My footfalls beat on the gravely asphalt. I’ve escaped my three children for a bit, leaving them in our temporary apartment with my husband. Running was a habit I picked back up after moving to Texas. In Leiden, I exhausted myself daily just biking or walking my kids around town. Once I moved back to Texas, I was determined to continue biking my kids to school. (Despite the rolling-down-of-windows-wave “Hey? Do you need a ride?” questions from other well-meaning Moms in mini-vans.) I eventually gave up once the temperatures headed into the 90s. We still played outside or went to the swimming pool, but the SUV driving made me restless after my active European lifestyle. So as often as I could, I left the kids at home and ventured out in the steamy heat by myself.
On a beautiful September evening in Gent, I again, refuse to give up habits recently formed across the ocean. I dart through the streets, avoiding bikes, pedestrians, trams, and cars. I had seen the park on the map, and I was hoping my kids and I could head up the next day. It’s always best to scope things out solo before bringing the entourage.
I turn into the park. I race by swans in a small pond and follow the lullaby of children’s voices until I find the playground – and what a cool one it is! Set in sand, it has ladders and slides, but also (seemingly death-defying) climbing structures reminiscent of rope ladders in pirate cartoons. An Italian Gelato ice cream truck distributes a variety of happiness in small cups to families.
Trees tower above me, reaching slender branches into the fresh summer evening. The gravel crunches as the path turns. I nearly stop short – three large tunnels cut a path in the hills above me – complete with stalactites and stalagmites. As I run through, I wonder if bats inhabit the space.
There’s gazebos, more water features with waterfalls, and two museums on locale – the SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Modern Art) and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts). I complete my tour by high-tailing it through the free botanical garden. Satisfied with the run and the view I sprinted back home. Excited to share my findings with my family.
For more information: https://visit.gent.be/en/citadelpark?context=groups