Despite the hotel having the word “pillows” in its name evoking soft dreamy bed times I actually didn’t sleep that well last night. Maybe it was the different pillows? Anyway, we hadn’t booked breakfast in the hotel as while it is convenient and there is usually a large selection it is often overpriced for what we actually eat. Instead we went out to find a local cafe were we could have a much more reasonable (for both stomach and pocket) pastry and coffee/tea.
Like many on the continent everyone here seems to speak perfect English. While this is convenient it is a bit embarrassing, especially at the moment while the UK tries to extricate itself from these lovely people that have made such an effort to speak to us.
We spent the bulk of the day wandering the streets looking at the beautiful buildings that line the streets of the city. You can see some pictures of Ghent at the bottom of the post but read on for the second half of the day.
After a quick pizza in Otomat (they really were excellent and you should check out their great topping choices) we made our way to the Kupke (or Velodrome to you and me). Right now is the Six Days of Ghent a, unsurprisingly, six day cycling event. This has been held annually since 1922 if Wikipedia’s to be believed.
I have been to a couple of velodrome cycling events before and the area within the track is usually reserved for the teams where the cyclists can warm up and down. Not in Ghent, no here they fill it with, initially, sober spectators. If you want a drink you buy a book of tokens where one (€1.25) will buy you a beer and three will buy you a better quality of beer. Therefore it was not very long before this area resembled the mosh pit of some rock concert. That said they were reasonably well behaved and did manage a respectable conga line!
During the four hours we were there we saw a number of different races and I still don’t have any idea what was going on. In one they cycled for 30 minutes and just when you thought it was coming to an end they then cycled for 30 laps. Our understanding wasn’t helped by the fact that the commentary was entirely in Flemish.
Half way through the evening we were also treated to some musical entertainment from someone called Garry Hagger. Those in the mosh pit clearly knew who he was as they raucously joined in but he didn’t get much response from our section of the crowd who were almost entirely British.
Our final race was the derny. This is where the cyclist follows a fat old man riding one of those motorbike cum bicycle combinations that are so popular with French farmers. Once again I have no idea how it worked. I couldn’t see how the cyclist was indicating to the fat man on a motorbike to speed up or slow down but they did. And they overtook and someone won! Hurrah!
Anyway, it was all good clean fun and I recommend it to anyone with a good grasp of Flemish!