Ghent, my hometown in Belgium

Gent (Ghent / Gand)

I always write about Beijing but I should not forget Ghent, my hometown in Belgium, where I was born, grew up, went to school and university.
I always write about Beijing but I should not forget my hometown, Gent (Ghent / Gand) in Belgium, where I was born, grew up, went to school and university.
I sometimes miss it all, looking at the pictures I took in the hotel garden, a small family hotel near Sint-Denijs-Westrem that is now closed and again a private villa. So green, so blue, so unlike Beijing…

Pictures are from Jan de Cock, (Keizer Karel), the Internet and myself.

Ghent, a tourist destination

There are many things to see and talk about. Gent is rather small (for Chinese standards!) but it has a number of unique historical sites, too many to mention here. So, just a few words.

The story of  “Belfort” – Belfry of Ghent and the Golden Dragon
The bell tower is 95 m high and construction probably started before 1314. It was modified several times, especially the top piece that was originally in wood.
There are some complicated stories about the Dragon, involving the Crusades, Norway, Bruges etc. But the real story is a bit different while some still refer to the Crusades. The Dragon is much the symbol of the city and its protector.
The dragon was made in 1377 on order of the then city government. It was already on top of the Belfort before 1401.
The dragon is very popular in the city and at certain occasions it was throwing fire. The first time that happened was on 17 March 1500 on the occasion of the baptism of Prins Karel. As from 1595 it was done regularly. The last time the Dragon threw fire was in 1819 during the visit of the Prins Van Oranje.
The Belfries of the cities of Ieper and Doornik also have a dragon on their bell tower but the Ghent dragon is by far the biggest being 3.55 m long, 1.5 m wide, 1.8 m high and with a weight of 398 Kg. It is made of iron and covered with golden-plated copper plates.
See here (in Dutch) historical details of “het Belfort van Gent”:

There is also a beer “Gulden Draak”. I had it for the first time in … Indianapolis (USA, November 2014), the big bottle. In January 2015 I found it in Beijing, the small bottle, see it along with a small Strop beer.


Indeed, that brings us to our nickname: “Stroppendragers”, that means:
The people of Ghent came to be known as ‘Noose Wearers’. Today, they are proud of their nickname, “stroppendragers” or “noose bearers”, but back then that certainly wasn’t the case.
Stroppendragers or also de Stroppen is the nickname of Gentenaars, people from Gent.
After a short revolution in Gent against him, Emperor Charles V (Keizer Karel V) the emperor arrested the leaders of the rebellion, killed 25 of them and then let the others go through the city with a noose around their neck, on 3 May 1540.
The noose is a potent symbol of resistance against any form of tyranny en bad government. People from Gent are said to be stubborn and who also leave room for other opinions and favor free scientific research. So I guess I perfectly fit the bill.
During the famous “Gentse Feesten”, the festivities in summer time, there is re-enactment of the procession (see the pictures). On the occasion, many people put a noose around the neck )black & white, the colors of the city shield). As for the Gentse Feesten, I have in my office a unique poster from 1993…
And of course we have Strop beer here that I drink in Morel’s restaurant! And I also managed to empty the huge bottle!

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