The eighth chapter of Bruges-la-Morte is the only chapter that is not told from the point of view of Hugues Viane. Rather, we follow his middle-aged Flemish housekeeper, Barbe, as she makes use of a rare free day to visit a relative who lives at the Béguinage.
She walks to the Béguinage by way of the Minnewater, the Lake of Love (or ‘Lake Which One Loves’, as the author Georges Rodenbach suggests).
Barbe loves this artificial lake because it reminds her of her youth in a Flemish village. It is Easter Sunday, a beautiful clear morning, and she loves “this dozing pond, with water lilies like the hearts of children at their first communion, the grassy banks full of flowers, the windmills gesticulating on the horizon.”
The author explains that Barbe has “a pious soul, with that Flemish faith that retains a bit of Spanish Catholicism, the sort of faith where scruples and terror are stronger than confidence and the fear of Hell is stronger than the longing for Heaven.”
Chapter Eight: The Béguinage
This lake has a very romantic name, but definitely not so romantic purpose. The river Reie was canalized so it could run through the city, the lake was used as a water pool to control the water level in the canals.
But the view is indeed romantic, the lake is "surrounded" by a park on one side and the Beguinage on the other. Swans seem to like the lake as well, so you'll find many of them there. The castle-like restaurant by the lake completes the perfect picture. It has a nice terrace facing the lake, so you can enjoy some famous belgian beers.
Favorite thing: Just behind the Begijnhof is this lovely little lake with flowers and swans and probably several tour boats. It is locally called the "Lake of Love" since Minne is the Flemish word for love, but there doesn't seem to be much to back up this name. However, it is a peaceful place for a rest and some people watching. We even found some good Belgian waffles (imagine!) just beside it. There is also some legend having to do with Maximillian cursing Brugge to have to keep swans on their lakes eternally.
Let's get back to the medieval houses (they really should place labels with detailed history on this marvelous houses). Near the Love Lake - Minnewater (I suppose you read my 'must see activities about this one'), near a bridge that sepparates the lake from the canals, is this wonderful lonely house.
I found out what is about this house. This is the 16th century lock-keeper's house (Sluice House), which conects the canals of the old town with the Minnewater, which is connected with the Canal of Ghent.
Minnewater doesn't get it's name from minnaar (dutch for lover) - the minne is an ancient germanic term for an elf or sprite. Which makes sense when you realise the whole area used to be oak forest and a major centre for druids.
Whatever the name, it's gorgeous, isn't it?
A symbol of Bruges is the swan. And you will see them everywhere in the Reie. And there are always plenty around the Minnewater.
A legend about the swans of Bruges goes as folows: In 1488 the people of Bruges had executed one of the town administrators called Pieter Lanchals, his name means long neck. The Lanchals family coat of arms featured a white swan. Maximilian, to whose court the administrator belonged, punished Bruges. The inhabitants had to keep swans on their lakes and canals untill eternity.
If you have the opportunity to stay until the darkness falls, please do so. Brugge is absolutely beautiful at night. Especially the market square and the Minnewater Park look amazing.
Fondest memory: The bridge at the Lake of Love was beautifully lit at night. It looked so amazing. Even prettier than during the day.
On your way from the train station to the city center you cannot escape the Minnewater Park. It's a beautiful entrance to Brugge. The Lake Of Love is the heart of the park. Altough there are many legends on how the lake got it's name, the true origins are less romantic.
The park is also teh host of some concerts and festivals in Brugge. The cactus festival for instance is a folk festival with some great artists over the years like Suzanne Vega and Stereo Mc's.
The Minnewater and its lovely park is one of the first things you see in the city of Bruges, when arriving by train. The Minnewater is a canalized lake. The picture is taken from the bridge (1740).
The coastal river Reie entered the city here. The river was canalized and made to continue to the center of town. There are several explanations as where the name Minnewater comes from. It could be water van het gemeen, which can be translated as the 'common water'. The lake was used as a water reservoir.
The lake is also called lake of love (minne means love), imagine the stories for that name.
One of the symbols of Bruges is the swan. There are always plenty to be found on the Minnewater. The legend about the swans of Bruges: In 1488 the people of Bruges had executed one of the town administrators belonging to the court of Maximilian of Austria. The town administrator ,Pieter Lanchals, family coat of arms featured a white swan. Legend has it that Maximilian punished Bruges by obliging the population to keep swans on their lakes and canals till eternity.
Favorite thing: Het Minnewater, thans een romantische plek, deed vroeger dienst als handelskom en aanlegplaats voor de "barges" of trekschuiten die een regelmatige transportdienst verzekerden tussen Brugge en Gent. Naast de brug over het Minnewater ziet u de Poertoren, een voormalige munitieopslagplaats.
Favorite thing: Brugge is small enough to explore on foot. The tourist board offers various city walks that you can do on your own by means of a map and a pamphlet with some information on the sites you see underway.
EAT CHOCOLATE!!! My favorite chocolate was from 'Pralinette.'
Fondest memory: Strolling down the cobble stone streets to Minnewater...here you can walk into the courtyard of the convent and see the swans on the 'Lake of Love.' Great photo opps!
Favorite thing: Take a walk around Lover's Lake. In many cities and towns in Europe you'll get anxiety about having to see everything. Here, you can take a break from all of the touristy stuff and just hang out.