Carts thrown about, buckets of water dumped over heads, rounds of fisticuffs exchanged, and the gossip fierce—let’s hear the tale of Ghent’s two warring cuberdon vendors, a candy-themed vendetta that Belgian papers have dubbed ‘the little nose war’.
It all began innocently enough, with Carl Demeestere selling cuberdons from his bakery window on the Groentenmarkt. The cosy square also boasts the artisanal mustard shop Tierenteyn-Verlent, regularly hosts street markets, and proved an excellent location to peddle Ghent’s traditional cone-shaped candy. Hard on the outside and filled with a raspberry-flavoured liquorice, the exceptionally sweet treat has long been tourist gold. But Carl’s monopoly was short-lived. It didn’t take long before Sonny Breine, another shrewd merchant, set up shop metres from Carl’s window. It was the first shot in a series of ever-escalating attempts to get the better of each other – and of that hard-earned dough.
Grown men gossip and confiscated sweet carts
Since Sonny brought with him a quaint, old-fashioned cart and displayed his sweets in attractive-looking little pyramids, Carl went out, bought a near identical cart, and plopped it next to Sonny’s. The two, who have different suppliers that make the candy according to different secret recipes, were at each other’s throats from the start. Both claim to sell the only ‘authentic’ cuberdons, and both showed no qualms about bad-mouthing the other’s product. In the summer of 2011, things got so bad that police had to confiscate Sonny’s cart for a while. The incident drew the attention of the press, and Sonny’s and Carl’s feud was dubbed the ‘neuzekesoorlog’, or ‘little nose war’, after the candy’s local nickname.
A brawl in the name of the cuberdon
There was no telling the amount of ink that would flow on the subject in the years to come, nor how far the adult merchants would go in discrediting or plain hurting their competition. In the increasingly infamous story of the little nose war, April 2014’s altercation is a doozy. As the anecdote goes, Carl was selling a group of interested Germans a bag of cuberdons when Sonny sauntered over and tried to lure the customers to his cart instead. In a logic befitting the nose war, Carl consequently felt justified in putting Sonny into a headlock. As the increasingly horrified tourists looked on, Sonny responded by head-butting his attacker, who, in turn, landed a punch on his trespassing neighbour. The shocked Germans wandered off without paying, and Mayor Daniël Termont took away both offenders’ licenses. Therefore, there were to be no more ‘neuzekes’ sales on the Groentenmarkt square.
For a period of two weeks that is. National papers had exploded with the most blatant transgression in the feud so far. Petty as the incident was, its entertainment value remains undeniable. By now, the story of the ferocious vendetta has become a modern folkloric part of the cuberdon’s history, as baked into the cake as the right way of eating this bonbon (biting the top off, slurping out the sweet syrup and only then consuming the rest). Some have even accused Sonny and Carl of perpetuating the tension for commercial gain, though both vendors have vigorously denied any such cooperation.
A shaky ceasefire
The city for its part has made it clear that the worst of the little nose war needs to die down. Besides Mayor Termont’s brief cart ban, 2015 saw the Chamber of Commerce forbidding Sonny from speaking ill of his neighbour’s product. The 1,000 euro fine hanging over his head for every time that he does has proven a healthy deterrent from further blow-ups. For a couple of years, and with some grumblings aside, they seemed to have buried the hatchet, and relative peace had returned to the Groentenmarkt. However, leave it to the eve of 2017’s Ghent Festivities, a 10-day culture extravaganza that traditionally means heydeys for the cuberdon trade, for fresh-faced salesman Younes (who now mans Sonny’s cart) to dive headfirst into the conflict. All it took for the little nose war to flare up again was a bucket of water over Carl’s head. Cleverly orchestrated commercial ploy, deep-seated candy-based grudge or both, the little nose war rages on.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.