Belgium for Thanksgiving 2012, Part 6.

Brussels! One of the most important buildings in Brussels is the Saint Cyr house. It’s a odd, extremely narrow swirly art nouveau building that is simply great, and when The Moomins and I encountered it we discovered the best thing. It’s for sale. You can buy it.

WANT. I want this. I will happily sleep on a twin bed forever if I owned this. The house instantly makes you awesome. Coming out in a robe to pick up the paper in your present abode – Lame. Coming out in a robe to pick up the paper in the Saint Cyr house – Exciting! Theatrical! Mesmerizing!

So let’s move onto Ghent. Ghent is a big favorite of mine. What a great city.

Fun fact: in Belgium and possibly all over Europe, the streets tend to curve because if someone shoots at you, you can duck around a corner and not get hit with an arrow or a bullet or whatever they’re shooting. That’s the reason a lot of the streets curve. Good to know.

I saw the same thing in Antwerp. Curvy roads.

When we arrived in Ghent, The Moomins and I promptly headed off to the museum to look at more 15th-century Flemish art, specifically because the best painting EVER, EVER is being restored there. Van Eyck’s polyptych, the Ghent Altarpiece. It’s one of the first oil paintings, so it’s done with a thin layer of oil, and then a thin layer of paint-glaze, then oil, then glaze, so the whole thing has a luminescence that is breath-taking. The whole front part looks like this:

It may not look like much, but the level of detail will cross your eyes.

And it’s that complex and ornate all over. AND the back’s painted as well, same level of intricacy. Mind-blowing. Right outside the grotto-area that they’ve put the altarpiece in is the sweetest attempt at it painted by children (I hope, because if it’s painted by adults, oh dear).

The cathedral that the Van Eyck masterpiece is housed in is not to be ignored.

The stained glass windows were really interesting to me because I had never seen this style before. The bottom part is a tableau with biblical scenes, but the upper parts were little squares with a repeating pattern on it.

Once again, very big with guilds and tradespeople. Look at the strip at the bottom. People doing stuff, maybe sewing or cartography or milling wheat, stuff like that.

This dame. I loved her flouncy head-thing.

Not all the windows were old. I’m guessing these were damaged in the fire or in the war, so they have a modern pattern.

The cathedral had something else I really liked, which was a case of silver body parts. Apparently if, like, your leg was bothering you, you could purchase a silver leg ornament and pray and put it in the case and God would hear you and heal your leg.

After taking in the loveliness of the Ghent Cathedral we went to the museum because our hunger for Flemmy art had not been sated. The museum itself is really aesthetically pleasing even without any art in it.

Now, I know I should cut the 15th century artists some slack because they were just figuring the whole oil painting thing out, but you know there were people in the 15th century. Lots of ’em, just walking around. You could look right at them with your eyeballs. So my eternal question is why, why were those artists so frikkin’ amazing at painting cloth and jewels and so very bad at painting people? Why do all the people look… odd? And don’t get me started on the way they painted babies. Not good. The lion and tiger thing I get, they were going on descriptions that other people told them about fierce beasts from other lands, but people are right there. Here, look at some examples.

The detail work: UNREAL. The people: carved out of wax with lazy eyes and a touch of palsy.

While I was there I also gazed at some impressionist work. I call this one “The Smudgy Smootchers”.

You may be wondering, “Jessica, what trick have you come up with to distinguish between Monet and Manet?*” I’m glad you asked. Impressionism doesn’t really use black or white. It’s a lot of muted pastels, or vibrant tones like oranges and yellows and sky blues. Like this painting, for example.

Well, Manet used black in his work, so black has an “a”, and so does the word Manet. If it looks like the painting above, it’s Monet. Black, Manet. Enjoy this irrelevant tidbit.

Okay, back to Ghent the City. They have a castle! It looks very castle-y.

We went in the front bit where they were filming a movie. British cameramen were milling around, and there was a guy in a Puss-n-Boots outfit drinking Starbucks coffee. We couldn’t really go in further due to the shoot, but as I turned around, the doorway of the castle framed the street in a really photogenic way.

Nearby is the former fish market. They could have just built some kind of structure and tacked on a sign that says, “Fish Market” with an arrow pointing down, but no, it has Neptune carved on the front and all manner of other sea references. They went all out.

The local former meat market was more chill. There wasn’t hula-hooping pigs and cows on the roof or anything.

The inside part was the meat market. Those booths you see outside, they now are little craft stalls but back in the day that’s where they sold offal.

Inside, hams are hanging to cure from the ceiling.

I adore a cured meat product, so I decided that we had to have lunch there. I ordered the local sampler platter which came with a variety of meats, one kind of cheese and the local mustard which is considered by many to be the best in the world.

And that was my Thanksgiving meal. It was delicious. Hooray! Thanksgiving!

Across the street was the mustard shop. It was all olde-worlde-charmy.

The Moomins and I decided to buy a jar, so the lady pointed to the various jar sizes and we picked one. Then the mustard lady did something I did not expect: she walked over to a giant barrel with an empty jar, picked up a wooden ladle with a divot in one side, and poured fresh mustard into the jar. Then we were told that we had to keep it in the fridge and eat it within six months, otherwise it would get stale.

And right next to the meat market was where the gallows originally were. This house is called “The Hanging House.” I can only imagine back in the day. Buying mustard, watching a hanging, just a typical Tuesday in Ghent.

Finally in Ghent, The Moomins and I went to the Design Museum. Which I adored (no surprises there) and I took a gazillion photos that look like this:

But the one piece I would like to share with you is the beautiful wooden chandelier. I’ve never seen a beautiful wooden chandelier. They always looked clunky and solid. This one was really nice. The best part is, if you look carefully, you will notice a Lego pirate at the helm of the ship. I don’t know who put that there, but hats of to you, sir or lady, you are awesome.

 

 

*I am 100% fully aware no one is asking themselves that. Work with me on this.

 

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