I woke up before dawn to take the first Underground train to London St. Pancras to catch the early (cheapest) Eurostar train to Brussels. The ride was smooth and uneventful. Before moving on to my hostel in Ghent, I put my luggage in a locker at Brussels Midi and set out to start getting to know Brussels. The area of Brussels Midi is quite grimey and the architecture bland, but after a few blocks of walking towards the city center I encountered this amazing used graphic novel store. Do you see the stacks and stacks of books? The store was full of piles of books by unfamiliar artists and authors, all in Dutch or French. Amazing!
Then I started noticing comics-style murals peaking out on stray bits of wall.
Before leaving Brussels, I'd also hit its most famous comic book store (Brusel) and would take note of graphic novels in the windows of many corner stores and tourist shops. It was wonderful to see graphic novels and comics-style art playing such a prominent role for the city.
Then I hit the tourist center, Groet Markt, which is gorgeous - the intricacy of these towering guildhouses was truly awesome. I have never seen such grand ancient architecture in the form of something besides a castle or church.
After tracking down an English-language guide book and a few other essentials, I wound my way back to the station and continued to my destination, Ghent. There I caught a tram and walked a short ways along a canal to find the EcoHostel Andromeda! It's the black barge past the white boat.
Here's the common room.
After dropping off my things I headed downtown to start getting my bearings in this city where I would be spending the next four days. I was not disappointed! Ghent's town center is highly compact and full of amazing 13th-15th century architecture, yet magically there seem to be as many students as tourists so it feels very comfortable.
I took a boat tour which included tourists from France, Spain, and Germany - so the tour guide gave his spiel in all three of those languages... plus English!
Here are some preliminary attempts to sort out the shapes of this city... as well as the shape of my beer.