Laura Perry reports on second day in Belgium
Yesterday and today have been full of conference participation – and I am getting ready for the evening’s events at the Bijloke (pronounced Bay-loh-ke) School (the conference center), a sprawling complex of building originally begun in the 14th century as a hospital and now an enormous educational complex on the south side of old Ghent. It is about a 20-minute walk from the old city center where I am staying.
I could not be more blessed by the people here, both at the conference and in Flanders in general. They are open and generous with their time and energies and I am learning so much. There are more than 1500 people at the conference yet it is not overwhelming – it feels small and friendly, and everyone is exceedingly kind and excited about learning more and more and more. At the conference I am learning a vast amount of material, both theoretically and practically, and am stunned at the applications of geographic information systems to history – and how historians are applying history to make GIS make even more sense to the humanities.
As for the cultural things ? there is plenty of time to get around town in the evenings, and since we are in the old city center, everything is within short walking distance. The picture I have enclosed today is of our walk last night along the Graslei, the old houses of the richest of the rich in town from the 15th (?) century (I am sorry – I don’t have my literature with me here at the
conference center where I have internet access). They are right on one of the main canals and are some of the most beautiful buildings in town – though this city is blessed with beauty everywhere.
We also had dinner last night at a restaurant that backed one of these buildings, and had the best appeltaart I could ever have imagined (basically an apple pie… but made with different spices and served with home made ice cream, fresh whipped cream, and Belgian chocolate). The food is stunning verywhere – haven’t had a bad meal yet – even from the street vendors – but I
am not worrying about gaining pounds; I walk about 7 miles a day.
Oh – there appear to be few traffic laws here – pedestrians first, bicycles second, buses third and cars fourth … with no stop signs anywhere. You never look to cross the street, and simply rely on the fact that everyone else will fall back on those four cardinal rules! The politite (police) here re usually on foot and very friendly and helpful. I did smile, though, when I realized that the police station across from the hotel was housed in a building built in 1708. New, to Belgian standards.
More tomorrow, I hope!
Your happy learner and traveler,