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A Virtual Tour of Ghent in Flanders.
I visited Ghent a few weeks before Belgium went into lockdown. My first thought on hearing the news was about the magnificent Van Eyck exhibition closing along with the multitude of events that were planned for the rest of 2020 – the year of celebrating Van Eyck, the great Flemish master. I felt so privileged to have had the opportunity to view the once in a lifetime exhibition at the MSK (Fine Arts Museum) in February. I simply could not imagine the disappointment of the curators and restorers whose labours over many years had to be curtailed so shortly after the exhibition opened to the public. Not to mention the thousands of visitors who were waiting their turn over the next months to visit the show and to enjoy the exciting programme – cultural and gastronomic – that the city had planned.
With a resilient spirit, however, the MSK – along with many museums in Belgium – has gone online. Those not able to travel to Ghent, as well as those fortunate to have already seen the Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution exhibition, will all be delighted to have a private tour of this wonderful show.
VISITFLANDERS has launched a new campaign entitled ‘The Stay at Home Museum’ tour. Each Wednesday there will be a curated tour from Flanders, freely available online. These tours are streamed on Facebook Live, followed by its YouTube channel for streaming at any time.
I watched the first two of these virtual tours. The Van Eyck tour, given by the scientific curator of the exhibition, Till-Holger Borchert, which enabled viewers to get a taste of some of the highlights of the exhibition.
The second tour was a delight – a highly informative lecture on the Bruegel collection (the second largest in the world) at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium, situated in Brussels. Director General, Michel Draguet, is a most engaging lecturer and enthusiastically set about sharing his love of Pieter Bruegel with his audience. I was captivated and learned more from his tour that I might have had I been visiting the museum independently.
Staying in Brussels where there are over 90 museums and galleries, there is now an opportunity to enjoy virtual visits.
Back in Ghent, The STAM (Ghent City Museum) and the S.M.A.K. art museums have both provided immersive online experiences of their collections. I visited both museums in February and highly recommend taking a virtual look at what they have on offer. It will certainly whet your appetite to visit in person when travel restrictions are lifted.
I was fortunate to visit Antwerp last year and was captivated by the city. One of the finest museums I spent time in was the Plantin Moretus which now offers a free app tour. Treat yourself to a look inside this intriguing museum.
Another museum I enjoyed is the Snijders & Rockox House whose BLIND DATE exhibition has been cancelled but is now online.
After all these tours you may be feeling in need of some refreshment. The university town of Leuven has had to postpone its April Beer month but that is no reason to go thirsty. Pour yourself a glass of Belgian beer – the city is home to the Stella Artois brewery – sit back and enjoy one of the great guides that have been posted about Leuven.
Having had the chance to discover some of the gems of Flanders over the past few years, I can thoroughly recommend planning a trip or two to the region when travel becomes possible again. For now, virtual tours keep us in touch with what we can look forward to in time to come.