That day I heard there was a flower festival “Floraliën” in Gent, so I headed there, coupling it with a Keukenhof visit. My train to Gent was delayed (as were lots of European trains during that troublesome time), I arrived at the city near midnight. I went to my guesthouse, KaBa Hostel not far from the station, it was a clean and funky one.
I got my key and went to my bed, which was in a 6-bed dormitory room. The room was locked and my key couldn’t open it. Someone had locked it from inside and left his key in the hole to prevent others from entering. That someone heard the noise I was making with the keyhole, he opened the door for me. Inside the room was his entire family: him, wife and 2 children, all sleeping. His wife woke up and looked at me with cautious eyes (oh yes, I interfere in their privacy). I went to the only vacant bed, trying not to make noise. I think I’m rather light-foot compared to other travelers. It’s the lower of a double bunk bed, the upper of which was occupied by a child.
Some minutes after I had settled in my bed, his wife decided: “Excuses me, you’ll sleep in this bed (point to her bed), my husband will make the bed for you. I’ll sleep there with my child (point to my bed).” I understand her concern about a stranger sleeping under the bed of her child, but I don’t like the way she ordered me like that. It would have been better if she’d just asked me: excuses me, are you okay to change to this bed etc. ? Anyway, I agreed and changed bed.
I lighted the lamp of my bed and looked for travel information for 15 mins. His wife turned to me again and said: “Turn off the light please. We’re sleeping here.” Geez. If you want so much of comfort, book a room of your own. It’s not like I was making noise or putting on the room’s light. It was just the lamp for my bed and I think I have a right to use it, at least before 1am. She should have seen other hostels where guests sang and shouted in the rooms at 2am. Not that I support that behavior, but I put up with it. If you want to pay only 20 Euros for a bed in city center, it comes with a price.
Too lazy to protest, I turned off the light.
Next morning was not better. The 2 children woke up and were horrified to see a sudden stranger in “their” room. They asked their parent in French: Papa, why is there another person in our room? Thinking that I didn’t understand French, the papa explained to them in front of me something like: the hostel decided it, the poor papa can’t do nothing about it. Well, that makes me and the hostel a villain in the children’s eyes, right away. Each time they passed by my bed, they stole a discontent look at me. The children deserve a better explanation. I would’ve appreciated if he’d told them the plain fact that he didn’t pay for the whole room and this is a shared dormitory.
To lighten the mood, I put on the flamboyant wooden Dutch clog that I’d bought in Keukenhof the day before. Unwanted effect: the children now looked at me as if looked at some weirdo. Great.
The moment I stepped into the common kitchen, my discomfort ended. Hordes of young people of all nationalities sitting around, they were merrily chatting with strangers and new friends, all the while very openly and politely. That’s what I usually like about hostels.
The free breakfast was basic, but enough. The sunny terrace and garden made up for it.
There was a May 1st Labor Day parade at that moment, so I headed out to it, having never seen such. It was a fun parade with lots of messages about production support or protesting against weapon abuse. Later I would know that Gent was a social town. (I apologize if it’s not true. What I wrote is what I heard from talking with people there.)
Gent people were nickname “noose-bearers” from some feudal fuss during medieval time, so they demonstrated it during the parade. It goes well with the spirit of Labor Day.
I followed the parade into the center square, they have plenty of activities and selling tents there during the day. I bought a bowl of Indian curry rice from the van of Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen, it is indeed healthy and tasty.
On the way, I passed by some nice architectures that I don’t know the names. Then, some pretty metal brick under my feet that was printed with the city images.
But the most pleasant was the two rivalry cuberdon trolleys, the purple sweet that was invented in Gent. I heard there was even a “Cuberdon War” going on for years between the two trolleys, and it took the most important concern from local people 😉 I bought a small packet: it was very sweet, but with originality.
(To be continued)