The Brugge of my dreams
First time in Brugge ?
I'm an art lover but rushing into museums is not my appropriate way to visit a city anymore. It used to be so since my first visits to Brugge were to attend exhibitions at Oud-Sint-Jan center in the 90s. Rethinking of it, I'd advise to just walk in the city & along the canals. Feel free to not rush. Stop walking whenever you want to admire the scene. The medieval architecture (Flemish style, medieval flair, wooden houses), the canals, the beguinage, the many important buildings looking into the waters, this sheer beauty...
Thing is, in Brugge, I didn't find the usual monuments that are common to Belgian cities exceptional. The City Hall, Brussels apart, Leuven has a much more impressive city hall. The Grote Markt, I didn't like it. OK, it was packed and there was this fair there but what I can find fun in Brussels or Antwerp, I found it quite unbearable here. Nearly bumped into a woman while taking a piture of it... The Belfry, well, maybe because it was on this Grote Markt that I didn't like much, I was not impressed by it. Maybe in pure daylight, without those small neon lights on the facades of the buildings, those colourful red brick houses are nicer to see ?
The place where lie the City hall and the Tourist Office, named the Burg, is much nicer. The nice chapel with those golden adornments too. It is the Holy Blood Chapel. My picture was too dark to be uploaded here but I loved it.
This said, Brugge beats many Belgian cities with this medieval flair. The beauty, the cuteness are those of the particular houses, in the details of the gablestones, of the layout of the whole city. Oh! lovely canals. Romantic Minnewater. Who can be that ?
Maybe that's the reason why the city deserves its status of UNESCO heritage. With a few exceptions, the pictures are those of Brugge of my dreams. I lived the real Brugge each time I go there. Still, I tried to capture the Brugge of my dreams.
While walking along the canals, feel free to not rush. Stop walking whenever you want to admire the scene. The hordes of tourists may pressure you and you may bump into someone while walking or adjusting your lense. Slow down.
I've never seen any church that was so crowded with tourists. I was impressed. Even the church located in the most crowded street in Brussels is not as crowded as the church I entered in in Brugge. Funny enough, I didn't have the intention to take any picture of the famous painting there neither the sculpture (seemingly a Michelangelo). I took a photo of the crowd in front of it, instead. De facto, I have the picture of the much sought after Michelangelo's work in the then Low Countries. OK, spot the Madonna.
That's the real Brugge: crowded, crowded, crowded.. though it was silent, though it was wet and cold, though it was misty.
Amidst the crowd, you have to have your own Brugge, both the real & the dream Brugge.
never to return alone again
Wandering the cobblestone streets of Bruges has to be tops of everyone's list and sitting in a romantic cafe sipping an assortment of Belgian beers when it's all done is mine. Bruges has always been a bit of an enigma to me. My first trip to Belgium was strictly a beery pilgrimage. I met some friends in Antwerp for the famed 24 hours of beer festival and figured while in the country I may as well explore the better known sites so took in capital Brussels and World Heritage Site Bruges. Bruges was my last port of call and I must say it took my breath away. Antwerp and Brussels were certainly beautiful cities in their own rights but I was too consumed with beery ventures to let either seep too far into my bones. Bruges presented itself as not only a medieval masterpiece preserved in time but also a fantastically romantic getaway. There was only one problem; I didn’t have anyone to romance. I was alone. I wandered the cobblestone streets and took in all the requisite sights but somehow something was missing. I passed innumerable candle lit cafes and envied couples in all too romantic settings. I resolved never to return alone.
I made my way back five years later with hopes of bringing a Belgian girl I’d “met” on the Internet and though I did meet her in person in Ghent we never made it to Bruges. So, you might imagine my excitement when now a newly married man I planned the most recent trip to Belgium en route to my wife’s family’s home for the Christmas holidays. It would be a rushed affair but we would have one day in the city with the Lake of Love. One thing led to another and soon we were also meeting some good VT friends while there and though excited it soon became apparent as the trip neared that our romantic getaway would now perhaps not be the two of us experience we initially planned. (Continued below in Fondest Memory)
Walking through the city of Bruges you will notice that a certain type of houses can be seen quite often in the city. Those houses are mostly late medieval-looking and bear a name and a year on the outside wall. They are called Godshuizen. Literally translated: Houses of God.
As early as the 14th century rich families and rich corporations of Flemish cities built houses for poor. Most of the time these houses form a complex around an inner court where the people of the complex could get their water and grow vegetables. Most complexes also have a chapel where the inhabitants were supposed to pray for the souls of their benefactors. These benefactors bought of their sins this way.
In most Godshuizen the poor inhabitants also received food and basic care.
Bruges has numerous examples of these houses. Every group of houses was meant for a specific group of the population: widows, widowers, older couples, etc.... Most Godshuizen bear the name of the donator on the outside wall, together with the year of construction.
The houses in Bruges are most from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Most are still inhabited, mostly by elderly people. They now belong to the OCMW of Bruges, the Department of Social Care.
Eating Flemish fries
What is better than to enjoy the taste of real Flemish fries, while you are sitting in the sun. The fries shop at the Markt, that is infront of the Belfry Tower, is perfect for it, at the same time you can admire all the beautiful buildings at the Markt.
THE MEMLING MUSEUM.
THE MEMLING MUSEUM. This museum is housed in the church of the medieval Hospital of St. John, and the Church of Our Lady. As its name suggests, this place contains as its primary attraction six works by the Flemish painter Hans Memling (c. 1430-1494).