Belgium
East Flanders

Here you’ll find travel reports about East Flanders. Discover travel destinations in Belgium of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

74 travelers at this place:

  • Day498

    The abandoned village of Doel

    November 6, 2017 in Belgium

    On Park4Night Will had found an unusual overnight spot. It was downstream on the River Scheldt, nearer the coast than our last stop and very close to the Dutch border. Doel is a town that stands in the shadow of a nuclear power station, below the water level of the tidal river used by cargo ships to access the port of Antwerp, Belgium's second largest city. All but a handful of houses are now abandoned and their walls used as canvasses for graffiti artists. We felt drawn to stay at such an unusual place.

    As we approached, the area became hyper industrial. Coal mountains sat on docksides, parked lorries lined the lanes, trains full of new cars lay waiting to be transported to dealers. Temporary chicanes and speed bumps announced our arrival to the run down settlement that was once home to a thousand or so people. Windows and doors were boarded up with sheets of silver metal. The van fitted into a bay just off the road, on the church car park. The graveyard and grass outside was well maintained and it was clear from the Chrysanthemums that people had visited relatives just a few days previously.

    Watching from inside the van, we saw nature had begun to take back the vacated spaces. There was an ever present background hum of heavy industry, but cutting through this, Jackdaws cawed from roof tops and we noticed a few hopping in and out of a crack in the side of an attic. Two tailess cats ate from plastic cartons left out on the road and later climbed the Elder tree to try and catch a Jackdaw. Cars occasionally came and went, mostly containing sightseers such as ourselves who wandered the quiet streets taking snaps. Upon investigation we found an open café and three inhabited houses, two attached to empty homes either side and one stately looking detached building behind an iron fence. These were all free of graffiti. As well as the house owners, there was evidence of squatters, with paths tramped through overgrown grass and metal sheets bent back from doors.

    Running along one edge of the crosshatch pattern of streets was the huge levee bordering the river. Climbing up crumbled concrete steps and walking along its ridge, we had a view of long barges powering up the channel, their size put into contrast by the leisure boats in the small marina adjacent to the dyke. Accross the river were industrial gas holders and wind turbines. To the left, an old but well maintained traditional windmill, dwarfed by grey concrete cooling towers of the nuclear power station. To our right were outlines of cranes, dock loaders and tall pylons. It wasn't the countryside setting we normally gravitate towards but it was certainly intersting!

    Walking back through the abandoned streets we thought what a good setting it would make for an episode of Dr Who or a horror movie. We sat with a cuppa, scaring ourselves with made up stories involving a graveyard, a nuclear leak and abandoned houses containing who knows what! Back in real life, just after 7pm all was dark and quiet outside when we heard a bang on the back of the van. Will went out to investigate as Vicky peered nervously from within the doorway and spotted one of the tailess cats running for cover. We reckon it had jumped up on the bike rack to test it out as a potential hunting platform.

    An otherwise quiet night brought with it the first frost of winter, its tiny sparkling crystals covering Martha Motorhome. A large sun was rising over the misty river, tinting the chimney emissions in the east with a burnt orange hue. Its rays found pockets of clear water and reflected brightly off them, silhouetting the industrial infrastructure of the port. Vicky enjoyed a good half hour with the camera that morning!
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  • Day495

    Ghent

    November 3, 2017 in Belgium

    We'd heard good things about Ghent from Diderik, our WWOOF host and were looking forward to our visit. Leaving the van along with others on a spacious free car park next to a rowing club on the riverside we began walking the few kilometres in to town.

    From the student area, water polo court, kayak club and flats that looked like university accommodation we passed into a neighbourhood that seemed to have united behind a community campaign. More than a dozen houses displayed posters demanding a 30kmph speed limit and a change to the traffic circulation. After translating one we found it focussed on the thousands of vehicles that passed their houses every day. A lot of building and roadworks were taking place; grand old stone buildings with arched windows and embelished facades were mixed in with popup flat roofed concrete boxes with no character.

    Even in the suburbs bicycles were well provided for with quality bike lanes. Cyclists and parked bikes increased the closer we got to the centre and it made a difference on the roads. Like Brugge, Ghent's canals were alive with heavily laden tourist barges offering a different perspective on the city. We like the feeling these waterways give a city centre, breaking up the slick of concrete and high rise blocks. Old stone bridges arched over these canals, and as the sun was high, many of those cast with shadow appeared in black and white, as if watching a movie of years gone by.

    Our first stop was Vrijdagmarkt square where a Friday market was still held. Vicky picked up an 'appelflap' pastry and Will a pot of cooked snails in a spicy celery sauce. Despite it being crowded here in the centre, it wasn't particularly noisy. Café tables lined many a cobbled street with people sitting quietly sipping hot drinks.

    Making our way towards Avalon, a vegetarian restaurant, we passed Ghent's well maintained but small castle. Unfortunately Avalon had a sign in its window stating it had 'closed forever' so we chose a frituur and had fries for lunch instead; it is Belgium after all! We later discovered the vegetarian restaurant was running on site at the farm where the food for all its dishes is grown!

    When working at De Woudezel, our host's friend Stoffel had brought round cheese from the small organic cheese co-operative he worked for. It was real quality produce and we'd resolved to visit their base in Ghent to get some for ourselves. On the way we came accross an alley that had been given over to graffiti. A group of young men seemed to be trying to film a rap video but we were just two of the many people they politely encouraged to walk past them. The street just looked too interesting for inquisitive tourists to leave it alone for too long! The day turned into a culinary tour of Ghent when we were lured down yet another interesting side street; this one strung with colourful bunting. Down here we found Mie Vie; a vegan café. Deciding to make up for the closed veggie restaurant, we ordered tea and fruits of the forest muffins which turned out to be some of the best we've eaten. The atmosphere was chilled and we enjoyed relaxing before setting off once again towards the cheese shop.

    Het Hinkelspel was a kilometre or so out of town in a factory building adjacent to a canal. From the road we could see large cheese rounds maturing on shelves and stepping inside, the shop just blew us away; we'd never seen so much artisan cheese! We explained that Stoffel had brought cheese to the farm and we'd liked it so much we'd come to buy some of our own. Ordering Vicky's favourite white cheese and some smoked with seaweed in, we asked for blue and were given tasters of the 8 week old, then the 8 month mature. Both were gorgeous but the older one was so rich and creamy we decided to get a big chunk. To our surprise, the person serving added a good sized end of the smoked cheese to our growing pile. We'd already picked up some local honey but asked if there was a nice dry red wine. They had two, but drew our attention to the 8% ale they had designed to compliment their cheeses. It was a no-brainer, all that was to be decided was what size bottles to get. The person serving suggested we take a couple of small ones from the fridge to have straight away but Vicky wanted to wait until we were back to drink them. Will fancied a bench picnic, but we went for 2 large bottles in the end. We paid and were on our way out when the person serving grabbed a chilled bottle and handed it to us "here, just in case you do find a bench somewhere!".

    We were grinning from ear to ear as we left. This Organic Co-Operative is just the kind of business we like to support. Its products speak for themselves and it is ethically aware, but on top of all this we were given an wonderful experience as customers, not to mention the much appreciated freebies!

    It had been a full day in a fun city with a progressive vibe. We were both tired but happy when we returned to the van, so instead of cooking, we did as the locals were doing and visited the frite cabin at the far end of the car park for a veggie burger and shared bag of fries. There were even some left over for Poppy!
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  • Day493

    Return to De Gavers

    November 1, 2017 in Belgium

    De Gavers country park was one of the best places we'd found to stay so far in Belgium so we decided to return for a couple of nights. Despite having several large cities in this region of Belgium, the majority of land is very agricultural and we passed fields of brassicas and harvested sugar beet. As well as growing plants, the flat fields are used to keep an interesting range of animals. We've seen a lot of horses, deer and donkeys. Sheep and goats are a regular sight although they are often specialist breeds such as pygmy goats. According to our WWOOF host Diderik, Belgians have not tended to eat lamb or mutton regularly, but the muslim population are creating a growing demand for it.

    Will enjoyed a canalside cycle ride at De Gavers but Vicky was poorly and only managed a short walk along the lake shore. We are beginning to think more and more about our imminent return to the UK and reluctantly about the job of giving the van a clear out now we have more of an idea of what we need and what we don't. For example, we were ashamed to find we had three oyster shuckers on board - does anyone need one? 😂
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  • Day476

    De Gavers Park

    October 15, 2017 in Belgium

    After the urban intensity of Brussels, De Gavers Nature Park was a welcome breath of fresh air and greenery. The final 50m or so of a track was allocated especially for motorhome parking. It was full when we first arrived but soon cleared as day visitors departed. We were able to slot neatly into a space and put our rubber mat outside the door. We always feel more at home when there is a sign inviting vans to park!

    We were sad that Beth and Richard were no longer with us but it was a beautifully warm sunny day so after a cat nap for Vicky, we set out on a walk around the lake. There were hundreds of people on the well maintained gravel track and we felt lucky to be going with the flow! We usually don't like crowds but today it lifted us up to see so many walking, cycling, scooting, taking dogs and jogging alongside the shore surrounded by woods and grasslands.
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  • Day491

    Nevele

    October 30, 2017 in Belgium

    Leaving our 2nd one night stopover, we got underway on our journey to a designated motorhome aire in the town of Nevele. We took one of the two spots outside the sports centre that were reserved for vans and made ourselves at home by putting our black rubber mat outside the door.

    Will went for a walk up the street and over the modern arched pedestrian bridge into town where, unhindered by Vicky's restraint, he picked up a couple of tarts from the local bakers. The shortcrust pastry was heavy with cream and jellied raspberries- a real delight!

    The sports centre was shut but there was a steady stream of cars ambling in and out of the nearby cemetery. Although many children in Belgium mark Halloween by dressing up and singing songs outside their neighbours' doors, a far bigger focus is given to All Saints' Day and the Day of the Dead, on the 1st and 2nd of November respectively. The 1st is an official public holiday and many shops and other businesses remain closed on the 2nd. The graveyards burst with colour as large pots of Chrysanthemums are placed on the plots of loved ones who have passed. We walked through Nevele graveyard on All Saints' Day and the atmosphere was more one of commemoration and remembrance than of the mourning that usually pervades such places in the UK. We feel that opportunities to observe different customs such as this are a real privilege of life on the road.
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  • Day136

    This cemetery commemorates the 411 American servicemen who died in Belgium during WWI. The US did not enter the war until 1917, one year before the Armistice. We watched a movie explaining how the Belgian people are still very grateful, explaining the grave adoption program. They learn about "their" serviceman, bring flowers, and send messages to family if any are still alive. Every year on our Memorial Day, the children sing our National Anthem. It is very moving to hear about it. The poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by Canadian Lt Col John McCrae, army physician.

    We were happy to see a tour bus visiting the cemetery while we were there.
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  • Day28

    Gott sei Dank

    September 3 in Belgium

    Eine kleine versteckte Sicherung die kaputt war hat alles stillgelegt. Kostenpunkt 15€ 🤔☹️😆Aber jetzt ist alles klar (hoffe ich) bin heute in der Nähe von Gent in den Ardennen und noch ca 80km von der Küste entfernt. 👌😎

  • Day35

    Nancy and I have returned to Gent for the weekend. We had coffee with Manu and Katelijn before cycling up the Schelde River into Gent/Gand/Ghent.
    If you would like to experience cycling along a canal in Flanders go here:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/mNgk7J19JYpbNKkw9

    If you would like to experience cycling into Gent (and right up to our apartment go here:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/9SEWY61BFK24KYBE7

    This was the city we spent three month in last year. We had a great time and had to return before kicking off our summer in Amsterdam.

    The crafts fair was happening this morning at the Vrigemarkt around the corner from our place on Baudelostraat. A market has been held here continually each Friday since the ninth century.

    Mo and Nasi had us over for a Persian dinner of lamb and rice last night. Tonight we'll go out to dinner with them.
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  • Day31

    We packed up our bikes and took the train to Gent. From there we pedaled the 40 kilometers or so to a home we'd rented for a week in Wannegem Belgium. Our friends Manu and Katelijn secured the place for us. It belongs to friends of theirs Trees and Marcel who are on a 3 month odyssey travelling the Silk Road. (next year?)

    If you would like to experience cycling in the Flemish Ardennes go here:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/Sprvr6Zzyjp2inXZ7
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  • Day33

    Good friends, good food, and ice cream!

    What more to say?

    Well, just a bit. At dinner the other night Manu was describing a novelist who had left the church as 'a failed priest' when a light went off in my head. Yes! I'd been trying to come up with a good answer describing my professional career and was at a loss. Social Services? Agency Administrator? Social Entrepreneur? Program Quality Assessor? Ne. None of those fit the bill. But 'Failed Priest'? Now that's a title to invite conversation!

    In the meantime Nancy has already tired of the conversation and has requested that I stop referring to her as 'a failed pastor's wife'. So please don't bring this up to her...

    H
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, Provinz Ostflandern, East Flanders, Flandre-Orientale, Øst-Flandern, Aust-Flandern, Flandres Oriental, Östflandern

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