Belgium A to Z – G and H

G – Guilds

Not gills, Guilds!!

Basically, guilds were the trade unions of past centuries. Since the middle ages until I don’t know when (great background research, hun?), guilds congregated craftsmen of certain sectors (for example, weavers, brewers or ship builders) in N and W Europe. They eventually became a force powerful enough to imprint on the History of the Low Countries.

The reason why I mention guilds is merely touristic. Almost every city which was part of ancient Flanders has a Grote Markt (The Great Market): a large square that signals its centre. The same way one goes to Italy and awes at churches, one comes to the Low Countries to awe at the Grote Markts. And what’s so special about those wonderful squares is that they’re lined by monuments, which are usually the old houses of the guilds. The glorious merchant past is as engraved in Flemish society as in the beauty of Flemish cities.

The Grote Markt of Antwerp (left) and guild houses at the one of Brussels (right).

H – Hot

This entry is not about how incredibly and unbearably hot it can get in Belgium, despite what anyone might thing about the Northern European climate.

By hot, I mean cute and sexy! This entry is a praise to a lovely phenomenon that happens when, for the first time in the year, temperatures rise above 17°C and the sun shines: a collective hatching of hotties. Hundreds of people, who had spend the winter hidden under practical outdoor jackets, shrunk by the cold inside ugly hoodies and frowning from the rain on their faces, suddenly swarm the streets and parks of Leuven on a delightful display of good disposition and athletic bodies under clothes with very little fabric. People change so abruptly that the first time I noticed it, one afternoon three years ago, I genuinely thought there was some excursion of exceptionally good looking tourists zipping drinks at the esplanades of the Grote Markt.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a perv! Of course it’s a feast for the eyes, but it’s also the ultimate announcement of the arrival two great things: the warm weather and the long days when the city’s evenings feel like we’re in a summer resort. After the long dark winter, it’s all everybody’s waiting for!

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