Gravensteen Castle- Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteen Castle means “Castle of the Counts” in Dutch. I don’t know if I have been living under a rock, but in Belgium, the top part of the country speaks Dutch, and the bottom half speaks French. I’m not sure when I missed that memo. So, during our time in Gent, things were mostly in Dutch, and as we made our way to Brussels, I started to be able to understand more as it switched to more French.
Climbing the tower!

I was so excited to visit this particular castle because it looked exactly how I would draw a castle, with the square top battlements and all old stone stacked on one another. This castle was built in 1180 by Count Philip of Alsace. As we entered through the gate of the castle, the modern ticket booth with bathroom facilities came into view. That was the only modern structure in the whole castle compound! This attraction was not stroller friendly, so we parked our stroller in the ticket office and climbed the stairs to the gift shop/audio guide pick-up. Free with each ticket is a video guide. It is not really a guide as much as a movie that plays on a little I-pod. You can select each room on the device and see a scene that could have taken place in that room when the castle was new. Philip of Alsace played a big part in the movie, as did his wife and a writer. It was interesting to see what the castle would look like and would be used for back in the day, but with chasing around a 2-year-old, it was not practical for us. However, I think the 5-12 year old child would really appreciate the video guide.

Door in the governor’s room
I think this sword was taller than me!
Suit of armor
The gift shop was situated in the Knight’s hall, one of the bigger rooms in the castle where the knights would hang out, eat and sleep. The ceilings were thick wooden beams and quite beautiful.  Next, we went up a tower to the Governor’s bedroom that opened out onto an upper hall for the Count and closer government men to have feasts and such. That room was turned into a museum of arms and protective equipment. They had everything from small daggers and giant swords to suits of armor and old guns- obviously from different eras of castle life.
One thing that surprised me about the castle- it was cold in there! The walls being made of all stone, and open doorways at the top of the towers going onto the roof made it quite chilly in there!
Wooden ceiling in upstairs hall

After the arms museum we went up another winding tower staircase up to the roof. There were arrow slits built into the walls, and it was super windy. You could see the town for miles around! It was quite a beautiful view! Landon liked running around the edges of the roof and going up the stairs to the tallest platform on the tallest tower. It was not hard from up there to imagine life at the castle centuries ago. Looking out over the countryside, I’m sure you could spot enemies coming from very far away.

This castle was abandoned by the counts in the 14th century. After that, it was used as a courthouse, jail, and eventually fell into decay. The city of Ghent bought the property in the 1880’s and restored it so that people could climb all the way to the top.

View from the tallest platform
Guillotine!

Back inside, we didn’t spend too much time in the instruments of torture exhibit. This guillotine was pretty impressive, though!

Inside the downstairs “throne” room
All Hail King Landon!
The boys
Mommy and Landon
A more broken down part of castle
In one of the more downstairs room, before going on a walk around the lower castle wall, there was a throne and some royal crests. Obviously. we had to take pictures in the throne!
Mid-level castle wall

Even from the middle level of the castle wall, we were still high up off the ground! We went on a little walk around the castle wall and Landon took a liking to the little arrow slit windows. In fact, it was very difficult to get him to move on to another area of the castle, even though Austin and I were getting cold waiting for him. I can’t imagine he was very warm with his face pressed up against the cold stone!

Landon in the arrow slit window

I managed to peek around the top of the wall to capture Landon’s face and what he was looking at on the other side of the wall. Turns out, he was looking at cars and buildings and all kinds of things. Here he is pointing to something, we’re just not sure what it is… What we do know is that the windows were the perfect size for him to perch!

Side of the castle from the wall- I love the turrets!

Next we went up a side chamber and into the little chapel. The only signs that it was a chapel were a cross-shaped window and old artifacts in a corner.

Chapel, and Austin
Descending
Down in the muddy cellar
Due to construction, the cellar was only available to view by going back down the castle the way we came and entering a different door down into the cellar/dungeon. It was dark, and muddy down there with lots of water! It was so dark, we couldn’t tell it was muddy until Austin and Landon were right in the middle of the mud. Thus began the mudpocalypse of 2015. Landon’s shoes picked up a ton of mud, and naturally, he didn’t want to leave the castle when we did, so he got mud all over Austin, all over me, and all over the stroller. We looked like we had come out mostly unscathed in a mud run, and we had to walk around the rest of the day in Ghent like that!
Out the stately gates

When we were done with the self-guided tour of the castle, a knight in full armor was walking around the castle courtyard. Landon was afraid of him at first, but then went right up and shook his hand. I’m sad I didn’t get a picture but the guy was kind of old and just had this air about him like he didn’t necessarily want pictures taken. The castle was a great place to visit for all ages. The room signs were all in Dutch and English, and the video was in English as well (if you requested it). The main thing to note here is that strollers cannot be taken inside (too many stairs), so leave the stroller at the ticket office or in the car (and don’t come during nap time).

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