International Federation for Information and Communication Processing INTERSTENO

Welcome to Belgium and Ghent!

There's just something about Belgium. Maybe it's the friendly & welcoming people who with three official languages still find it easy to converse in English, the 4th unofficial language. Maybe it's the stunning architecture decorating the quaint cobblestone squares. Or perhaps it's the incredible cuisine found in the vast array of restaurants where each meal seems better than the last. Energetic and carefree, the overall mood in Belgium is infectious, summoning in all of us to live as Belgians and enjoy life to the fullest.

Well situated between France and Holland, the kingdom of Belgium encompasses all the best that Europe has to offer in an area no bigger than Maryland. Within the span of one day you can take a romantic cruise, hunt for diamonds, enjoy waffles, frolic in a festival in Binche, get lost in a castle in Namur, discover antiques at an outdoor market in Liège, and explore a fine art museum in Brussels. A dense train network connects all of Belgium and makes navigation simple and comfortable for travelers.

Often called the Essence of Europe, Belgium is both multicultural and multilingual. Flanders in the north, a flatland criss-crossed by canals, is proud of its medieval art cities, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. To the south in Wallonia, you will find the rolling hills of the Ardennes, countless castles, and the cities of Liège, Namur, and Tournai. The city of Brussels is one of the world's great cosmopolitan capitals, home to both the European Union and NATO, as well as a wealth of international trade and finance companies.

Belgium's history has always been linked to both commercial and cultural exchange, and much of its character is due to its role as the great meeting place of Western Europe. It would be difficult to name a European country who didn't want to stake their claim in Belgium at one time or another. Traces of the Austrians, Spanish, French and Dutch can still be seen in its architecture and in the lifestyle of its people. You will see superb examples of art and architecture past and present - Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau.

Somehow, Belgium has maintained a low-key approach to all of this international sophistication. It is a country for connoisseurs, but connoisseurs who do not take themselves too seriously. Because the Belgians themselves certainly do not. And after all this we didn't even mention the beer & chocolate.

Is Belgium flat? The area in the North, called Low Belgium, is very flat with sandy beaches, polders and small hills rising to about 197 feet. The area in the centre known as middle Belgium has some rolling hills and rover valleys, while the area in the French Speaking South referred to as High Belgium rises to 2277 feet above sea level at the Signal de Botrange in the wild Hautes Fagnes region.

Ghent - Medieval Manhattan

The Lonely Planet travel guide 2011 describes Ghent as Europe’s best-kept secret. The city was included in the list thanks to its beautiful historic centre, its fame as a festival city and its large student population. In the 2011 edition, Ghent ranks seventh in the list of must-see cities.

The city of Ghent combines an impressive past with a vivid present. It can be no coincidence that Gent, the capital of East Flanders, was given several pretty names: historic heart of Flanders, a city of all times, medieval Manhattan... Indeed, Ghent is one of the most beautiful historic cities in Europe.

Ghent was founded in the 7th Century, on the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Lys, and called Ganda. During the Middle Ages, Ghent was a leading town. Under the French domination, the city lived stirring times, but in the 19th century, when Ghent came under Dutch rule, the economy flourished again and Ghent developed into a modern Metropolis.

This beautiful historical city has dozens of unique buildings, representing 1,000 years of history. The Castle of the Counts, St Bavo's Cathedral with the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (Van Eyck), the Belfry, the Flemish Opera, are only a small selection of the numerous places of interest Ghent has to offer. No other Belgian city has as many listed monuments as Ghent, many of which are protected by Unesco and registered on its World Heritage List. Indeed, strolling through Gent often coincides with an adventurous travel through history.

Info: www.visitbelgium.comwww.visitbrussels.be

Ghent is alive!

Here pounds the young heart of a dazzling city of culture with music, theatre, film and visual arts. A city where cultural perspectives are constantly renewed and enlarged, where culture is a feast and where feasting is a form of culture.

The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (SMAK), the Museum for Industrial Archaeology and Textiel (MIAT), the Design Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Flanders International Film Festival, 'the Floralies of Ghent' (international flower show), the International Festival of Flanders and the ten day Summer Festival of music, dance and other arts are just a few of the assets that keep Gent firmly on the international cultural and artistic scene.

With over 60,000 students, Ghent is the largest university town in Belgium. The presence of this young population leaves a dynamic mark on the city and this surely adds to the lively atmosphere that Ghent exudes.

The historical centre (36ha) is a mainly pedestrian area, where it is nice to stroll. A wide range of overnight facilities, unique dinner locations, cultural places of interest and pleasant shopping streets are all at walking distance.

Info: www.visitgent.be

©Organization committee Intersteno congress 2013