Monday, June 12, 2017

Ghent, Belgium - some real old stuff!

Ghent is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and the second largest city in Belgium after Antwerp. The city developed around the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and, by the end of the 13th century, was very wealthy with a population of 50,000 or so. It currently has about 250,000 inhabitants.
An historic example of industrial espionage improved the city's fortunes at the end of the 18th century when plans for industrial weaving machines were smuggled out of England to bring mechanical weaving to Europe. In 1830 however, the Belgian revolution occurred, snatching the southern part of the Netherlands and creating the enduring political, lingual and administrative disaster that is Belgium today. The local economy collapsed, the first Belgian trades-union took root in Ghent and the nation seems never to have satisfactorily re-established it's identity. If it were not for the European Union selecting Brussels as it's administrative capital it is possible that the country would have been democratically re-partitioned as elements of France and the Netherlands by this time and been better off for it.
Although Ghent was occupied by the Germans in both World War I and World War II it escaped severe destruction and actually boasts quite a lot of genuine "old stuff". Considerable medieval architecture remains intact and the city appears to be enjoying a nice balance between comfort, convenience and history, making it's old town well worth a visit. Additional pictures here.

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