My Lucky City of Ghent


Over the next few days I am taking you through my lucky city of Ghent (Gent in Dutch and Gand in French) in the Flemish region of northern Belgium. The first time I saw Ghent it was on a damp day and in the grayness the city resembled a gothic painting, beautifully haunting. I knew then that I would return on a brighter day eventually, revealing its mysteries through my photographs. Sunshine is on my side today as luck would have it.


I set my feet in Ghent without a map. I had already visited quite a few of its main sights with my friend Béatrice the last time, so on this trip my goal is simply to lose myself in its old streets and maybe end up at one or two museums I haven’t seen.  But it’s quite difficult to get lost in this city because there are useful signs like these everywhere:


Within five minutes of nearing the historic town center, I run smackdab into the sign that takes me to the MIAT (Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel):


This happens to be one of the two places I really want to visit! So that’s lucky strike number 2. I’ve copped to being a total museum and architecture geek at my blog, so you can understand how exciting these next few minutes transpire for me… First, I walk into this huge brick loft-warehouse cum museum. I get goosebumps. Except for the staff enjoying their morning coffee in the courtyard, there is no one else there.  Woohoo, a museum all to myself. I’m stoked.  Geeky and dorky!


Second, I pull out some money to buy my ticket and the cashier asks me in Flemish if I were a student (most museums here have reduced rates for students under the age of 26). Eh? Perhaps she needs stronger prescription glasses. But sure, I’ll continue this charade, so I say ja! as confidently as possible.  She takes my one euro and tells me to take the lift to begin the tour from the fifth floor. Cool beans, the days of getting carded for alcohol are long gone so if a legally blind lady thinks I pass for a student then luck does strike in threes. I would have paid her 100 euros for making my day. Ha!


When I get out of the elevator, the view of the city’s rooftops greets me like a shiny penny. Can’t wait to go to town, but into the exhibit I go.

On the top floor the tour begins by going back in time, taking me on a journey of daily life in Belgium and its place in European society in the late 1700s. There are all kinds of hand looms, spinning wheels,  and twisting mills (for flax yarns) dating back from as far as 1789:


The space is so huge that a single floor can contain a bunch of these large looms as well as equipment from an alcohol distillery,


paper mill and printing presses,


bottle plant,

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and just machinery/equipment invented to improve daily life…



I should say all of these inventions are exhibited in chronological sequence with very detailed information. I’m not doing as good a curatorial job as the museum. Anyway, here are more textile equipment, but check out the view of the city behind the windows in some of the pics:


Have I lost you yet? OK, how about some close-up photos showing the work products:


The story behind all of this gorgeous thread and yarn is that during the Belle Epoque (1890-1914), the golden age before WWI, the textile industry was enjoying a huge boom in Belgium.  The wealthy and emerging middle class would spend money on passementerie, or the art of making ornate fringes, trimmings, braids, etc. for their clothes, home goods, and the like:


At the end of the exhibit, when I arrive at present day, these are the finished products from the machines I have viewed so far:

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As you can imagine, by the time I finish loitering around all 5 floors for three hours or more, I wish this brouette ride were still available:


One last note.  On the same floor where there are vibrant  passementerie displays, there is also coverage on child labor and prostitution, two timeless banes that plague the lower class destined to serve the fads of the rich. While the Belle Epoque generated things of great beauty it did so at a price modern society continues to pay.


Well, thanks for making it all the way to the end of this long entry. Tomorrow I’ll take you to town and even buy you some food!


  1. Clau

    Hi Larkie,

    I know about your blog through TPF chanel thread. WOW! I’m mesmerized by all these beautiful and interesting places you are visiting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Peter

    3 hours, i woulda zoomed through in 30 min. lol

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