In lieu of singing kareoke at a disreputable student joint, Wim and Annelies took us to Gainsbar. Related to my other favorite bar in Gent, Pink Flamingoes, if only by the kitchy decor, this tiny bar is devoted to Serge Gainsbourg. It also seems to have a fair amount of Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet represented in its decorations, but somehow it all works together. From the twelve-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg sulking over the door from her album cover of “Charlotte Forever” to the “yeh yeh” cocktail, this is the work of someone with vision. It’s also probably the only bar in Belgium where you can’t order beer, but no matter, the specialty drinks and decent wine is good enough.
Two hours on the Thaly’s rail and another hour on the commuter train (because we took the local train that goes by Aalst, despite Wim often warning us that it “leaves first and gets there last, remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?”) landed us in lovely Gent, Belgium. Gent also goes by Ghent or Gand, depending what language you are speaking (Flemish and French, respectively). In Belgium it matters very much what language you speak. For a little country with so much history the divisions between language groups and geographic areas can get pretty intense. However, one could say the same about Brooklyn. I described Gent to my friends in the US as similar to a cool college town, but with canals, a castle from the middle ages, a transfixing number of cobblestone allies and an important place in art history.