Ancient Brugge, Brugge
One can have a wonderful day in Bruges without any agenda or itinerary. Just walk around. Everywhere you look, there's something interesting. Don't be in a hurry; just enjoy being here. Guided walking tours are available (see the websites below).
Another statue, another photo. As I mentioned in an earlier tip there are few statues that I pass by without taking a photo. This memorial is to Jan van Eyck. He is the most famous Flemish artist of his time. Although legend has it incorrectly that he invented oil painting, the fact is that he perfected the art of oil painting. He was born around 1390 but there is no official record of the year. He died July 9, 1441.
After spending some time in the city center we decided to take a walk to Northeast Brugges. If you are in Brugge during the high tourist season I am told that this area is a good escape from the crowds. There are many old houses and churches in this area that can be explored. There is also the beautiful Kruispoort. This is all that remains of the original city walls.
At one time the city was contained within a large wall and protected by a moat. You can see the remains of the moat in this area and also some windmills. The Kruispoort itself is dated back to 1402.
Oldest cafe/pub in Bruges, 15??. Really nice and well kept with a wonderful garden. Can't tell you about the food since we only had a beer, ate some potato chips, took some pictures and left. It's worth coming here even if it is to take a couple of pictures. It's a 5-10 walk from the market. I have a feeling that the food here is expensive. Why do I say that? We paid 1.80 euros for a bag of potato chips
Living in Bruges, i've been guiding friends and colleagues occasionally. I gathered my information from school time, books, guides i had,... One day, i decided to write things down in a public walking guide through Bruges, similar to the guides offered for sale. You get road indications with small photos, historical background and saga for a one day trip to Bruges. I have Dutch, English and French translation. Enjoy.
The Peerdenbrug crossing is, in itself, one of the most photogenic things I came across. Its poignant positioning over the bridge and the canal makes this monument worth a snap or two.
In fact, I liked the second shot so much I had it blown up.
It led me to being mistaken about calling the bridge the Ave Maria Brug. How that happened was that when I was telling mine host about where I'd been I mentioned that there was an Ave Maria sign up and he said immediately, "That's the Maria Brug." Not knowing any better that's what I called it for the rest of the stay until I learnt that said bridge was, in fact, about 6 blocks away.
I'd had my morning stroll and returned for breakfast. What to do next? Having missed out at Fussen on hiring a bike I determined I would have another go here, mainly because, instead of 30 euros per day, the bikes here were 6 euros a day.
I headed off down Predikherenrei (where did they get those names) and made for the shop I had noticed them in previously.
I was first away that morning. Initially, the bike was terrible. The seating position was less than comfortable even after I'd adjusted it and the "granny gear" I was stuck in made it a chore to pedal anywhere. Why didn't this bike have gears?
Anyhow, the first place I got to was one of the old entry portals to the city. These gates were standard at the entry to mediaeval cities and I love it when you can still see them. Brugge has four intact; they are the Ezelpoort (Asses' Gate), Smedenpoort (Marshall's Gate), Gentpoort (Gent Gate) and the Kruispoort (Gate of the Holy Cross) which is the one on view here.
The Guild Houses adorn the Market Square and provide a very colourful and eye catching display. Considering this is the tourist hub of Brugge it isn't surprising to learn this is restaurant and cafe land, hard to miss really with modern signs posted on the fronts. The houses have been reconstructed during the nineteenth century in the neo gothic style. I read in a web site supporting the idea of reconstruction that buildings several centuries old have to have some work done - imagine how the Empire State Building would look in 500 years if not a brick is replaced. Yes Brugge did a good job and a lot for the tourist industry by recreating the past to provide for the needs of the future. I loved the new look and can always read or dream of the past.
The Provincial Court Building does not date back too much in time it was renovated in the neo gothic style during the second half of the nineteenth century after the destruction of the Water Halls in 1787. Part of the building is now the house of the Governor of the Province of West Flanders. The Provincial court is a stunning light grey building which seemed to sparkle in the sunshine. Take your time to view, it has so many features and surprises, I particularly liked the windows inserted into the roof, the church like spire and the golden statue reaching for the sky.
The Belfort or Belfry Tower is near to the Grote Markt, the square was cordoned off because a bike race had recently left from here. We could not see the Clothhall because of the huge stage structure placed in front of this lovely giant. Towering to 83 metres the organisers could not obscure our view of the Belfort. If you are feeling fit you can climb the 366 steps to the top, I heard the stair way is narrow with two way traffic, you have to stop a lot to let people pass, this was not for me I don't do stairs - what I did enjoy however was listening to the carillion of the melodious 47 bells. Bell music concerts are performed here in Summer and the tower still employs a full time bell ringer
Open all year Tuesday - Sunday 9.30 - 17.00 closed Mondays admission 5 euros.
When we visited the Church of Our Lady - Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekirk also known as O.LV. Kirk as it is in guide books it was already very busy both inside and out. We had come to see Michelangelo's famous statue of the Madonna and Child and probably so had everyone else! The statue had been created by the great artist in 1503 for the Cathedral in Sienna the Bishop at the time could not pay for the work but this was in Brugge's favour. Two merchants from Brugge, Jan and Alexander Moscroen were on a business trip to Italy in 1506 they heard the story and subsequently bought the statue. The Madonna and Child is the only art work of Michelangelo to have left Italy during his lifetime. The statue is placed in the sacrament chapel in the right wing of the church. During the French revolution in 1794 and during the occupation in World War ll the church was looted and the statue stolen, after both it was successfully recovered - lucky Brugge again. As I mentioned the Church is busy with people so you may not get the photographes you want without other people in your shot, strangley the little chapel was devoid of tourists so lucky us!!
We continued walking along by the canals with throngs and throngs of tourists - well we were tourist too! Around the corner stood Saint Jonshospitaal or the Memling Museum. This for me was the most beautiful of all Brugge had to offer in wonderful architecture. The tiny arches and covered bridges framed naturally with trees this splendid arty architecture seemed almost afloat before your eyes as it held fast to the canal bank. Saint John's Hospital was one of the oldest exsisting in Europe, in 1978 it ceased to become a hospital and was then turned into a museum. Originally the hospitals purpose was to provide food and shelter for pilgrims passers by and travelling salesmen and to take care of the sick if they were not contagious run by Brothers and Sisters from a religious order.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9.30 - 17.00 closed Monday except Easter Monday and Whit Monday admission is 8.00 euro Adult 5.00 euro Child the museum displays six masterpieces by the German Artist Memling as well as the old pharmacy, old medical equipment and some hospital wards. We didn't visit the museum the sun was still shining and other treaures awaited
Still wandering around Brugge guidless we soon found ourselves in another quiet corner but never far from the crowds. It was a pleasant surprise to see the old houses of the rich merchants and their lavish warehouses arranged on three sides of the street. The buildings date from the 17th. century back in time when Brugge had her hay day in textiles and other incomes. I love wandering here picking out the details - the lace curtained windows - quaint wooden additions - beautiful lead lined windows and the stepped gables of the buildings to show how rich the house owners once were. A delightful stop here where time itself seemed to stand still allowing your thoughts to drift back several centuries and wonder what your position would have been like in a past life.
In a quiet corner tucked away behind the Minnewater we wandered into the Beguine Convent. The Beguinage erected in 1245 consists of a court yard of pretty white washed houses arranged around a garden with tall poplar trees a little Church and a museum. This was home for seven centuries to a thirteenth century religious group knows as the Beguins of Brugge. In 1937 it became a monastery for Benedictine Sisters who still live and practice their faith here. Please observe the Nun's right to silence here, just have a quiet wander or maybe visit the museum where you can learn about the daily life of the Nuns and the Beguines who came before them. I loved the isolation here and the red brick church with its lovely details. The gardens are free to visit and are open everyday from 9.30 - 17.30. The museum costs 2euros and is open from April - September from 9.30 - 17.30 closed 12.00 - 13.45 also closed on Sundays.
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekirk was built between the second half of the 13th. century and the second half of the 15th. century, it is the largest gothic church in the low countries. Its style has changed over time from late Romanesque, Scheldt-Gothic to French Gothic. the 18th. century saw a more contemporary style then around the 1900's the church re captured her original medieval style. The spire which towers up to 122 metres (400 feet) is a stonemasons work of art. Strange to think after using all those brick that the cathedral at Antwerp wins the highest steeple award by a mere metre. Our Lady's Church is not the most important church in Brugge Saint Salvators has the honour but it is the most popular with touists. The Church is open Tuesday - Friday 9.00-12.00 1.30-17.00 Saturday 9.00-12.30 1.30-16.00 Sunday 1.30 - 17.00 closed Monday's except Easter and Whit Monday. Admission is free. The Chaple of Charles and Mary is open at 14.00 - 16.00 admission is adult 2 .50e child 1.50e