Belgium as host country : In the heart of the European Union
Belgium, a constitutional monarchy and federal country covering a total area of ± 32,000 km² and with a population of about 10 million, has three communities: a Dutch, French and (small) German speaking community. As a federal country Belgium consists of three regions: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels Capital Region. Flanders is the northern and Dutch speaking part of Belgium, Wallonia being its southern 'counterpart' where the majority speaks French and a minority German. Brussels, the country's capital, and its surrounding region have a bilingual statute (Dutch - French). Brussels Capital Region, not to say Belgium, may thus easily be thought of as a crucible of languages and cultures. This has everything to do with (a) the country's position at the meeting point of two 'cultures' i.e. the more North- and the more South-European 'culture', (b) its history e.g. before 1830 The Netherlands and Belgium were united in the so-called '17 Provinces', and (c) Brussels being the center - politically and otherwise - of the European Union (EU). Would you like to see a map of the EU? Then click here.
Fifteen countries make up the EU. Every six months the EU presidency is turned over to another member state (in a fixed order). Belgium was in charge during the second half of 2001 while now Spain holds the presidency until June 30 of this year. On the economic level the EU has entered a crucial period: starting 1 January 2002 the new currency unit Euro ( € ) has replaced the existing currency units of the EU member states participating in this large scale operation, amongst them Belgium and The Netherlands. Some EU member states (e.g. the UK) are not enrolling this monetary union yet.
What is the Euro's exchange rate? To give but two examples: one € equals ± 0.8 - 0.9 US Dollar and ± 0.6 - 0.65 British Pound. In other words, one US Dollar equals ± 1.10 - 1.20 € while one British Pound equals ± 1.60 - 1.65 €. If at any given time you want to know the exact exchange rate of the Euro in relation to your currency unit, click here and fill in the required on the appearing web page.
To conclude this introduction to Belgium, a few practical pieces of information. Belgium lies in the time-zone GMT+1 hour. The mains voltage is 220 Volts. Which weather to expect in October? Maximum and minimum temperatures of 10-15 C° and 3-8 C° respectively. It can be (very) rainy and windy this time of year. If lucky, an autumn sun is in the sky. Just as well the first touch of frost might be in the air. The unstable climate turns any more precise statements on this subject into an adventure.
Ghent as host city : In the heart of Flanders
Situated at the confluence of the Schelde and the Leie - the two main rivers in Flanders - and halfway between Brussels and the North Sea (bounding Belgium / Flanders on its north-west side), Ghent combines the life of a modern city with a rich historical and cultural heritage as well as a scientific background.
Now having 350,000 inhabitants, the earliest traces of human activity in Ghent date back to the Stone and Iron Age. The Romans and Vikings as well have called in at the city. Charles Quint (Charles the Fifth), the world-famous cloth weaving, the renowned Van Eyck painting 'The Adoration of the Lamb of God', ... are all associated with Ghent. Different kinds of museums and historical buildings such as Sint-Baafs Kathedraal (Saint Bavo Cathedral), the Belfry and the Sint-Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicolas church) can be visited. The towers of these three buildings dominate the wonderful city skyline. The 13th century castle the Gravensteen, the two abbeys Sint-Baafs and Sint-Pieters, the medieval Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) and City Hall - where in one of its halls the religious peace between catholics and protestants was sealed in 1576 - should not go unmentioned. As a matter of fact, you can get to know the medieval Lakenhalle by subscribing for the conference banquet taking place there on Saturday evening (19:30) October 19 while City Hall is the reception venue on Friday evening (18:00) October 18, 2002. And Ghent University, founded in 1817 by King Willem I of the '17 Provinces' and now Belgium's second university, renders the city an image of science and through its 23,000 students contributes to the young and lively atmosphere in Ghent.
The charming canals inviting you for a walk, the many tempting pubs and restaurants, all the recreational and cultural possibilities not to mention the city being an ideal operating base to the rest of Flanders / Belgium make Ghent a very interesting city to live and visit. For a multi-media introduction to Ghent, click here.
Conference location 'Het Pand' : In the center of Ghent
The conference location, called 'Het Pand', is a fine example of Ghent's history and nowadays' life being intertwined. Originally a hospital founded in 1201, the building was later donated to the Dominican Order. Due to destruction during the 16th century iconoclastic fury only a fraction of the library's famous collection of books and manuscripts has been preserved.
Since 1963 the university owns the complex and spares no trouble or expense to restore and preserve this former monastery while equipping it as a conference center in the greatest respect for tradition. 'Het Pand', exuding an atmosphere of contemplation, thus lends itself perfectly for a conference on dialogicality and meaning reconstruction. If you cannot restrain your curiosity regarding the conference location, click here.
Onderbergen 1 - next to Sint-Michielskerk (Saint Michael's Church)
Other locations in Ghent relevant to conference participants
Other relevant locations with their respective addresses are listed below: