"Welcome in Oostende !!!!!" tweetycaro's Profile
I have been living in Oostende for all my life, and allthough it is very quiet in Winter I love this city.
Oostende, now a major Belgian city of about 90.000 people, was nothing more than a small village built on an island (called Testerep) between the North Sea and a beach lake. Although small, the village rose to the status of 'city' around 1265 when the inhabitants were allowed to hold a market and to build a market hall.
The major source of income for the inhabitants was, of course, fishing. The North Sea coastline has always been rather unstable and in 1395 the inhabitants decided to build a new Oostende behind large dikes and further away from the always threatening sea.
The strategic position on the North Sea coast had major advantages for Oostende as a harbor but also proved to be a source of trouble. The city was frequently taken, destroyed and rampaged by conquering armies. After their independence from the Spanish Empire, the Dutch had preserved some strongholds in the Southern Netherlands, such as the cities of Nieuwpoort and Oostende. Between 1601 and 1604 the Spanish army succeeded in taking Oostende from the 'Geuzen (= Protestant Dutch seperationists)'.
After this era Oostende turned into a quiet harbor of some importance. In 1722 the Dutch closed off the entrance to the harbor of Antwerp. Therefore, Oostende rose in importance because the city provided an alternative entrance to the sea. The Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) had became part of the Austrian Empire. The Austrian Emperor Charles VI granted the city the trade monopoly with Africa and the Far-East. The 'Oostendse Compagnie' (= the Ostend trade society) was allowed to found colonies overseas.
However, in 1727 the 'Oostendse Compagnie' was forced to stop its activities because of Dutch and British pressure. Holland and Britain would not allow competitors on the international trade level. But nations regarded international trade as their privilege.
In later times the harbor of Oostende continued to expand because the harbor dock, as well as the traffic connections with the hinterland, were improved. In 1838 a railway connection with Brussels was constructed. Oostende became a transit harbor to England in 1846 when the first Ferryboat sailed to Dover. Very important for the image of the city was the attention it started to receive from the Belgian kings Leopold I and Leopold II. Both liked to spent their vacations in Oostende. Important monuments and villas were built to please the Royal Family. The rest of aristocratic Belgium followed and soon Oostende became known as "The Queen of the Belgian sea-side resorts" .
Nowadays Oostende is a city of about 90.000 inhabitants and still the largest city at the Belgian coast.
Oostende has always been called 'The Queen of the Belgian Sea-side resorts', mainly because of the city's connection with the Belgian Royal Family. The first king Leopold I, owned a house in Oostende (Langestraat 69 ). It was here that his wife, Belgium's first Queen Louise-Marie d'Orleans died in 1850 at the age of 38.
It was, however, King Leopold II who gave Oostende its royal character. He had several villas built as from 1874. He liked Oostende so much that he regularly met with criticism on his neglecting the capital Brussels. Also, rumor quickly spread that Leopold II, who had numerous mistresses, preferred to be away from his wife in Brussels and spend more time in Oostende for his frequent amorous escapades. He rewarded the hospitality of the city with the construction of some magnificent monuments.
Later Belgian kings tended to stay away from Oostende. Leopold III preferred Knokke and his successor, King Boudewijn, preferred to spend his holidays in Spain, the home country of his wife Queen Fabiola.
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