When they had gone their way, I set off on mine up to the old town. The approach was encouraging. A grand sweep faced me of old walls, rusted, but stout and vigorous, with corner towers rising out of a moat; then came a spacious bridge leading into a wide, encouraging-looking street of sound handsome houses. But, strange! not a single cab, restaurant, or hotel—nay, hardly a soul to be seen, save a few rustics in their blouses! It was all dead! I walked on, and at an abrupt turn emerged on the huge expanse of the place, and was literally dumbfoundered.
Now, of all the sights that I have ever seen, it must be confessed that this offered the greatest surprise and astonishment. It was bewildering. On the left spread away, almost a city itself, the vast, enormous town-hall—a vista of countless arches and windows, its roof dotted with windows, and so deep, expansive, and capacious that it alone seemed as though it might have lodged an army. In the centre rose the enormous square tower—massive—rock-like—launching itself aloft into Gothic spires and towers. All along the sides ran a perspective of statues and carvings. This astonishing work would take some minutes of brisk motion to walk down from end to end. It is really a wonder of the world, and, in the phrase applied to more ordinary things, ‘seemed to take your breath away.’ It is the largest, longest, most massive, solid, and enduring thing that can be conceived.
It has been restored with wonderful care and delicacy. By one of the bizarre arrangements—not uncommon in Flanders—a building of another kind, half Italian, with a round arched arcade, has been added on at the corner, and the effect is odd and yet pleasing. Behind rises a grim crag of a cathedral—solemn and mysterious—adding to the effect of this imposing combination, a sort of gloomy shadow overhanging all. The church, on entering, is found overpowering and original of its kind, with its vast arches and massive roof of groined stone. Truly an astonishing monument! The worst of such visits is that only a faint impression is left: and to gather the full import of such