Adventures in Ghent: Neon carnivals, parties in the streets, and ridiculous ribs

Ghent Belgium

T he best part of travelling is the unexpected adventure that starts by connecting with new people. My memorable visit to Ghent started with a casual conversation in a bar in Rotterdam, Netherlands. As my friend Joe and I drank local beer and played cards, “travel tired” from a great day, I noticed a dude around my age with a New England Patriots hat. Since I am from Boston and a diehard fan, I shouted “Tom Brady!” and caught his attention.

Twenty minutes later as we swapped travel stories, my new friend Remy Ruggles told us about the adventure he’d just had in Ghent, a city in the Flemish region of Belgium. Joe and I were headed to Belgium the very next morning and had just over 40 hours to explore. Remy, with his familiar Boston accent, told us about this quaint little city and gave us the perfect itinerary.

And the adventure begins…

We were lucky enough to visit during Gentse Feesten, a 10-day music and theatre festival that takes place every July. There are mimes, buskers, and basically the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast. The small shop owners, bakers, townsfolk, and artisans sing and dance through the streets. But instead of books, they have beer and Belgian waffles covered in Nutella. *sigh*

“It’s going to be one hell of a party. And don’t forget, don’t sleep on the all-you-can-eat spare ribs. Go to Little Amadeus.”

I’ll never forget what Remy told me.

The Feesten was unforgettable. When I say this city was lit up, I truly mean lit up. People of all ages, races, creeds and colors were partying in the July sunshine. The city was alive — countless stages with performances of polka, folk, rock, and rap.

Needless to say, Joe and I were slightly overwhelmed by how poppin’ it was. But this is the type of traveling story that you take these trips for.

Arts and crafts

In no particular order, we came across a man with a gallery who created beautiful sculptures using scrap metal and silverware, a woman who crafted natural homemade soaps that were edible, and a VR cafe where we were persuaded to put on a full Oculus Rift headset to play fetch with a robotic dog on a mountain. That was all just the start of the day.

We went down any alley that piqued our interest, getting hopelessly and happily lost. Eventually we wound up at Little Amadeus, “The Place for Ribs” that Remy told us about.

Pigging out

Little Amadeus specializes in the real deal, full rack, dry rubbed, spare ribs. They have a deal for unlimited ribs, baked potatoes drowned in some kind of heavenly curry, and salad for a steal. This was one of the top three rib eating experiences of my life. The unique combination of dry rub and classic flame grilling created a flavor symphony. The table was silent for 20 minutes.

After one rack was done, we both decided to go in for another. By the time our metabolisms realized what was going on, it was too late. We had feasted at the Feesten, and were slipping into a food coma.

Happy and full, I checked for the next train back, and that was when the night got interesting. We were approximately 20 minutes from the station, and the last train back to Brussels was leaving in 5 minutes. The next train wasn’t until 5:24 am, so we had to spend another 6 hours in Ghent.

Partying galore

The Feesten’s evening activities were worth staying for. Huge dance parties, akin to a packed nightclub, broke out in the squares.

We visited a neon carnival and a couple of retro beer gardens before we eventually found our way to the train station and slept outside on the benches, hugging our backpacks like stuffed animals, until the train arrived.

Making connections

A day of exploring, drinking, and indulgent rib eating was made possible by making a genuine human connection in a city where both parties were foreign. A small, imperfect, beautiful instance of why traveling is just about the best thing in the world.

Hi guys! I’m Harry and I’m a digital nomad originally from Boston, MA and currently living in Tel Aviv, Israel! I’m a photographer and video creator with a passion for traveling. During my trips, I document each day with hundreds of photos and gigabytes of video footage as well. I hope sharing my photos and Instagram tips inspires you to venture outside of your comfort zone and explore more beautiful places on this planet!

This is the second installment of my So Tov series on Europe.