Gent - I keep on coming back
Ghent Travel Blog› entry 77 of 354 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.