Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gravesteen in Ghent

The train from Brugge to Ghent takes only thirty minutes so we arrived quickly to tour a new city in less than 24 hours.

Our hotel, the NH Gent Belfort was located right in the midst of the action, within walking distance to all the local attractions. Cobblestone streets and fortress type architecture surrounded the area so we had much in store to see.

One of the most iconic sites is the Gravesteen or the castle built in 1180 by Count Philip of Alsace and was modeled after the crusaders castles that Philip of Alsace encountered while he participated in the second crusade. We took the self guided tour through the cpvarious lebels and rooms. Before its construction, there stood a wooden castle on the same location, presumably built in the ninth century. The castle served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders until they abandoned it in the 14th century. The castle was then used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually decayed. Houses were built against the walls and even on the courtyard and the stones of the walls were used to erect other buildings. At one time it even served as a factory. At the end of the 19th century, the castle was scheduled to be demolished. In 1885, the city of Ghent bought the castle and started a renovation project. The newly built houses were removed and the walls and dungeon were restored to their original condition.

Because it was used as a prison, there was a torture room where they displayed grave torture devices. The one pictured below must be similar to the controversial water boarding torture used in Iraq by the Bush administration.

Touring old medieval castles feels like being at Disneyland once again. It's surreal to imagine the 12th century life but so cool to be able to visit such a historic site in the 21st century!

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