Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 5 - Dendermonde to Gent

Today would be the day to take the barge and see the beauty of the countryside, which is what Aila did. I rode with the rest of the group, however Aila and a few others stayed on board to take in the sights from the barge. We were heading from Dendermonde to Gent. In Belgium’s Flemish language, the “G” is pronounced like an “H”, so Gent is pronounced “Hent” and “Brugge” is pronounced “Bruh-he” and it helps if you pretend that you are spitting up a hairball to make it correct.
Statue with the horse and 4 sons

At the start of the day, we headed to the main square of Dendermonde, where we were blessed with another Tom story about the town. It seems that centuries ago, the local lord, maybe you could call him a king, had 4 sons. The oldest son was quite tall and big and no horse could be found that would be able to carry him. The oldest son entered a tournament and won, and was awarded the magical horse, who loved the son very much. One day, the older son and the neighboring lord’s son were playing chess, and a brawl ensued and the older son killed the other man. The four brothers fled on the back of this horse, who was large enough to carry them and magical enough to leap over valleys. The neighboring lord declared to the father of the sons, that the only way that things could be made right, is if the magical horse were given up and killed. The father resisted for a while, but eventually succumbed to the request. The neighboring lord tried to have the horse drowned by putting heavy stones around its neck, but it was too strong and wouldn’t be killed. More stones were used until the horse could no longer hold its head above the water. The horse looked up at the older son as it loved him, but noticed that the son could not look at him. Despondent, the horse thought the son didn’t love him as well and gave up and allowed himself to be drowned. To commemorate this story, the town hall has a statue on its top that shows the horse with the 4 sons. Every decade, this town has a celebration of the event and requires that a large horse be built and carried through the streets with 4 sons of a local family. To qualify for this honor, the 4 sons must have been born within 10 years, have no sisters in between and all of the sons, parents and grandparent must have been born in Dendermode.
Dendermonde museum

After leaving the town, we headed back to where the barge had been moored for the night, but as we expected, it was long gone. Our continued journey merely passed back along this route on our way to Gent.

The day was fairly uneventful. We stopped for a lunch at the canal-side cafe, where I had a Belgium waffle with ice cream on it. The town streets were ordinary at this point. My thoughts for Aila were that she chose wisely as to which day to take a rest.

We did come across a huge mansion/castle that would be perfect for people wanting to have a wedding or other group gathering. We were allowed to venture on-site and explore the grounds for a while.
Castle where we explored

Later in the day, Aila and the others who stayed on the barge rode the 5 miles into town to meet up with us in Gent. Gent is a very beautiful city with plenty of history and lots to see and do. We spent several hours there exploring and hearing more stories from Tom. We bought some good Belgian beer and chocolates and eventually headed out, but not before another tale. In the town square is a statue on the side of a building that shows an older man being breastfed by a younger girl. It is a strange one to say the least, but there is a story behind it. Apparently, this older man was convicted of a crime and sentenced to death by starvation. Each day, his daughter would visit, and the guards would check to ensure that she was not carrying any food or other things into the cell. The convicted man kept healthy every day and surprised the guards by not dying. The guards wondered about this and were not able to figure it out for some time, until one day they happened to see that when the daughter visited, she would breastfeed her father to keep him alive. They reported this to the authorities and it was determined that since his daughter loved him so much and that she would do this, then he was worth saving and subsequently released him from the jail. This statue is on the wall of the town’s jail and is a reminder to people that even if you are convicted, there is still hope of salvation.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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