Andy Coleman does his bit for the environment as he visits a Belgian city rich in history.
Go green in Ghent. That’s the environmentally friendly invitation from Belgium’s fourth largest city.
During my short break in the picturesque Flanders university town I went on a pollution-busting sightseeing tour by bike, meditated aboard a Bangladeshi-built gondola and took part in a meat-free veggie day.
My trip began at Birmingham New Street station ahead of a 90-minute train journey to London Euston. Then it was a 10-minute walk to St Pancras station and the Eurostar terminus.
Checking in was quick and security procedures were less hassle than at airports.
My go green campaign was reinforced on the Eurostar train with the company boasting that it aims to reduce carbon emissions per passenger journey by 35 per cent by 2012 and claiming that passengers who fly between London, Paris and Brussels generate 10 times more emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than travellers who go by rail.
The London to Brussels journey took just a couple of hours, then, after changing trains, it was a further 30 minutes to Ghent.
As a first time visitor my initial port of call was a former abbey and monastery which is now the city’s Stadmuseum, or STAM as it is known, to get the lowdown on the history of Ghent.
Fortified by a cup of Belgium hot chocolate in the museum’s newly-opened cafe, I set about viewing the exhibits – but this was not a collection of stuffy artefacts.
Multimedia presentations, innovative floor-sized maps and colourful modern photographs combine with the historical surroundings, some dating back to the 13th century, to tell the Ghent story, from pre-history to its medieval heyday when it was one of north-west Europe’s most important cities, to its place in the textile boom and its modern day role as a centre for learning.