Today we headed to Ghent another major city of Belgium. The city has a long history and was between 1000AD and 1550AD one of the most important cities in Europe due to the Flemish cloth trade. The city during that time boasted a population of about 60,000. Similar to Bruges that period saw continued disputes between the counts and emperors (who supported France) and the citizens (who supported England). In one of the disputes in 1648 the Habsburgs were forced to close the River Scheldts and hence the trading stopped. As you can imagine Ghent went into decline it was only during the 19th century did its fortunes change once again with the industrial revolution on the European continent.
We explored the city with excellent walking tour map from the information centre. Our walk started just outside the Castle of the Counts of Flanders , Het Gravensteen, which was built in 1180 to intimidate the town citizens . Across the road from the castle was the old Fish Market with Neptune guarding the entrance.
The most photographed area of Ghent is the guildhouses of the Graslei next to the River Lys and was the first trade port in Ghent. The guildhouses have symbols of the various trades such as boatmen, corn measurers and stonemasons. We felt in their day they would have been magnificent but today there was a shabby air to them.
The skyline of Ghent is dominated three buildings -St Nicholas Church built in the 13th century with blue stone, the Belfry and St Bavo’s Cathedral. The one blot on the landscape as we walked along the street to the cathedral is the new city hall which looked totally out of place.(didn’t take a photo it was that horrible!)
The cathedral was magnificent and very extravagant with its marble screens and columns. However most people visit the cathedral to see “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” , a winged altarpiece. No photos were allowed but it was certainly was magnificent.www.mysticlamb.net
We finally explored some of the back streets before heading back to base after a quick stop at the patisserie for a little tempting morsel.