Day 2: Ghent - Ostend


For the second morning in a row, I set the route on my bike computer, and for the second day in a row that turns out to be totally unnecessary. At every possible turn along the way, there is a direction sign for cyclists. Getting lost on an iconic cycle route seems impossible.

We leave Ghent without a care in the world. This is comfortable bikepacking. We have the benefit of overview and freedom, with all our possessions for a week on the bike and nothing but empty cycle paths ahead. But we do sleep in hotels. In the centre of Ghent last night, it was in an old monastery, where the history is still palpable, within walking distance of St Michael’s bridge and the Lys, the Groentenmarkt and the Belfort.

It becomes even clearer why the route we are following is called the Art Cities Route. We cycle from highlight to highlight from the rich history of Flanders. From Ghent via Damme to Bruges. And in between, the endless countryside awaits. We skirt the Meetjesland and cross the Bruges Ommeland. Empty meadows where the wind is fortunately keeping quiet today.

Halfway down a new towpath we are joined by a racing cyclist. Dressed in the typical sky blue of the Belgian national team, with black-yellow-red stripes in the middle, Thibaut Derycke adopts our pace for a friendly chat. He is from Waregem and has been out on the road for a while now. Is he part of the Belgian cycling squad? Not any more. He was as a junior, but that time is now behind him. He opted for family life and societal career. ‘But some things remain in the blood,’ he says with a smile that betrays a renewed energy for racing. ‘Maybe I’ll see if I can ride on the circuit again.’

Just before Damme, he turns off to the south. After Bruges, we set course for today’s finishing point: Ostend. Art along the coast, mussels, sea breeze and a setting sun. After just two days of cycling, how long we’ve been busy is becoming a bit hazy. Was Thomas from Antwerp right?