Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ghent

AS A TOURIST DESTINATION, the Flemish city of Ghent has long been over-shadowed by its neighbour, Bruges. In part this reflects their divergent histories. The success of the cloth trade during the Middle Ages was followed by a period of stagnation for Bruges, while Ghent became a major industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries. The resulting pollution coated the city’s antique buildings in layers of grime from its many factories. In the 1980s Ghent initiated a restoration programme. The city’s medieval buildings were cleaned, industrial sites were tidied up and the canals were cleared. Today, it is the intricately carved stonework of its churches and antique buildings, as well as the city’s excellent museums and stern, forbidding castle that give the centre its character.