14 September 2010

Nacht winkel, winkel little star

These stores are all over the place here in Ghent. These "winkels" (shops) are only open at night ("nacht"), and were pretty confusing to us when we first got here.
In order to get a license to do business during the night (which is apparently quite hard), they must forfeit their ability to stay open during the day.
It seems, though, that there are almost more of these nacht winkels than there are daytime deli-type stores. Seeing the surfeit of bars in the student quarter, however, made us realize how lucrative these places must be. In fact, Ghent seems like a town that really comes alive after dark. Today it was quite quiet when we were walking around - last night there were people on the street and packed into all the bars.
The standard nacht winkel seems to sell (we can't really tell - we haven't been in one yet!) basic necessities and small, packaged food items. Also, perhaps most essential to their business, alcohol and cigarettes.
One person we were talking to said that it was best to avoid these stores because they were so overpriced. He said that everything cost double what it would in the regular stores. He also explained to us that the regular stores were mostly outside of the city center, and that was why we couldn't find any during the day. I have to say, it was pretty frustrating to walk by two or three closed stores before finding one that deigned to stay open during the day.
The man in the above photo started harassing Rebecca when I was taking this photograph. He wanted to know why I was taking the picture, what we were doing, who she was, etc. She, being quick of mind, told him that I was taking pictures of the motorcycles, not his store. He was asking again about the nacht winkel, when I came back across the street. When I showed up, he left. Is there trouble in winkel-ville? Photographs nacht-allowed?
We were going to go out to a nacht winkel tonight, but it's raining and we have been enjoying the warmth of our room. We've had a nice picnic on the top bunk of our bunk bed, listening to the big drops splatter against the skylight in our little room under the eaves.

1 comment:

  1. I just stumbled across your blog..and am loving it! I feel like I don't even need to go to Europe anymore, I can live vicariously through the two of you. Speaking of blogs, I also read this woman Lille http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/ blog. She did nine months around the world and got all sorts of exposure for the stuff that she was writing from magazines (Boston Globe), news channels and the like. I think she even got sponsorship. The two of you are right on par with that and may want to think about it. Regardless, thanks for giving such an informative, witty and enjoyable read.
    Erika (in Thailand)