Living in the border region between Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium means that some of the closest cities are in fact not German. From Aachen, it’s only a 30-minute drive to Maastricht (NL) or a 45-minute drive to Liege (BE). Sadly, most people who come here to study never use the chance to explore those countries. This is especially tragic if you realize that the part of Belgium bordering Germany has a lot to offer in terms of nature. I wrote a couple of blog posts before on Belgium: Vacationing, Liege, Hiking.
I had never been to Brussels though, which is inexcusable since it’s only a 90-minute drive from Aachen. So last year I ran out of excuses and Katrin and I drove to Brussels for an extended weekend. There we met an old friend who was in Belgium for a conference, who also wanted to see some of the country.
Brussels was very much like I imagined it would be. The huge and serious district which houses all of the EU administration and the rest of the city, which is distinctly Belgian. The only thing that really surprised me was the choice of supreme restaurants. Up until then I had never thought of Belgium as the home to a lot of high end restaurants, but our guidebook pointed out that Belgium has the largest amount of star-adorned restaurants per capita.
After Brussels we got into the car for the short drive to Gent/Ghent, the second biggest city in Flanders. Up until then I had mainly seen cities in the Wallonie, the French-speaking part of Belgium. When we crossed into Flanders we could immediately make out some of the subtle differences between the two parts of the country.
Gent itself is absolutely lovely and must-see. I’d describe it as a mixture of cities like Amsterdam, Aachen, with a unique Belgian touch. The city center is small enough to explore on foot, and it has a good supply of impressive churches and small canals. Gent is also home to a large university which adds a lot of life to the city center and the main river crossing it. Without using too many words, Gent is the most beautiful city in Belgium I have seen so far and definitely worth visiting. I am fully aware that some day I will still have to see some other places like Bruges and Antwerp to complete the picture.