a pleasant oleo. I suppose there is a historical commission here, but it must be pretty tolerant. Garish signs undermine the picture postcard perfect scenes, just enough to remind you that you are in the 21st century. And, oh yes, there are canals. Not neatly laid out as in Amsterdam, nor as ubiquitous as Venice, but having a bit of the atmosphere of both.

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