A full week (and more) in between somewhat makes the impact fade, but it was (to be perfectly grammatically correct, they were) in any case worth a post. In the meantime, I also started an “I am fed up” post, but was way too fed up to finish it, so you escaped, if hardly.
Imagine Sziget Festival lasted 10 days. Imagine it was in the castle district. Imagine you arrived for the last two days
– and you’ll have an impression of the thing.
The Gentse Feesten has a very long tradition – some 170 years or so –, and I’m told it was initiated when the factory owners and suchlike got fed up with their workers showing up late, and often drunk, for work, or not showing up at all, and made a pact of giving them 10 days off in exchange for better work ethic during the rest of the year. This may or may not be true, and what’s sure is that it has changed a lot over the years; in any case, now it is a number of simultaneous festivals throughout the city centre, where, to quote the relevant wikipedia article, “Public drunkenness is not entirely unseen”.
Having finished my French course on Friday, exam results and whatnot, I took a train to Ghent to see the city and enjoy the festival, not knowing that the two are very difficult, if not impossible to do at the same time. My hostel roommates immediately took care of me, taking me with them to some rockabilly concert, and also giving me drink after drink, and at a certain point, when I was already quite tipsy – enough to feel lost – I lost them. I wandered around a bit; decided something good had to happen before I called it a night; bought a chocolate waffel, which is kind of the same thing, and headed home. (I’d have never though that there are Brussels waffles and Liége waffles and they are different – but there are, and they are.) It was only 3AM when I got home; m roommates arrived around 7AM.
And probably most others did, too, for when I left the hostel at noon the next day, the whole city was dead. And smelled exactly as a festival does after 8 days. Now, I have to admit I hadn’t quite done my homework beforehand, so I only had a vague idea as to what to see and where to go. So what I did was – walking. In the centre and around, along and accross the canals, and of course to the cathedral, where I spent around an hour only at the van Eyck polyptych. After that, I’m not quite sure when, I switched to autopilot mode and ended up walking altoghether about 9 hours in the city, pausing only for some lunch (at 4PM) and a coffee somewhat later. I can’t say I actually saw much, to be honest, in the state I was in, though probably when I go back (soon enough, probably: it’s an amazing place) I will recognise most of it.
The original plan was to bike back to Bruxelles on Sunday, leaving Ghent early in the afternoon, but after another late night and the frustration for Saturday I decided against it. I got some recommendations about what to see – two street theatre pieces. I missed the first because I got stuck at a concert, which was by the way quite good; I missed the second becaouse as I was going to the place the sky fell down – I, waited for a while under the gateway in a huge crowd, then, when the rain abated somewhat, decided to go home rather than sit though a one-hour performance, soaking wet as I was. That I did, then took the train back home.
On Tuesday I got home at around 6PM, lay down a bit to rest, woke up at 9:30 to feed the cat, then went back to sleep.
I guess I’ll have to return to Ghent soon.