Gent - I keep on coming back

Ghent Travel Blog

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Main canal in Gent with some of the most wonderful houses.

Gent is to me one of the best cities in Belgium and therefore I keep on coming back.   Ghent (in Dutch: Gent) is the fourth largest city of Belgium with about 250.000 inhabitants. It is not as big as Antwerp but bigger than Bruges. It is also less famous among tourists than the often praised Bruges.

However, for me Ghent is the real diamond of Flanders and Belgium. In a unique way, Ghent has managed to preserve its medieval power while keeping up with the times. The city centre alone is a showcase of medieval Flemish wealth and commercial success. Modern Ghent certainly cannot be overlooked in Belgium.

Photo shot in Ghent
The city has an important harbour, thanks to the canal Ghent-Terneuzen which allows sea-going vessels to bring their products to the city and its industrial hinterland. The Ghent University ( UGent ) continues to grow in importance. The presence of so many young people and students has turned Ghent into an important Flemish cultural centre.

Ghent is also the flower city of Belgium. Flower growers from the region around Ghent sell their beautiful begonia's and azalea's all over the world. Every 5 years the successful 'Gentse Floraliën" (Ghent Flower Show) attracts thousands to the city. As a tourist you will not have eyes enough to admire the awesome architectural wealth, which offers a splendid combination of impressiveness and idyllic charm of the proud and (in former times) often rebellious city of Ghent.

The people of Ghent proudly wear the nickname 'Stropke', which is actually the round part of the rope through which a convict has to stick his head before being hanged.

You see this also if you watch football and basketball in the city, all the fans are carrying a rope around their neck in the colour of the home team – I have never seen this before. The citizens of Ghent received the name Stropke because of the punishment inflicted on the city by its most famous citizen, Emperor Charles V.  

In 1537 Ghent had refused to pay more taxes for a new war of Charles V against the king of France. To deal with his rebellious birth-city for once and for all, Charles V had the city walls destroyed. He also abolished most of the city's privileges and ordered the most important citizens to appear before him to ask for mercy while carrying a rope around their necks, as a sign that they were ready to be hanged if the Emperor would order it.

The punishment was not new.

Giving direction - and we followed. Jacob Van Artevelde, who then became a 'national' hero of Gent.
The people of Ghent had already experienced this under one of their former rulers. The first to do it was Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1458, and this is to what the people of Ghent refer. Duke Philip was punishing the citizens for their uprising of 1448.  He had already defeated the city in the bloody Battle of the Gavere in 1453, where upwards of 10,000 of Ghent's soldiers died, but Philip withheld the city's rights and privileges (a virtual shut-down in trade) until a major ceremony staged in 1458 to garner the Duke's forgiveness.

At the onset of this ceremony, Duke Philip marched the leaders of the city and its guilds outside the city walls, stripped them to their undergarments, had them kneel in the mud wearing nooses around their necks, and pledge to him eternal allegiance.  After this, they led him through Ghent's streets, decorated with banners and torches and dramatized mythological and biblical scenes, including a live-action version of the Van Eycks' Ghent Altarpiece as the centrepiece.

vances says:
Interesting history...but it doesn't invite one to visit, lol!
Posted on: Jul 28, 2012
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Ghent
photo by: lasersurge