Sunday, November 27, 2011

My way to school, courtesy of Google

A couple of weeks ago, Belgium was added to Google Street View. Yes, you can now view the crowded streets of cities like Brussels, Ghent, Leuven, Bruges and Antwerp in all their glory through the magic of Google. Like everyone else, I promptly fired up Google Earth to find my house. Found it!

But I'm not going to tell you which one it is. I already have enough fantasies about people armed with ski masks and golf clubs burgling us in the dead of night.

Instead, I'm going to show you my way to school, thereby giving you a snapshot of Ghent from the perspective of a full-time student like yours truly.

After mounting my bike and traversing a couple of roundabouts, I pass under one of the fine old railway bridges that span the roads that connect Ghent proper to its southern suburbs. These roads have names like Zwijnaardsesteenweg ("the paved road to Zwijnaarde"), Kortrijksesteenweg ("the paved road to Kortrijk"), Ottergemsesteenweg... you get the idea.

Beyond the bridge I find myself on Ottergemsesteenweg, possibly the most nondescript street in the whole city of Ghent. The only exciting thing that happens on this street is students on bicycles almost getting crushed to death by impatient drivers. (Speaking from experience there.) But aside from the sporadic near-accidents, this is by far the most tranquil part of my daily journey.


I soon join the multitudes of young people impatiently waiting for the "go" signal at the corner of Normaalschoolstraat and Citadellaan. As I kick off at the flash of green, I am joined by up to a hundred students on bikes. None of these bright young people need bicycle helmets, for they are magically protected by their youthful spirit and cunning devices.

On the other side lies Overpoort. Normally as dead as an overrun hedgehog, this neighbourhood springs into life on weekends as those unfortunate few among the students who aren't going home to their parents drown their sorrows in the numerous pubs lining the street. Overpoortstraat becomes an obstacle course on Monday mornings when the cleaning crews have yet to show up and sweet away all the broken bottles, beer glasses, and half-digested kebabs that have accumulated on the asphalt over the weekend.

Overpoort is also home to Resto Overpoort, one of the university's restaurants. Sadly, it does not look as awesome in real life as Google Street View will have it.

Resto Overpoort, looking unusually futuristic.

On the last leg of the trip I pass by St. Peter's Square (Dutch: Sint-Pietersplein), a large open area in front of St. Peter's Abbey. The Book Tower of the Ghent University Library can be seen rising above the other buildings in the background. The Book Tower is one of a handful of structures in Ghent currently to be found as a 3-D building in Google Earth.


On St. Peter's Square you can also find Roxy Center, perhaps the biggest movie rental place in town. Inside its bowels you can find anything from Tom Cruise to Tom Six and everything in between.

Finally, I arrive at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy at Blandijnberg 2. With half an hour to go before the start of the lecture, I have just enough time to find a spot to park my bike. Here's to another day without it getting stolen.

All images © Google.

1 comment:

  1. Consider yourself lucky... Ghent is full of bicycle thieves!!!

    This is actually a very nice and detailed view you get from Google!

    Overpoortstraat is indeed a minefield if you go there with your bicyle during the weekend or on Monday morning...