Ghent grew rich from the textile trade in the Middle
Ages, importing wool from England and exporting cloth to the rest of Europe.
Flax, and later on, cotton, continued to make it prosperous. And since the
merchants spent their wealth on building, the city has a fine collection
of buildings from the twelfth century right up to the twentieth century.
We navigate round the back streets, learning about
the patrician families who ran the city, and the guilds which regulated
trade. We visit the Castle of the Counts of Flanders - and see where the
Spanish Inquisition burned its victims.
We rejoice with the Unfree Shippers, who had to
wait two hundred years to get their guild licence and promptly celebrated
by building a guildhouse directly opposite their old rivals the Free Shippers.
And saving the best for last, we visit the cathedral of St Bavo and Van
Eyck's marvellous painting, The Mystic Lamb. You'll find out about the ideas
behind the symbolism of the painting - but you'll also be amazed by its
wonderful detail and misty lighting effects.