An ever-changing display of graffiti covers the walls of Werregarenstraat in the medieval town of Ghent.

I WAS WANDERING around the old town of Ghent, with its picturesque canals, cobblestone streets, and medieval buildings, when I came across a contrast to this old world — an entire alley, from the sidewalk and across nearly every inch of the tall concrete walls, covered with layers and layers of graffiti.

in the ’90s, the space had been designated by the local government as a legal spot for graffiti to try and keep the rest of the city free of spray paint. While there are some splashes of paint in other parts of the city, the best work seems to be concentrated here. I captured some images of the two block alley, but I can guarantee that when you go, it will look different.

All photos by the author, and the trip was hosted by Tourism Flanders.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

The scene that drew me into the alley.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Part of the alley is covered, and on the ceiling and the top of the wall you can see the layer of white paint that created the blank canvas for the artists.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

The designs ranged from specific pieces...

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

...To what seemed like random scribbles and tags.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Jolly (her tag) was working on a piece, Venom from Spiderman.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

One of her previous pieces was Spiderman, hanging upside down. "His head has been covered," she told me with some annoyance. "But," and this was said with pride, "the rest of him is still there." She had brought in a ladder to paint it, which had angered the cyclists passing through while she'd been working, but it'd allowed her to paint high on the wall, which I'm guessing is what has helped protect her work.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Another artist doesn't seem to have been so lucky to have a piece stay in its near entirety - the wings of an angel peek through.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Larger pieces with many colors can take several hours to create.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

I asked Jolly how long a piece might stay untouched. "A few days," she said. "Toys will come by and tag your work." Toys (I had to look it up when I got back to my hotel) are inexperienced painters who come by and tag over your work. Jolly pointed to this piece as an example.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Meta-commentary? Self-awareness?

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Along the bottom of the wall was a message: "Home for the stranger"

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

"A balm to the suffering." I wasn't sure if it meant the alley itself, but I like to think that it does. It seems as though the wall celebrated graffiti as a real art, toys or not.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Stencil work.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Very detailed and an evocative scene.

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Graffiti wall in Ghent

Before I left town, I went back to see Jolly’s finished Venom, and I wonder how long it will stay.

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