My Second Favourite Thing About Ghent

You might think that my fav would be the old buildings. Or the rivers and bridges. Or the terraces … also known as patios in Canada.

You’d be wrong.

My number one favourite thing is the people. I can feel the friendly energy in this city and it often comes to my table when I sit down in a pub. Many folks are happy to talk. Of the 400,000 residents, about 80,000 of them are post-secondary students. Ghent is ancient and young. I call it home.

But then there’s my number two favourite. You could guess until the cows come home and not find the answer. Go ahead … knock yourself out.


Nope. All of your ideas are simply wrong. Would you like a hint? Okay, it’s a living being. And I’ve already mentioned humans as #1 so that’s not it.

The aardvarks, you say? No, I’m pretty sure none of them hang out around here.

All right … it’s a living being that flies. I’ve seen thousands of them since I arrived. They zoom along the Leie River near my home, especially at sunrise and just before sunset. They swoop left and right, they soar, they dive, and I can’t pull my eyes away.

I suppose I’m the only one in town with a seagull fetish but that’s fine. I position myself at a table beside the river on the terrace of the ‘t Kanon pub and watch the show. Couples nearby gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes – I raise my face to the birdie sky.

Today it was sunset before I reached my spot. For the first five minutes there were no seagulls. Also for the second five minutes. I sighed in the probability that I was too late. No gliding wings this evening. It was bittersweet. All I wanted was one gull to show me her majesty. Just one. During the daylight I had seen so many. Now I just wanted one.

For many years I’ve reflected on the absence of something that often is present. The loved one lingers after leaving. The air still ripples with a subtle energy. Usually I smile at the recognition of something beyond the consensus reality. And I smiled tonight.


Then a solitary gull grazed the rooftops on its way home …

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