Ghent, Belgium and F.A.C.T.S.

1997/2006/2007/2008/2009

www.facts-convention.com, www.ghent.com

F.A.C.T.S. is the biggest science fiction convention in the Benelux. I remember the first time we went there - F.A.C.T.S.VI, 1997 -  it was still a small gathering in a youth club on the outsides of Ghent with the main feature being the dealers´ room, plus a few improvised exhibitions in additional rooms. From a couple of hundred visitors, it has grown to attract thousands and features notable guest stars every year.

In the years that followed, we missed out on F.A.C.T.S., because the date was too close to SPIEL Essen where we had a booth. We first managed to attend again in 2006, when the dates finally didn´t clash and two friends of ours had a booth at F.A.C.T.S. to boot. It would have been great fun even if we hadn´t known the smallish F.A.C.T.S. from the beginnings - but the comparison made things even more amazing.

If you´re not interested in science fiction conventions, please scroll down - the Travel Blythe Clan would have killed us in our sleep if we hadn't used the opportunity to have a look around the beautiful old city centre of Ghent!

FACTS VI, 1997

Blast from the past! I found some old pictures in my photo albums and scanned them. This was the last F.A.C.T.S. at Centrum Ten Berg on the outskirts of Ghent. In 1998, the convention moved to ICC.

     

Bootleg model kits and VHS tapes galore. Those were the days...

Koichi Ohata signing...

Star Wars miniatures tabletop game

No life-sized models yet, but already some action figure displays.

FACTS XVI, 2006

A paradise for Star Wars fans - you could have your picture taken with life sized replicas of Jabba the Hutt, a sand rover, Princess Leia herself... or go shopping for R2 type droids!

Lego and Lars...!!!  I just HAD to take a picture of that...

The cosplay took place on a stage right in the middle of one of the dealers' rooms.

I managed to catch Travel Blythe Azzy just in time before she could make off with the Blythe sized Stargate. "But... just think of the possibilities for the Travel Blythe Clan... !..."

Guest Stars at F.A.C.T.S. this year were Michael Ironside (Ham Tyler in "V", Cp. Hudson in "Seaquest DSV", Lt. Raszak in "Starship Troopers", Sam Fisher in "Splinter Cell" plus many, many more roles), Lance Henriksen ("Alien vs Predator", "Aliens" and many more), and the cast of WW2-sitcom "Allo Allo". In 2007, they had Jean Claude Van Damme and "Freddy Krueger" Robert Englund as well as some others, but they were surrounded by such a large crowd I didn't take any pictures.

Michael Ironside

Lance Henriksen

'Allo 'Allo cast members

Let's take a look around the dealers' rooms!

I bet no one tried to shoplift something from that booth!!! "Hasta la vista, magpie...!"

If all that shopping around makes you hungry, the Cafeteria is traditionally staffed by a team specially flown in from Mos Eisley, Tattooine.  Try the Wookie-Burger!!

Hey, wait a moment! Azzy wasn´t wearing a Star Trek uniform this morning... in fact, we didn´t HAVE a Star Trek uniform this morning. - Azzy, where did you get that from???              - Azzy tries to look innocent and munches her Bantha Biscuit.

Meanwhile at our friends´ booth:

Jadzia: "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKK!!!!! Muggers!!! Thieves!!!"

Jadzia: "Alright.Captain? Call the police! I´ve been mugged and left naked behind a booth, my uniform has been stolen by a big-headed humanoid... Cap...? Oh, frack, she´s taken my communicator too!"

Our friends Fabian and Alexandra were sharing a booth with another friend of theirs to exhibit some of their gorgeous model kit creations. You can check out bigger and better detail pictures of their works (as well as lots more interesting stuff, including more FACTS pictures) on their website: http://fab1.piranho.de

FACTS XVII, 2007

I did not take many pictures at FACTS 2007, so I´m inserting them here. That year, all the convention staff was dressed in Stromtrooper uniforms...

A custom Perry Rhodan action figure

... and the single worst Captain Harlock figure I´ve ever seen. I wonder if Palpatine agrees or if he just tries to kill anything with the legend "Good Guys" nearby as a habit.

FACTS XVIII, 2008

... and here we go (or rather: there we went) again. This time, we were really excited about the guests.

Adorable Morena Baccarin, "Inara" in "Firefly" and "Aria" in "Stargate SG-1"

 

Cliff Simon, "Baal" in "Stargate SG-1" and Paul McGillion, "Dr. Carson Beckett" in "Stargate Atlantis"

Silas Carson, "Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi" and "Viceroy Nute Gunray" in "Star Wars" Episode I, II and III , the Voice of the Ood in "Dr. Who" and "Kudlak" in "The Sarah Jane Adventures"

 

He was invited last year, too, but cancelled; this time he made it: Richard Hatch, "Apollo" in the original "Battlestar Galactica" and "Tom Zarek" in the re-imagined BSG. So maybe we´ve actually met the Final Cylon... but if it turns out to be someone else, this Centurion will do, too.

  

Emperor Palpatine and his crew... only seconds before his spaceship is nicked by Travel Blythe Donna (named after the Tenth Doctor Who´s companion, Donna Noble):

I made Donna´s sweater, BTW. The white thingy is supposed to be one of the Adipose creatures from the fourth series. Fat has never been so cute!

As usual, F.A.C.T.S. had a lot to offer for Star Wars fans.

A model of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Remember: Han shot first!

A huge Lego display of the battle of Hoth..

 

 

Donna discovers that this time, there´s an even bigger Stargate on display. "It must be mine!"

"Dang! It´s guarded! Ah well. I´ll check out the dealers´ room for a Tardis, then."

 

Now that the story of his life has been completely told, Darth Vader has taken on a job as used droid salesman.

FACTS XIX, 2009

This year, the convention was held at a new location: Flanders Expo, a convention centre on the outskirts of Ghent. The previous location, ICC, had become too small. Only two halls at Flanders Expo were in use this time, so there´s plenty of room for the convention to grow even more. The hall atmosphere of the location sort of reminded us of the early days at Centrum Ten Berg.

Of course all the usual suspects were there again. What would FACTS be without the life-sized R2D2s, Darth Vader, and Jabba?

Chun Li: Still sexy after 20 years of street fighting

Darth Don and Micky Skywalker

 

Donna: "Finally, a man with natural proportions!"

Vintage Treasures in the Dealers´ Room:

Impressive Mos Eisley Diorama for the 4.5" action figures:

Lego diorama:

Two of this years´ guests: Kevin Sorbo (Hercules - Hercules, Xena, Dylan Hunt - Andromeda) and Christopher Judge (Teal´C - Stargate SG1). Also present were Leah Cairns (Racetrack - BSG) and J. Jean-Louis (The Haitian - Heroes).

 

The City of Ghent

Ghent is a beautiful city with lots of its medieval architecture still intact. We took a stroll around the city centre after the convention had closed for the day. The name "Ghent" is derived from Celtic "Ganda", "confluence". This is where the rivers Schelde and Leie meet. 

http://www.cs.unm.edu/~patrik/ghent.html

S.M.A.K., the museum of contemporary art right next to the ICC where FACTS was held between 1998 and 2008. Looks a bit as if some giants had stuck their old chewing gums on the facade.

Der Zwangsverschwulten-Gedächtnisbrunnen - Memorial for all the straight characters forced into homosexual relationships by slash fan fiction writers. Yeah, not really, but it could be.

Sint-Baafsplein (St. Bavo´s Square) with St. Nicholas´ Church, Belfort and Lakenhalle and Post Office plus some pretty facades.

The somewhat squarish tower in the left background of the upper picture belongs to St. Nicholas´ Church (built in the 14th century in pure Schelde-gothic style).  A church with a troubled past: the original church built around 1050 was destroyed in two subsequent fires in the 12th century, the newly erected church threatened to collapse in the 14th century and needed reinforcement, was used as a horse stable during the French Revolution, and is again badly in need of reinforcement this century...

Right in front of us, in the centre of the upper picture, we see the Belfort (belfry, 13th century) and Laken Halle (clothmakers hall or lace hall, 15th century). The Belfort was a symbol of the power of the guilds and the city. Here, the precious charters and documents granting privileges to the city and its merchants were kept. The carillon in the tower has 44 bells and is one of the finest in Europe. The enormous copper dragon on top of the spire dates from 1377. The Clothmakers Hall was added to the complex in 1425 and was the gathering place of wool and cloth merchants. The cloth trade made Ghent the prosperous town it is today – it was once said to be the largest city on mainland Europe after Paris. Also, Belgium is famous for its lace, and Ghent lace is among the best in the country.

On the right edge of the upper and on the left side of the lower picture, we can see the neo-Gothic post office, built in 1910.

St Baaf´s Cathedral

On the opposite end of Sint-Baafsplein we can find St. Baaf´s Cathedral, built 1274-1569 with sections in Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque style. Charles V was baptised here church in 1500. It also houses one of the most important Flemish paintings, "The Adoration of the Lamb of God" by Jan and Hubert Van Eyk. The three towers of St Baaf´s Cathedral, St. Nicholas´ Church and the Belfry together dominate the skyline of Ghent.

More St Baaf´s Cathedral.

Baaf, the patron Saint of the city is also known as Bavo, Bavon and Allowin. Wild as a youth and selfish (...Allowin Wild?...), he was known to have sold servants to local nobles as slaves. He contracted a beneficial marriage and led an undisciplined and disorderly life. Shortly after the death of his wife, he was converted to Christianity after hearing a sermon preached by Saint Amand and decided to reform himself. Baaf traveled with Amand for some time through France and Flanders as a missionary. On one occasion, he met a man whom he had sold years before. Wishing to atone for this earlier conduct, Baaf had the man lead him by chain to the town jail.  Later, he distributed his belongings to the poor, built an abbey on his grounds - today the Cathedral - and lived the rest of his life as a monk.

Azzy: "Oh Captain, my Captain..."

The Castle of Gerald the Devil. Looks harmless enough by daylight. It was one of the first buildings in Ghent to be built from stone.

Nope, it´s not Hogwarts. It´s still the Devil´s Castle.

Gravensteen - the Castle of the Counts. The big spider web would be just perfect for La Princesse. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Princesse)

The Old Fish Market (17th century, largely rebuilt and enlarged after a fire in 1872)

 

This narrow lane may look like the hunting ground of Jack the Ripper, but it leads to a very cozy pub that serves a large variety of delicious jenever (gin) in all kinds of flavours: any berry or fruit you can imagine, Bounty, Tiramisu, aniseed... I tried lilac blossom. Nice!

Gravensteen

Gravensteen

Even though there are many castles in Belgium, this one is special in that it is the only one still remaining in most of its original state. Actually made up of three separate fortifications, the first stone one was built around the year 1000. Around the side is one of the most symbolic parts of medieval castles: a moat—the natural defense system. If the castle's walls, 2m (6 ft.) thick, battlements, and turrets failed to intimidate attackers, the count could always turn to a well-equipped torture chamber inside. You can view relics of that chamber -- a small guillotine, spiked iron collars, racks, branding irons, thumb screws, and a special kind of pitchfork designed to make certain that people being burned at the stake stayed in the flames -- in the castle, which also once served as the main prison of the city and is right next to Veerle Square, which was the site for public executions.

The former Meat Hall (built between 1407 and 1419). Until the end of the 18th century, meat could be sold only in the city Meat Hall and not by private butchers for cleanliness and health reasons. The 15th-century Meat Hall still stands, with wooden stalls leaning against the facade where offal was sold to the poor. The hall also has pillories on the outside wall.

Now is the time to tell the story of Gerald the Devil...  

In the 13th century, the Count of Ghent had a son by the name of Gerald. On the boy´s 13th birthday, his father had to leave on a crusade and wanted to take his son along to the Holy Land, but Gerald refused to go with him. He beat his father to death and from that moment on, everyone called him Gerald the Devil... 

Gerald built a castle with a dark crypt and a Red Tower, where he lived with his wife and son, also named Gerald. The boy has rather dark skin and black hair, however, and is nicknamed Gerald the Moor by people.  
Gerard the Devil disliked the colour of his son's skin and hair. So he tortured his first wife to death in the Red Tower, and his second, and his third, and fourth, and fifth, and sixth, and seventh wife too...  until the day when Gerald the Moor fell in love with a young girl that was to be wife number 8 of Gerard the Devil. 'Go to the Red Tower, my son,' said the father. 'I have arranged an overseas honeymoon for you!'

In the Tower, two sailors were already waiting to tie up the hands and feet of Gerard the Moor, put him in a bag and throw him in the water. But the son didn't trust his father and didn´t go. So the next person who showed up in the Red Tower was Gerard the Devil himself, coming pay the murderers for the deed he supposed done. The sailors mistook the Devil for the Moor, put him in a bag and threw him in the water. That was the end of Gerald the Devil... but not the end of the story. Gerald the Moor died at the end of the 13th century and since that moment, every 13th year in the Devil's Castle a child is born as a true son of the Devil. The castle is cursed to this very day, because the ghosts of father and son find no rest and haunt each other forever...

Many female corpses were found in the water near the Red Tower and an old legend says that before there will be peace in the Devil's Castle, 6 times 111 women have to fall or jump or have to be thrown from the Red Tower into the water, hands and feet tied together. 

The castle is also said to be haunted because it was for many years used as a prison and a mental asylum. Its walls saw tremendous amounts of suffering.

You can actually play an online murder and mystery game that was inspired by the tales told about the Devil´s Castle:

http://hubpages.com/hub/Halloween-Soundscapes-from-the-Devils-Castle

Driving back home to Cologne at night... you can bet we didn´t pick up any hitchhikers!!!

Bonus:

Sunday cosplaying as Iris Chateaubriand from "Sakura Wars".  We found the costume at F.A.C.T.S. 2006 (gotta take a better picture some time).