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The secret is out, Ghent's a great place to visit

AS a UNESCO "Creative City of Music," Ghent has a vibrant nightlife and plenty of culture to offer travelers, writes Wang Yanlin.

Ghent is special and is often called Belgium's best-kept secret.

But the city's mayor says he wants everyone to know about it.

Ghent Mayor Daniel Termont has flown to Shanghai to introduce the city to more Chinese, rolling out the proverbial red carpet.

"We ourselves like to present our city as a 'city of knowledge and culture, accessible to anyone'," Termont said. "Knowledge and culture are indeed, undoubtedly, our two most important assets."

Ghent is in the heart of Belgium and a 35-minute drive from the country capital, Brussels. The population is 244,000.

More than a quarter of the population is students in university and other schools of higher education.

Termont said Ghent is a "young and vibrant" city, the second biggest in Belgium after Antwerp. But this is based on the principle that Brussels comprises 19 different cities, all smaller than Ghent.

But size matters not as Ghent was granted the title "Creative City of Music" by UNESCO in June 2009. It is one of only five cities in the world to be given the title along with Glasgow, Scotland; Seville, Spain; Bologna, Italy; and Harbin, China.

Ghent is proud of this title, Termont said.

In late August, rock band Absynthe Minded and hip-hop duo Mo & Grass performed in Shanghai. They also performed in Hangzhou and Beijing.

Absynthe Minded's music is pulsating and compels audiences to rock with it.

Bert Ostyn, the band's lead singer, said their tunes are inspired by Ghent, but that their music alone does not represent the city.

"It is not important," Ostyn said. "We just want to sing our stories to more people."

Maybe this attitude is part of Ghent's appeal as no single style dominates the city's music scene.

Ghent is called a "city of festivals," including the "Ghent Festivities," a festival that has been held in the city center since 1843 during the summer.

From Saint-Bavo's Cathedral, where the world famous Ghent Alterpiece panel painting is kept, to the Castle of the Counts, the Design Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent offers many places for people to explore and appreciate.


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