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Old May 29th, 2012, 03:23 AM   #101
600West218
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I grew up by the Erie Canal in New York which is of extreme historical importance in the US so yup, I'm obsessed. The other thing is canals, like railroads, tend to be where the other thing is that I am obsessed about, industry.

BTW, to see how truly I am obsessed with them wait until you see the latter part of this thread :-)

Anyways, as I discovered in Ghent, some Belgians are obsessed with beer. I think canals are a healthier obsession than beer.

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Old May 29th, 2012, 03:39 AM   #102
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Day 2 in Ghent got off to a rocky start. I had been out past 1 am drinking strong Belgian beer and eating Belgian Fries. I woke up late (around 9:30) and had a very bad headache. I downed a lot of asperin before heading out the door.

I was scheduled to see the MIAT industrial museum and headache or no headache I was going to get there. To get these I pretty much just walked along the same river where I was staying for 2 or maybe 3 kilometers.

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Very nice new modern apartments where I stayed. The integration of new and old in Ghent was quite nice. I wonder what was here before though.

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Even the Peniches have graffiti/artwork.

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Yet more nice modern apartments close to the city center.

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Here they had an earthen dam blocking water for some sort of work.

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Yet more locks on the “river”. You can’t help but wonder at what point does it cease to be a river and become a canal.

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There really wasn’t much activity on this river. In fact, I don’t think I recall seeing any boats ever moving on it. That is very different from, say, Chareloi where I would see lots of cargo boats using the canals.

BTW, there seemed to be a real dearth of places to eat. I was desperate to find some place to eat breakfast or even get some coffee because I thought it would help my headache. Only after much searching did I find one little place.

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Looking towards the center from inside the museum.

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They had these very helpful diagrams that gave good time lines of various intellectual, historical and industrial events.

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Some standard 19th century looms.

At this point a security guard came by and told me I was not allowed to take any photographs in the museum. This was extremely annoying and I really don’t get the point of it as long as you aren’t using your flash. The only thing I can think of is they want people to buy their books rather than take pictures.

The museum was good, definitely quite good for a regional museum. But it isn’t a world class museum. It isn’t as good, for example, as either the Manchester MOSI or Armley Mills in Leeds. They didn’t have any equipment running, for example. So, if you live in Belgium I definitely think the museum is one you should visit. But you shouldn’t travel to Ghent from another country just to see this museum. I didn’t see anything unique there that would justify that. Plus not being able to take pictures is a major negative.

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The museum is on the European Route of Industrial History.

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The textile industry still seems to have a presence in Ghent as I saw various shops with fabrics and yarns, often with bright colors.

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Walking toward the city center I ran into this interesting building which seemed to be some sort of trade union or political party headquarters.

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I can make out “socialist” but not the other word.

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Looks like a city owned van, but for what I don’t know.

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Very typical looking Flemish buildings but I am not sure how old they actually are.

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Ughhhh. Come’on Ghent, you can do better than that.

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Now I was in the historical heart of the city.

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This building(s) is stunning and I am not happy with the pictures at all. They just do no justice to it. It is the Ghent town hall and is quite old. It was built in two parts, which are clearly distinct. The right hand side is about a hundred years older than the left hand side (1530s versus 1630s). Both parts are truly stunning.

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The Ghent Belfry. It is also very old (1300s?) and was used to serve as a lookout post for the city to warn of invaders coming and also was a bit of a secure place for residents. You can go up the tower, which I did.

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I particularly like this part of the town hall.

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The building the Belfry is part of is quite massive.

BTW, note the dragon way up on the very top of the Belfry. That is a copy but hundreds of years ago another dragon was put up there. I think the dragon was stolen from some other city. Anyways, I am very curious how they got it up there. Very large scaffolding maybe?

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No idea what this building is but I thought it was nice.

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At the end of the square was the Ghent Cathederal which is nice in its own right. But it is most famous for the Mystic Lamb painting it holds.

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This is a reproduction of the Mystic Lamb. The real thing is in a different room that you have to pay to enter and it is protected behind glass. I did go to see it and it was well worth it.

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After seeing the cathederal I was exhausted and hungry as I had not eaten properly and was still suffering the effects of all the Belgian beer. So I took a lunch break before continueing with my exploration of Ghent which will be in the second part of this post.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 05:55 AM   #103
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Day 2 in Ghent Continued.

After lunch I felt much better and headed to the Belfry.

You can go up the Belfry, which I did, and along the way they have different exhibits.

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This is an old dragon that would have been on the top in the past. But it isn’t the original dragon I don’t believe.

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One of the massive bells in the Belfry

This is the “machine” room of the Belfry. This machine would run once every 15 minutes I think. It would rotate slightly and the bumps on the drum would move the cable which would cause different bells to be struck.

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Finally getting to the top the views were quite nice.

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The cathederal as seen from the Belfry

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I think this is looking north.

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You can see the industrial section of Ghent in the distance (which I would be extremely fortunate to get a great tour of the following day). One thing needs to be mentioned. During the whole trip I saw wind turbines pretty much everywhere. The interesting thing was they were never in large numbers. In any given place there always seemed to be between 6 and 12 of them. I never saw any huge wind farms like we have in the US where there are hundreds in the same place. Also, they seemed to place them in built up areas or industrial areas where I guess there were unlikely to be complaints about “visual pollution”.

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Some new monstrosity being built in the center of Ghent. I have no idea what it is but it looks totally out of place.

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I then continued walking towards the other side of the center and passed this church.

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And finally wound up at this nice river/canal.

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Looking back towards the Belfry

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In this picture the low buildings are mainly old “guild houses” which are some of the oldest structures in Ghent. The guilds included things like “boatman” and “grain weighers” and these were constructed during the Rennesaince.

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This is the castle parts of which go all the way back to the 9th century with additions being made in the 1200s and 1400s.

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This is a very interesting little plaza across from the castle.

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The castle houses a decent museum, mainly of ways to fight, torture or execute people.

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I always used to think that the hooks on these spears were decorative but apparently they are to hook into the armor of a fighter to either pull apart his armor or pull him off his horse.

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The top of the castle afford a decent view.

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This is an actual guillotene that had been used to execute people. It even had the burlap bag that your head would fall into. It was rather unpleasant even being around it.

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Thumbscrews. Nice people these Belgians.

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Wow, they are waterboarding someone!!!!! So it wasn’t the US military that started this, it was the Belgians!

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There seem to be all different shapes and sizes of trams. Also, I am not sure how such a small city, and with so many people who ride bikes, supports so many trams.

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Very impressive stonework I must say.

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This is a pretty interesting thing to do to mark a child being born. I’m told they still do it.

Now I headed back to the cathederal area to meet up with my host.

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Interesting old buildings along the water. I am sure all the old buildings here had a story, probably a few stories, if only we knew them.

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Careful not to get run down by bikers.

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This one street had a lot of graffiti on it. It was later pointed out to me that it was specifically designated for graffiti

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I then met up with my host who was going to give me a personalized tour of the center of Ghent. So I revisited some of the same places I had seen, but with interesting explanations of their history.

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If I am recalling correctly this was a statue to the painters of the Mystic Lamb...

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The very old guild houses again.

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I think the large gray stone one in the middle was a grain warehouse.

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It rained a few times so we headed inside for, what else, beer.

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This trout with the golden ring is a famous beer there.

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As I didn’t enjoy waking up with a hangover I told my host I didn’t want to stay out so late and I didn’t want to have a hang over. In true Belgian fashion instead of having me out drinking until 1 am like the previous night my host kept me out until 3 am. As my host told me, I was in Belgium and had to make good use of my time. I could sleep when I got back to France.

Anyways, the next days plans were to visit the Atlantic Wall in Ostende and then do some more touring of Ghent in the evening. The day would turn out to be more interesting than I could imagine.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 08:15 AM   #104
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I don't think that has anything to do with it. Most of the food is nowadays imported and farmers make about a half percent of the population. Every year lot's of farmland is converted into 'usable land' (housing, industry, ...)
Some corrections, because these numbers are not really true.
Belgium has more export than import of agricultural products, and in fact, in 2009 had an agricultural trade surplus of more than 3 billion euros. Whereas some countries with more green space, like the UK or Germany, had a trade deficit. (Our northern neighbor The Netherlands, though, is a much bigger exporter than Belgium in agriculture)
Numbers of the FAO shows Belgium having the 17th biggest agricultural trade surplus in the world (The Netherlands having the 2nd, after Brazil)

The number of agricultural companies has indeed steadily declined in Flanders, so did the number of 'farmers' (although not as much). The revenue, though has increased with 20% during the last 10 years. The number of farmland also was rather constant the last 15 years or so (it did drop during the last century of course)

I'm sorry for this boring intervention, i'm studying for my Agricultural Economy exam tomorrow

Last edited by Buffalo Soldier; May 29th, 2012 at 08:53 AM.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #105
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Great new update 600 west! About the trams, they still have a high ridership...It is Europe, so the car in urban area's is not really the way to go with all the small streets and such . Ghent still has 250.000 inhabitants and with all the students a lot more actually... More than enough to support a tram system. There are smaller cities that support tram systems in Europe.

Looking forward to Oostende, the tram overthere (and along the coast) is the longest tramline in the world
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Old May 29th, 2012, 12:36 PM   #106
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Another fascinating odyssey. Hopefully you were able to see more of the vast numbers of old textile mills and other factories which still stand in and around Gent/Lille. The Flemish language is a myth though.

Last edited by MattN; May 29th, 2012 at 01:12 PM.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 12:38 PM   #107
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Strange that no machines were running when you were at the MIAT. When I visited it some years ago, they were, which was really interesting/cool to see (and hear!)
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Old May 29th, 2012, 01:14 PM   #108
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Strange that no machines were running when you were at the MIAT. When I visited it some years ago, they were, which was really interesting/cool to see (and hear!)
I suppose they could only run on certain days, what kind of machines were running when you were there? I love these kinds of places, (stationary) steam engines in particular.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 01:23 PM   #109
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If I remember correctly, it were some early 19th century cotton-spinning machines

edit: and according to their website, they should still be there, running.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 01:30 PM   #110
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The socialist building is the local headquarters of the socialist union. It dates back to 1899 or so.
the street with Graffiti in it is known locally as "het graffitisteegje" which means "graffiti alley".

Also, I agree with you about the new thing they're building near the Belfry being a mostrosity (flame away fellow Be Forum members ) UNESCO seems to think so too by the way.

Looking forward to the next update.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 03:25 PM   #111
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buffalo Soldier View Post
Some corrections, because these numbers are not really true.
Belgium has more export than import of agricultural products, and in fact, in 2009 had an agricultural trade surplus of more than 3 billion euros. Whereas some countries with more green space, like the UK or Germany, had a trade deficit. (Our northern neighbor The Netherlands, though, is a much bigger exporter than Belgium in agriculture)
Numbers of the FAO shows Belgium having the 17th biggest agricultural trade surplus in the world (The Netherlands having the 2nd, after Brazil)

The number of agricultural companies has indeed steadily declined in Flanders, so did the number of 'farmers' (although not as much). The revenue, though has increased with 20% during the last 10 years. The number of farmland also was rather constant the last 15 years or so (it did drop during the last century of course)

I'm sorry for this boring intervention, i'm studying for my Agricultural Economy exam tomorrow
Thanks for the comment. It is interesting.

But I'm not sure they are giving correct information in your class. It seems to me there would be other countries that would be way bigger net exporters than Belgium could be such as the US and Canada.

I looked around and found this graph from the United Nations food and agriculture organization:

http://faostat.fao.org/Portals/_Faos.../pdf/map05.pdf

By this Belgium is a net importer of food, as is the Netherlands. In Western Europe it is France that is the next exporter.

The US, Canada, Australia, and Argentina are big exporters.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 03:27 PM   #112
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If I remember correctly, it were some early 19th century cotton-spinning machines

edit: and according to their website, they should still be there, running.
There may be. I was only there two hours so maybe they ran them when I wasn't there.

I don't recall seeing much in the way of steam engines. But I don't have pictures so I can't be sure.

I do recall seeing a partially disassembled Volvo car which later made sense once I saw the local assembly plant.

They also had a very interesting part on the evolution of computers and also on food consumption which a good diagram of how people got most of their caleries in the past and how they get them now.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 03:49 PM   #113
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I live 60km from Gand/Gent (in Lille) and I have never been there! I don't know Flanders very well too. I realize now what a shame it is... I really appreciate your tourist trip and your comments. But you should have put Paris at the end.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 04:15 PM   #114
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Thanks for the comment. It is interesting.

But I'm not sure they are giving correct information in your class. It seems to me there would be other countries that would be way bigger net exporters than Belgium could be such as the US and Canada.

I looked around and found this graph from the United Nations food and agriculture organization:

http://faostat.fao.org/Portals/_Faos.../pdf/map05.pdf

By this Belgium is a net importer of food, as is the Netherlands. In Western Europe it is France that is the next exporter.

The US, Canada, Australia, and Argentina are big exporters.
I have a bit of trouble finding the same data online. The ones I used are from a Belgian governmental report.
But if you go here:
http://faostat3.fao.org/home/index.html#VISUALIZE
And click on Trade, you can see Belgium as one of the main exporters of agricultural products in the world. Note that this is about trade of agricultural products, not about production, being the 7th biggest export country has a lot to do with the Antwerp Harbour. But still even in net-export, Belgium is 17th of the world. Again: agricultural products, so I guess processed food (which has a much higher value) are also included.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 04:30 PM   #115
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Nice pictures of Ghent. Too bad though that it was a rainy day. Everything looks more gray then.

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Ughhhh. Come’on Ghent, you can do better than that.
That's the Belgianwide standard design since the Police reform a few years back. I think it's an improvement to the former situation were 20 million different designs coexisted.

Interesting fact: you can recognise local police to the light blue stripe. Federal police uses an orange stripe.

See:



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Some new monstrosity being built in the center of Ghent. I have no idea what it is but it looks totally out of place.


It's called 'Stadshal' (City Hall, though this is not a good translation). It's part of a huge downtown revitalization project called 'KoBra' (acronym of Korenmarkt and Braunplein). The hall refers to the typical medieval ones found in lots of European cities.



The project is heavily contested in Ghent. Anyway, it used to be a parking lot so I do think it's an improvement. To bad they used glass as covering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattN View Post
The Flemish language is a myth though.
Dutch is the closest related language to English (aside from some minor regional languages such as Frisian and Scots). So I wouldn't call it that 'exotic'.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nijal View Post
I live 60km from Gand/Gent (in Lille) and I have never been there! I don't know Flanders very well too. I realize now what a shame it is... I really appreciate your tourist trip and your comments. But you should have put Paris at the end.
In many ways Lille resembles Flemish cities like Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp or Brussels.

Last edited by De Klauw; May 29th, 2012 at 05:21 PM.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 04:38 PM   #116
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There are also black police cars with dark blue letters. They certainly look bad ass in my eyes compaired to those white ones. They must be special units. I've seen them at drugs controls and with cases where a lot violence is involved.


Most federal police vehiclues have orange painted bumbers too: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7173/6...5d71b7a1_z.jpg
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Last edited by joshsam; May 29th, 2012 at 04:44 PM.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 04:44 PM   #117
MattN
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I never said it's exotic, I just meant that a lot of people seem to think there is a language called Flemish when there isn't. I've done some evening classes in Dutch but I don't exactly have a fluent command of it yet.

Thanks for your reply Buffalo Soldier.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 04:48 PM   #118
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattN View Post
I never said it's exotic, I just meant that a lot of people seem to think there is a language called Flemish when there isn't. I've done some evening classes in Dutch but I don't exactly have a fluent command of it yet.
Oh. I though you meant that Flemish had an exotic feeling.

But yes you are right. Flemish is not a language of it's own. Dutch is the only official language in Flanders. Flemish is more the informal name of Flemish Dutch like some call American English simply 'American'.




Quote:
Originally Posted by joshsam View Post
Most federal police vehiclues have orange painted bumbers too: image hosted on flickr
Yes that's the latest design update in order to improve recognizability.

This is the version the local police is using:
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Old May 29th, 2012, 05:08 PM   #119
MattN
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Indeed sir, people in my family who'd heard of the word certainly thought it was a language anyway.

There's something appealing about those police car liveries.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 05:15 PM   #120
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The funny thing about Flemish (Dutch) is when I would hear people start speaking for the first several words I thought it might be English (this is overhearing others, not a direct conversation) and only after the first several words did I realize it was not english. So I guess the sound of it must be similar to english for it to fool me like that.
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