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Monday, 25 June 2012

Ostend

Ostend




Ostend is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke (West Flanders), Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest on the Belgian coast.

In earlier times, Ostend was nothing more than a small village built on the east-end of an island (originally called Testerep) between the North Sea and a beach lake. Although small, the village rose to the status of "town" around 1265 when the inhabitants were allowed to hold a market and to build a market hall.

The major source of income for the inhabitants was fishing. The North Sea coastline has always been rather unstable and in 1395 the inhabitants decided to build a new Ostend behind large dikes and further away from the always-threatening sea.

The strategic position on the North Sea coast had major advantages for Ostend as a harbour but also proved to be a source of trouble. The town was frequently taken, ravaged, ransacked and destroyed by conquering armies. The Dutch rebels, the Geuzen, took control of the town. The Siege of Ostend, 1601 to 1604, of which it was said that "the Spanish assailed the unassailable and the Dutch defended the indefensible", cost a combined total of more than 80,000 dead or wounded, making it the single bloodiest battle of the Eighty Years' War. This shocking event set in motion negotiations that led to a truce several years later. When the truce broke down, it became a Dunkirker base.

After this era, Ostend was turned into a harbour of some importance. In 1722, the Dutch again closed off the entrance to the harbour of Antwerp, the Westerschelde. Therefore, Ostend rose in importance because the town provided an alternative exit to the sea. The Southern Netherlands (largely the territory of present Belgium) had become part of the Austrian Empire. The Austrian Emperor Charles VI granted the town the trade monopoly with Africa and the Far-East. The Oostendse Compagnie (the "Ostend trade company") was allowed to found colonies overseas. However, in 1727 the Oostendse Compagnie was forced to stop its activities because of Dutch and British pressure. The Netherlands and Britain would not allow competitors on the international trade level. Both nations regarded international trade as their privilege.

In later times, the harbour of Ostend continued to expand because the harbour dock, as well as the traffic connections with the hinterland, were improved. In 1838, a railway connection with Brussels was constructed. Ostend became a transit harbour to England in 1846 when the first ferry sailed to Dover. It no longer serves the Dover route, but now has passenger and freight connections with Ramsgate. Very important for the image of the town was the attention it started to receive from the Belgian kings Leopold I and Leopold II. Both liked to spend their holidays in Ostend. Important monuments and villas were built to please the Royal Family. The rest of aristocratic Belgium followed and soon Ostend became known as "The Queen of the Belgian sea-side resorts".

In 1866 Ostend was the venue for a crucial meeting of exile Spanish Liberals and Republicans which laid the framework for a major uprising in their country, culminating in Spain's Glorious Revolution two years later. In the twentieth century wars brought significant destruction to Ostend. Many opulent buildings not destroyed in wars were also later razed and replaced with the structures in the modernist architecture style.

At the 'City by the Sea', over five and a half miles of sandy beaches invites you to delightful sunbathing and a refreshing dip in the North Sea. After frolicking in the sun, take a walk down the promenade where you will find many shops, bars and restaurants.

Ostend is a cosmopolitan city with a harbour, yacht-basin, airport and over 50 hotels. Visitors will be amazed by all there is to see and do. All year round, many activities take place. Some highlights are: Oostende at Anchor, Theatre by the Sea, Sparkling Mondays, Magic Lights in the Park, the Christmas Market with huge ice-skating ramp and Carnival week-end with the well known Dead Rat Ball.

One of Ostend's main, and maybe lesser known, trump cards is the gastronomy. What better place to sample the sea's delicacies than on the seaside. There are many restaurants, ranging from exclusive hot spots to cosy bistros, so there is something to suit everyone's taste and budget. The specialities are Dover Sole, shrimp croquettes and 'tomato filled with shrimps'. There is also plenty to keep you amused later on in the evening such as pubs, clubs and cinema complexes.


Dikke Mathille
Boutique browsers will be spoilt in Ostend. At the top end of the market are Edouard Tailor and Edouard Couture, at Kapellestraat 6 and 8 respectively, and there are many more similar shops on this street. The Adolf Buylstraat is also known for its exclusive boutiques. You will discover many wonderful shops in the side streets of these two traffic free shopping streets. Boutiques on the parallel Christinastraat include Lopez at number 48, stocking prestige women's labels, and Bilitis at 59.

On the Wapenplein there is a shopping centre with over twenty shops. Just outside the city centre, in the Alfons Pieterslaan and the Petit Paris quarter, you will also find several stores.

Thursday is the main market day in Ostend. Between 7 am and 1 pm you can buy several fresh products on the Wapenplein, Groentemarkt and Mijnplein in the city centre. A wide range of textiles, perfumes, jewellery and plants are also for sale here.

Saturday morning, there is also a market on the Wapenplein and Groentemarkt. On Sunday you can find a small flower market on the Wapenplein. On Monday, a very small market with a few stands is set up on the Wapenplein.





                                                        Ostend’s Top 5:
       
  1. Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk (Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul), the main church of Ostend, is a Roman Catholic Neo-Gothic church. It is built on the ashes of a previous church that occupied the site. King Leopold II enthusiastically supported a plan to build a new and more magnificent church. Construction started on 1899 and was completed and consecrated by Bishop Waffelaert on August 31, 1908. Its stained glass windows were destroyed during the two World Wars and were replaced by windows by Michiel Martens. The church is 70 meters long and 30 meters wide. Its spires are 72 meters high. The church was built in the Neo-Gothic style according to plans by architect Louis Delacenserie, who based his design on the Gothic Cologne Cathedral and the Neo-Gothic Votivkirche in Vienna.
  2. The Mu.ZEE is a museum in Ostend specialized in Belgian art from 1830 on. It was created in 2008 from the former Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst (PMMK, the museum for modern art of the Province of West-Flanders) and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten Oostende (Museum of Fine Arts Ostend), both located in Ostend. The Museum has two dependencies, the Ensorhuis (house of James Ensor) in Ostend, and the Permekemuseum in Jabbeke. Mu.ZEE is an abbreviation of "Kunstmuseum aan Zee" ("Art Museum at the Sea").
  3. The MercatorThe museum section of the floating museum, Mercator, has been completely refurbished in a contemporary, digital and interactive manner. The old display cases have made way for the newest technologies, adapting the ship to the requirements and expectations of contemporary visitors. The barquentine Mercator was built in 1932 and was used as a training ship until 1960. Since 1964 the ship has been moored in Ostend. After urgent repairs were previously carried out on the hull and other parts of the ship the interior has now been completely refurbished. The entire museum has been modernised to the tune of around €400,000. Now there are three ways of visiting Mercator: you can walk around the ship freely with a pocket-sized tour guide, or choose the digital visit using an iPod, which provides additional information featuring testimonials and short movie clips. Young people will also enjoy the interactive iPod treasure hunt game.Although the digital (r)evolution has finally reached Mercator the barquentine’s historical interior remains unchanged. The galley, huts, sick-bay, the radio room, the captain’s hut and many other typical features of this historic ship have been preserved. It is not an easy feat to turn a 79-year old ship into an interactive museum but Mercator has managed to strike a perfect balance between the old and the new.
  4. Dikke Mathille.  The Leopold II-laan curves gracefully around the most famous sculpture of a woman in Oostende: De Zee (The Sea). Although Reclining Nude is another name for this lady the locals always refer to her as ‘Dikke Mathille’ (Fat Mathille). In his work as a whole the sculptor Georges Grard showed a preference for the female nude. He emphasised the volume of the full, round forms. In De Zee he portrayed the opulence and sensuality of the sea in a female figure. However, the inhabitants of Oostende know they have to be wary of the apparent tranquillity the figure – and therefore the sea – exudes. Until 1963 the work of art adorned the Kursaal Casino.
  5. The Atlantic Wall.  This open-air museum is a unique historical site of modern fortification. The around sixty German constructions from both World Wars – underground trenches, bunkers and remains of the German coastal batteries of Aachen (built in 1915) and Saltzwedel neu (from 1941), observation points and gun sites are among the best preserved along the Atlantic coast and are the showpiece of the museum. Some of the bunkers have been reconstructed in their original state and furnished with authentic objects. The atmosphere is definitely that of ‘The Longest Day’.
    The Atlantic Wall originally stretched from Norway to the French-Spanish border and had a length of 5,300 km.








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