I spent my New Year’s in Ghent with a couchsurfer I met the night before.
Why Ghent? Why not Ghent. I chose to spend to spend my New Year’s in Belgium for a few reasons. For one, I had to get closer to Madrid after leaving Prague so flights would be cheaper, I couldn’t spend New Year’s in Prague because flights back to Madrid were hundreds of dollars. Secondly, I initially wanted to spend it in Amsterdam, but prices for hostels in Amsterdam were extremely expensive (100 euro for a dorm room). I then thought, why not Belgium. I chose not to spend it in Brussels because I heard that it wasn’t anything that special and Ghent is considered a college town, it’s a little smaller and there is a stronger presence of medieval architecture. Lastly, before going I messaged a couple of couchsurfers in Ghent and they responded. I wanted to be able to spend New Year’s with a local and their friends.
Couchsurfing in Ghent: I was lucky enough to find somebody who was extremely welcoming and hospitable for my stay in Ghent. I stayed for four nights in Ghent. His name is David and he was actually born in the U.S and lived their until about 11, I think. His mom and dad are both from different European countries (one being from Spain and the other I forget) and he has moved around quite a bit in his life. This, his love for traveling and his ability to pick up new languages explains why he can speak five languages. It’s incredible. I am always jealous of people from European countries because they grow up learning more than one language. To have the ability to be fluent in even two, is something I hope to achieve. David and his friends were unlike any other group of people I have met. They’re real and they’re sincere.
Ghent: My first night in Ghent (30th)we walked to get typical Belgian fries with some toppings I don’t remember. It was amazing and exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, due to the extreme amount of walking I did in Prague, with boots that weren’t probably meant for that much walking, my Achilles tendon was extremely sore and I could barely walk. I couldn’t walk without a limp and had to basically crawl. It was the worst, especially since I had so much more walking to do.
New Year’s Eve day: David showed me around Ghent. Ghent is an unbelievably underrated city. It sits among canals similar to Amsterdam, but it’s not touristy and is pretty much in its original form. It has amazing medieval architecture that is intact and well preserved. An example of this is the Gravensteen Castle, located in the center of town (the featured image). The castle was built in 1180 and remains in an amazing condition. Unfortunately for me, we were unable to enter. There are also amazing churches in the surrounding area. The most famous, Saint Bavo Cathedral, which houses the Ghent Altarpiece, painted by the Van Eyck brothers. The Ghent Altarpiece is the most famous altarpiece in the world. It is a polyptych, consisting of 12 panels. I remember in one of my Art History classes, we spent a whole class discussing it. Again, when I decided to go to Ghent I didn’t make the connection that it would be there, until a few days before. Of course I went to see it. Words cannot even describe, standing there in front of it. It was so much bigger than I imagined and painted with such fine detail you can’t even see in photos. You could probably stand in front of it for hours and see something new each time you moved you eyes. Luckily, they had a free audio guide that explained the relativness and significance of each panel. I couldn’t listen to each one because it would have taken too long and we had other things to do. The cathedral itself, was beautiful on the inside and had a really cool crypt.
New Year’s Eve Night: David took me to one of his friends houses outside the city, which was pretty much the country. I met a bunch of his friends, who were extremely welcoming and friendly. Drank a lot of amazing Belgian beer. Ate some well needed and provided food. At midnight, we lit off fireworks outside and watched the surrounding areas do the same. I forget what time it was, but afterwards we went to a club in the center of Ghent called Decadance, where we stayed until about 9 in the morning. It was the first time I’ve emerged from a club in daylight. We didn’t get up until about 5 in the afternoon and literally did nothing the rest of the day. We watched two movies, Stardust (which was really good) and Cloud Atlas (which was also really good). It was an awesome New Year’s and I’m glad it turned out the way it did.