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Tour of Ghent

De Standaard - jobat - 2004 / 06 / 19


© Ivan Mervillie
As a tourist guide in the city of Ghent


I was not born in Ghent but I was raised there. Even at the age of 18 I was fascinated by the city. Who used to live in these houses? What stories can these facades tell us? Why are the people from Gent called “hangmen”? The Guide Association just so happened to organise a course and I decided to take it. I did not actually intend to become a guide but I wanted an answer to my questions. So for an entire year I took classes on Saturdays which were followed by another year of “practice” guiding as a trainee. By then I was definitely hooked.


After two years of training I became a full member of the Guide Association. I do standard tours but I have also elaborated my own tour: Women in the City. Getting to know a city with a guide is a beautiful way of learning. That is the kind of thing I am devoted to. In fact my hobby is partly situated in the same field as my job, but without the pressure. The income generated by this hobby is for my children but it is not really a lot, anyway.


Being a guide is relaxing. I hope it will remain that way. My working and vacation schedule coincide with the national holidays so the holiday periods allow me to fully concentrate on my job as a guide. What strikes me is that many of my fellow-guides are substantially older than myself. That is, in fact, the beauty of a real guide - someone who has lived in a city his/her whole life and knows much more about the city than courses can ever teach. My ambition lies in the same direction: I hope to continue being a guide even after my retirement. There is no age limit. The long walks take care of a guide’s physical health and the constant repetition of old and new information keeps a guide mentally healthy. In addition a guide is also socially active. To me it represents an ideal final stage for my professional life.


Exploring together, that is what provides fulfilment. People are grateful: their faces glow. I also enjoy the very diverse reactions from different cultures: Chinese tourists react differently to jokes than Dutch tourists. A while ago I was asked to show around a group of two. Later on they transpired to be two Los Angeles Times reporters. They sent me a copy of their report and the last line read: ‘If you are looking for a good guide in Ghent, Patrick Collin is your guy.’ Now that is real fulfilment.

Trix Slock
2004-06-19 supplement, addition to a.o. De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad/De Gentenaar

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