Ay Marieke Marieke je t’aimais tant
Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand
Ay Marieke Marieke il y a longtemps
Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand
In the song by Jacques Brel, Marieke was twenty years old when he loved her so much (and so long ago) between the towers of Brugge/Bruges and Gent/Gand.
In the statue by Jef Claerhout, Marieke looks younger. In her light summer dress and open shoes she seems to be shivering in the cold wind, so people try to dress her to protect her from the elements.
At the base of the statue (third photo), the inscription lets on that this is a tribute to Jacques Brel (1929-1978), inaugurated ten years after his death.
At first glace it might seem odd for a city in Flanders to be honoring a singer who was reputed to be wildly prejudiced against the Flemish. But actually it’s not quite that simple. Although Brel spoke and sang mainly in French, he was of half Flemish descent and always described himself as being Flemish, though he was opposed to Flemish nationalism.
Marieke is one of his few bi-lingual songs, with alternate verses in French and Dutch. The Dutch verses say that without love, warm love, there would just be wordless wind and the weeping grey sea and sand blowing over the flat country that he calls “my Flanders”.
He varies the text with each reprise, and in the second Dutch verse he even lapses into French three times to say “c’est fini” (it’s finished) and “déjà fini” (already finished) and “tout est fini” (everything is finished).
In the second French verse he sings about the Flemish sky, which “cries with me from Bruges to Gand”. And in the third French verse he asks Marieke if the Flemish sky was weighing down too heavily on her twenty years.
In the third Dutch verse the black devil laughs, his old heart burns, the summer dies and sand covers the flat country, which he again calls “my Flanders”.
In the fourth French verse he tells Marieke he wishes the time would return “when you loved me from Bruges to Gand”.
In the fifth and last French verse, he tells the absent Marieke that in the evenings all the ponds from Bruges to Gand open their arms to him. Do you suppose he is tempted to drown himself in the Minnewater?
Perhaps Jacques Brel’s powerful song is not so far removed from Bruges-la-Morte after all.
Marieke original lyrics in French and Dutch
Jacques Brel singing Marieke on YouTube
(I have a question for all my Dutch-speaking friends: What do you think of Jacques Brel’s pronunciation when he sings the Dutch-language verses of this song?)
Location of the Marieke statue on OpenStreetMap: Predrikherenrei
After all these years I have finally realized why it is that lovely young ladies in French love songs are always twenty years old, rather than nineteen or twenty-one.
The reason is that the French expression for “your twenty years”, tes vingt ans, has only three syllables and is easy to sing. It practically rolls off your tongue while you’re groping for guitar chords, and it fits in smoothly with the rest of your lyrics, whatever they might be.
Tes dix-neuf ans, on the other hand, is already four syllables and somewhat harder to get your mouth around.
Tes vingt-et-un ans is even worse. It has five syllables, with consonants that clack around in your mouth and get in your way while you’re trying to sound heartsick.
So I have some advice for all you gorgeous young ladies who want to be immortalized in a French love song. My advice is to love him and break his heart while you’re still twenty. Then he’ll sing about you for the rest of his life.
But if you do it a year earlier or later you’ll end up being just another faded memory.
Next: Canals and history
Brugge has numerous historic buildings from several centuries, some of which I have shown in my General (Favorite) tips.
Here are just two more examples, one from 1692, recently renovated, and a modest brick house from 1904 (second photo), similar to houses from the same period that can be found in outlying neighborhoods of Liège, for example.
Unlike the venerable and world-famous Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, which dates mainly from the year 1888 and has its own symphony orchestra, the building of the same name in Brugge is a rather clunky-looking product of the early twenty-first century.
The building was intended to be ready for Brugge’s turn as the “European Capital of Culture” in 2002. The cornerstone was laid in 2000. On February 20th 2002 (which in Europe is often written as 20.02.2002) the building was officially opened with a concert that began at precisely 20:02 in the evening.
I haven’t been inside (yet), but apparently the main concert hall, with 1289 seats, can be tweaked acoustically to produce the best sound for each performance, for instance for symphony concerts or staged operas. In their current season, however, no opera performances are scheduled as far as I can see.
There is also a Chamber Music Hall with a maximum of 320 seats, as well as various reception rooms which can be used for a variety of public and private events.
In the Concertgebouw building there is also a tourist information office (third photo) and a bicycle rental service (fourth photo). As of 2012, prices for renting a normal bicycle are 4 Euros for one hour, 8 Euros for half a day or 12 Euros for a full day. Most or all bicycle rental shops in Brugge have the same prices.
't Zand 34
Tel. +32 (0)50 47 69 99
Location on Google Maps
Next: 't Zand
In front of the Concertgebouw there is a large barren-looking square called ‘t Zand, which is more or less empty except for a fountain and sculptures by Stefaan Depuydt and Livia Canestraro, dated 1985-86.
There are four groups of sculptures around the fountain, including this group of metal cyclists.
Attached to the base of the fountain are two small plaques (third photo) with enigmatic inscriptions.
The first plaque is in Italian, from a poem by Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo de' Medici, 1449–1492), and reads:
Quant’è bella giovinezza
che si fugge tuttavia
di doman non v’è certezza
chi vuol esser lieto sia.
(Perhaps some nice Italian-speaking person can explain what this means. Something about the beauty of youth wanting to be happy, I think.)
The second plaque is in Dutch and is a quotation from a Flemish poet named Albrecht Rodenbach (1856-1880), a cousin of Georges Rodenbach, author of Bruges-la-Morte.
is weer aan ‘t dagen!
(Perhaps some nice Dutch-speaking person can explain what this means. Something about the sun and the weather in Flanders, I think.)
The reason the rest of the square ‘t Zand looks so barren (like the square in front of the railway station) is that it is actually the roof of a large parking garage and motorway.
Location of ‘t Zand on Google Maps
This is a typical street near the center of Brugge, with picturesque old houses from various centuries.
In 2012 there was an internet shop (second photo) in one of these old buildings, but how long it will survive is anyone’s guess, since internet shops are a rather risky business nowadays.
Across the street is a bookshop (fourth photo), another risky business. In the front window of the bookshop I discovered a book called Bruges-la-vivante, by Alf Tobiansky, a guidebook to the city from the year 1931. The author was evidently trying to demonstrate that Bruges was not at all “dead”, as Georges Rodenbach’s famous novel proclaimed, but was very much alive.
Location of Academiestraat on Google Maps
Next: Cycling in Brugge
Professing to be the oldest continually operating pub in Brugge, Herberg Vlissinghe is a treat to visit as well as sip a beer or two. It is located far from the center of town, almost in a residential area, on Blekersstraat 2. The tavern certainly shows it age but is a joy to visit.
There are three draft beers and twenty bottled beers on the menu. There is also a very small menu of mostly appetizers. The Droge Worst which is a local sausage is outstanding!
The wooden bar and some of the old mementos are worth a look at this ancient bar.
WHEN YOU ENLARGE AND SEE THE PICTURE you will know why these jars have these names....
It is PRE-INDUSTRIAL DESIGN STONEWARE.
The EXHIBITION in THE MUSEACTRON IN MAASEIK gives answers to questions like: WHY, WHERE, HOW, BY WHOM, FOR WHOM etc..
Distances here are short and it would be a nice outing to Maaseik ....
lekkerstraat 5, B 3680 MAASEIK
I was introduced to the serene and beautiful kept lawns and trees of the Seminary of Brugge while on the cycle tour with Quasimondo Tours...The grounds of the Seminary actually reminded me quite alot of the Beguinage...BEAUTIFUL!!
Denis the guide brought us here...and told us that we weren't really supposed to be inside of the gates...but they were open and the grounds that were visible were immaculately kept and lush and green with large old trees...we stayed only a short time so we likely weren't much of a bother to anyone...
Grootseminarie Brugge is a training center for intellectual, spiritual and pastoral training of candidates who feel called to the diocesan priesthood in the Diocese of Brugge under the mission of the Bishop of Brugge.The seminary opened on October 1, 1833 with 122 seminarians.Nowadays Denis explained that due to a declining interest in religion there are in fact VERY few persons enrolled here with hopes of becoming a Priest...
The grounds were quite large and were contained within a high stone wall all around its perimeter...
If you're wandering about this part of town and see the stone walls that seemingly go on and on without a break you've likely stumbled across the Seminary...Take a peek inside when you come across one of the gates...
This house, once known as 'De Pijnappel' (the fir cone) is at 9 Spanjaardstaat.
Although much restored and renovated, it was once the 'holiday home' of St Ignatius Loyola (1491 - 1556), founder of the Jesuit order. He was a student in Paris at the time. He wasn't a saint at the time, of course...that came after his death.
I suppose he needed a break from his studies, like everyone else! :-)
As everywhere, it really pays to look up.
Obviously, in Bruges, there are the wonderful stepped gables to appreciate...but there are other things too.
Tiny statues, little carvings, dates, twiddly chimneys........here's a selection of what there is to see.........
It's worth having a wander to the massive square, T'Zand, about 5 minutes walk to the west of the Markt.
Apart from the numerous cafes/restaurants and bars there is a large and rather fascinating modern sculpture/fountain.
Created in 1985-1986 by Stefaan Depuydt and Livia Canestraro, there are four groups of sculptures: 'Bathing Ladies', 'Cyclists', 'Flemish Landscape'and 'Fishermen'.
I really liked them, and it's clearly a popular place to sit/meet friends etc (especially when it's hot).
Worth seeking out.
A 5 min drive or 20 min bike ride along one of the canals is the village of Dammes. This is a tiny village with a lovely windmill, an old church and plenty of restaurants. In short, a beautiful village close by worth a visit. It has plenty of restaurants with good food and better prices than Bruges. I understand there is also a boat that will take you here from Bruges for about 10 Euros.
Our VT friend Sabsi was informed by her B & B host of a local Christmas market much less crowded than the touristy one in the Market Square so we decided to head over to Balstraat and have a look. It was a charming part of the old medieval town with cobblestone streets and the remnants of horse stables along one side. Much to our delight it was full of locals enjoying a more traditional type of market experience. There were some local snacks and even beers to be enjoyed. It also led us to the Jerusalem Church which we would have missed otherwise.
If arriving in Bruges or smartly parking your car at the station's lot, you should make your way into town via the Minnewater. It is a very slight detour but a much more scenic route. It offers a great first glimpse of the city you'll never forget. It is a serene entrance to what might be a disappointingly crowded old town. Minne means love in Dutch so literally this body of water is referred to as the Lake of Love. With swans in attendance it is a befitting name though its origin stems from its use as a way to keep water levels constant amongst the many canals of the water laden city.
We saw this very impressive horse drawing a carriage filled with tourists in the town center, the horse reminds me of a Clydsdale. I think I have identified it as a Belgian Work Horse, take a look at the attached site:
and see what you think.
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