I’m going to refer to Bruges by the Flemish name Brugge. I don’t understand why European place names are translated into the language that is being spoken and instead keeping the spelling and pronounciation of the native language. As long as the Latin alphabet is in play, of course. I guess foreign conquests contributed to this phenenonmen, but I digress . . .
Everyone who has been to Brugge says you must visit and now I know why. Brugge is place where you can easily imagine going backwards in time to the medieval period. I think it’s the most charming historic city we’ve visited. The architecture is amazing and even the outskirts of the city feel old. Part of the reason is because they take care to make the buildings look old even when they are new. It’s brilliant!
Brugge is about a 2.5 hr drive from our house and we were there by lunchtime on Saturday. After lunch, we joined a free walking tour led by a guy named Hendrick. Hendrick was born and raised in Flanders, but his English sounded British. He said that was a mystery, but we guessed he watched a lot of BBC during his formative years. 🙂 Hendrick gave a great tour with lots of history, stories and jokes. Some keywords from Brugge history are: textiles, trade, beer and tourism. Brugge was a happening place during the middle ages, but declined during the Renaissance. Later on, we found a small family restaurant near our bed and breakfast on the outer part of the city. Our dinner was fantastic. It was a nice night so we walked back into the center of the city. The city under lights is quite magical – like being in a painting.
After a day in Gent (next post!), we came back to Brugge on Sunday night to hear some live music at a wine bar that was recommended by a coworker. The place was tiny and the tables were full, but we had made a reservation. The owner quickly made things right by moving a few people around (not so easy in such a small space). We ended up on the second floor near the entertainment. A guy on guitar and a guy on keyboard played jazz and blues tunes — they were pretty good!
On Monday, we started the day with a climb up the Belfry tower — 366 steps to the top. The carillon and bells are impressive and of course, the view is amazing. Some frites, some chocolate, some shopping, the Historium museum, the chocolate museum, beer break and then a delicious dinner. There are chocolate shops everywhere, but we managed to pick one that is family owned and we learned later that they were voted best chocolatier in Brugge this past year. The owner was as sweet as her chocolate. Our beer break was on a balcony overlooking the Grote Markt where we watched children chase big bubbles across the square. An industrious young fellow created bubbles there for hours. We had dinner at a Flemish pub where almost everything was made with beer. My fish stew was absolutely devine. We somehow scored a room with a BIG tub at the B&B, so I seized the chance for a hot soak before bed. What a day!
We made a couple more stops before leaving the city on Tuesday. We went into the Basillica of the Holy Blood, which is Gothic and not my favorite architecture. We should have gone to the Church of Our Lady to see the Madonna instead — oh well. One last turn around both squares and then I got a yummy Belgian waffle before we headed out.
To sum it up: we loved Brugge and look forward to going back!