Oost-Vlaanderen, or East Flanders in English, is one of Belgium's ten provinces situated in the northeastern part of the country. The province is part of the Flanders region, which covers the entirety of north Belgium, representing the predominantly Dutch-speaking half of the country. East Flanders province borders West Flanders in the west, the Dutch province of Zeeland with Zeeuws-Vlaanderen in the north, the Antwerp and Flemish Brabant provinces in the east, and the Walloon Hainaut in the south. Concerning local geographical conditions, the highest peak in East Flanders, Hotondberg, is found in the southern part of the province, at an altitude of approximately 150 meters tall. Some of the local nature regions include Waasland, Meetjesland, Flemish Ardennes, Scheldeland, and Leie. The capital city, Ghent, is one of the attractions of Oost-Vlaanderen, featuring several historical landmarks. Additionally, outside the city is located the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen nature reserve, providing hiking and walking trails with an opportunity for bird-watching. In historical context, East Flanders was established in 1815, and in 1830 the province became part of Belgium. However, for most of its history, Oost-Vlaanderen territory was part of the County of Flanders.
Ghent, the capital city of East Flanders, is located in the central part of the province. The city is known for its relatively diverse history, with several landmarks dating back to the middle ages. One such historical destination in the city is the Castle of the Counts, offering audio-guided tours. Visitors can explore the castle's history while listening to narrated tales of medieval battles. Part of the castle exhibition is a collection of torture equipment and judicial objects. The space now serves as a venue for cultural activities, events, and even weddings for the locals of Ghent. Another considerable tourist destination in the city of Ghent is Graslei and Korenlei streets, separated by the Lys River, which has functioned as a port since the 11th century. The two streets are connected by the Grasbrug Bridge, offering a panoramic view of the river and both historical streets. Along the Graslei, some of the houses lining the water date back to the middle ages. People can view the Cooremetershuys, now an accessory store that used to serve as the hub for grain trade with its official corn measurer. Another historical house is the Guild House of the Free Sailors, known for its preserved façade. Among other historical landmarks in the city belong the Old St Elizabeth Beguinage, St Michael's Bridge, St Bravo's Cathedral, and the Ghent Belfry, which is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
To the southeast of Ghent is situated the Ooidonk Castle, a former residence of the Lords of Nevele, which was later owned by the Dukes of Montmorency. Later, the historical building underwent battles and destruction during the 16th-century religious wars. In today's time, the castle is the residence of the 6th Count and Countess t'Kint de Roodenbeke, who maintain the property as a historical landmark. Apart from the historical exhibitions, the castle's surroundings, including water features and the nearby river Leie, together with the castle grounds and gardens, are also reasons tourists tend to visit the Ooidonk Castle.
The province of Oost-Vlaanderen, or East Flanders, lies in the northwestern part of the country, contributing to the state border with the Netherlands to the north. Other provinces neighboring East Flanders include the province of West Flanders in the west, the Dutch province of Zeeland with Zeeuws-Vlaanderen in the north, the provinces of Antwerp and Flemish Brabant in the east, and the Walloon Hainaut in the south. The capital city, Ghent, is located in the central part of the province. The highest peak within the province's borders is Hotondberg, situated in the southernmost part of the territory. The peak is a witness hill in the Flemish Ardennes, with an altitude of approximately 150 meters tall. Atop the mountain can be found the Hotond-Scherpenberg nature reserve. Oost-Vlaanderen consists of six districts, with four of them (Ghent, Aalst, Sint-Niklaas, and Dendermonde) positioned within the triangle formed by the neighboring urban areas of Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent, which are also the most populated areas. The remaining districts of Oudenaarde and Eeklo are situated on the outskirts of the so-called "golden triangle." The province's economy is primarily based on the metal, chemical, and textile industries. However, the region also features a floriculture industry, with the azaleas and begonias of Ghent and the cut flowers of Aalst being renowned globally.
In the province of Oost-Vlaanderen, there are several nature reserves and protected areas. One of them is Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen, a natural area on Ghent's outskirts. The local landscape is formed of marshy grasslands, creating a habitat for several bird species, such as pintail, gadwall, shelduck, tufted duck, and pochard, to name a few. Other species inhabiting the area include Alpine newts, common toads, hares, and rabbits. Thus, bird watching is one of the activities available in the reserve. Additionally, several walking and hiking trails stretch across Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen's territory.
Regarding climate and weather in the East Flanders province's capital, Ghent, the warmest month is August, with an average daily temperature of 24°C. Reportedly, February is the coldest month, as temperatures rest around 7°C on average. April tends to be the driest month in Ghent because it generally receives 46 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during August, as it receives an average of about 86 mm.
During ancient times, the area of today's Oost-Vlaanderen was inhabited by the Menapii, whose lands stretched along the North Sea. As the Frankish Empire split in the 9th century, the region west of the Scheldt became part of West Francia, while the shire of Brabant, situated to the east of the Scheldt, became part of Lorraine. Following the division of Lorraine, the entire shire of Brabant became part of East Francia. It was not until the 11th century that the Count of Flanders conquered the land between the Scheldt and Dender, giving rise to Rijks-Vlaanderen.
For a considerable part of its history, East Flanders was part of the County of Flanders, a political entity in the medieval Low Countries. The economic prosperity of Flemish cities like Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres contributed to Flanders becoming "One of the most affluent regions in Europe" while fostering international trade connections. In 1384, Flanders became part of the Burgundian Netherlands, which is reported to have "complicated its relationship with France." After various historical events and treaties, the majority of the county came under the control of the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century. After Napoleon's defeat, the province's area underwent a name change to reflect its geographic location in the eastern region of the historical County of Flanders, situated in the western part of the present-day Flemish Region. Following the liberation by the Allies in 1815, the Dutch province of East Flanders was founded. However, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, which was also part of the region, was later separated and incorporated into the province of Zeeland. In 1830, the area became the Belgian province of East Flanders.
In current times, several historical landmarks are scattered throughout Oost-Vlaanderen's territory. One such monument is the Belfry of Ghent, protected by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites, part of the "Belfries of Belgium and France" set. The Ghent belfry's construction began in the 14th century, and since then, it has been the tallest belfry in Belgium.
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