In our latest tourist guides article we look at a new book and memory game that challenges you to identify the old roads and squares of Brussels and Ghent.
Tanguy Ottomer, who was awarded the exalted title of one of the best tourist guides in the world by CNN, has extended his operational zone to include Brussels and Ghent. He has plunged deep into the archives of both these cities and selected 50 photos of different locations. Armed with these old photos in his pocket, the photographer Jeroen Verrecht travelled through these cities recapturing in images the 50 streets and squares that appear in the archives, but in their modern-day guise.
The result: 50 exceptional before-and-after photos that you can discover in the books Time Machine – Brussels and Time Machine – Ghent. The accompanying memory game, which can be purchased separately, is made up of a set of cards featuring 60 photos of the city as it was in the past and as it is today. The game is a fun way to test your eyesight and sharpen your memory skills and, like the book, it acts as a great conversation piece between different generations.
Wading through archives and taking a guess at where and when a particular photo was taken is one of the favourite pastimes of Belgium’s most famous tourist guide, Tanguy Ottomer. He enjoyed doing this so much, that he wanted to share the immense pleasure he experienced – hence the idea for the Time Machine book. However, not many people are aware that Tanguy, the tour guide, who was born and raised in Antwerp, has also been organising guided tours in Brussels and Ghent for a great many years.
After his experience with the koekenstad, (‘biscuit city’ the nickname given to the city of Antwerp, probably because of the fact that there had once been a biscuit factory there), the capital city of Brussels and Bruges, the City of ‘Stroppendragers/Garottés/Noose Wearers (see explanation below are now also completely familiar territory to him. The Brussels and Ghent editions were a natural extension to Time Machine – Antwerp. As a person who is completely mad about history, his passion has always been to seek out and share historical anecdotes. The resulting Time Machine makes a perfect souvenir after a walk through the city or an ideal end-of-year gift for (re)discovering your favourite city with family or friends. The preface to Time Machine – Brussels is written by Johan Verminnen (author of the song In de Rue des Bouchers) and for Time Machine – Ghent, it is the inimitable Zaki who has been invited to pay tribute to his city.
Tanguy picked out 50 photos of locations from the municipal archives of Brussels and Ghent. Sometimes the cityscapes in these old photographs have not changed very much, sometimes they are almost unrecognisable. You can find clues by looking for buildings or other landmarks.
Armed with these old photos in his pocket, photographer Jeroen Verrecht travelled around Brussels and Ghent recapturing in images the 50 streets and squares that appear in the archives, but in their modern-day guise. To keep readers guessing about where the archive photos were taken, Tanguy doesn’t provide any captions with the old photos, but you just have to turn the page and the answer is there on the page before you: Jeroen Verrecht’s photo revealing the street as it is today, with a short explanation accompanying the photos.
For those who want to push their guessing skills even further, Tanguy and Luster Publishing are also launching a memory game for both books. They have selected a series of 60 photos that make up 30 pairs of before-and-after images. To avoid confusion – or arguments between players – the street names also appear on the cards.
The books and their respective memory games are sold separately; the both make perfect end-of-year gifts (either as a set or individually) for lucky recipients who love their city and enjoy travelling back in time. These beautifully published odes to the cityscapes of a bygone era are not only fabulous memorabilia to be cherished, but can also form real topics of conversation between different generations: what could be more enjoyable for grandparents and grandchildren, for example, than to share memories and reminisce about whether life really was better in the past.
‘Stroppendragers/Garottés/Noose Wearers (see explanation on www.visitbruges.be/fr)
Time Machine – Brussels, the book/ Time Machine – Ghent, the book: 21.95 euros
Time Machine – Brussels, memory game/Time Machine – Ghent, memory game, 30 cards in a cardboard box. Information in Dutch and English: 15 euros