Brugge / Bruges

After a year of Covid-19 and no foreign trips we are finally resuming traveling. It feels a bit strange to be on the road again whereas the pandemic is certainly not over yet. We are both vaccinated but still we expect some places to be closed or hard to get in. Our first trip is short, just a few days to Brugge. Our initial plan also included a trip to Brussels but as the weather forecast only showed rain, we postponed this part of the trip. Brussels is only a three hour drive from our home, so it is easy to visit Manneken Pis when the weather is better.

We have both been in Brugge before. Carolina as recent as two years ago. In her view Brugge is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe, if not the nicest one. My stay in Brugge is from some 40 years ago and strangely enough I do not have any recollection that this town is of outstanding beauty. We will see if one of us will change its mind.

Not only are we looking forward to the beauty of the town but also to Belgium food and beer. Especially we are planning to eat some good Flemish Frites with mayonnaise.

Halfway our destination we first made a stop in Zundert, the town in Southern Holland in which Vincent van Gogh was born. No big museum with beautiful impressionist paintings, for that you have to be in Amsterdam. The local boy Vincent is honored with a statue together with his brother Theo.

The real reason for a stop in Zundert is that my youngest sister lives here. Brabant is well known for supplying the world with party drugs but it also is the most hospitable part of the Netherlands. You can never meet and just have a cup of coffee, it always involves some kind of eating. This time my sister and her husband had prepared a traditional bread lunch. Wonderful but I worry how I have to combine this extended lunch with “Vlaamse Frieten ” (Flemish Frites) that I plan to eat later today.

Finally at 5 o’clock we arrive in Brugge. Enough time to see the highlights tonight and spend some more time tomorrow. We have a hotel in the heart of town, 3 minutes walk from the Burg.

The entrance in the old town of Brugge is impressive, The Kruispoort. Thanks God we are tourist who come in peace and no wandering knight of de la Mancha who want to fight windmills. These towers look frightening.

Driving a car in a medieval town which is built for horses is not our hobby but we had little choice as our hotel was right in the centre. In fact it was only a block away from one of the absolute highlights of Brugge: City Hall. Building this monumental city hall started in 1376 and was finished in 1421. So Brugge was already governed from this site 30 years before Christoffer Columbus (Cristobal Colon) was even born.

Take a good look at this picture and you will notice that something is missing….. there are no tourist. We have the town almost to ourselves and we love it. In this “the pandemic is almost over and we are vaccinated” year, the tourists have not returned yet. It is not that it is completely empty in town but the local people tell us that tourism is at least 60% lower than in a normal pre-Covid19 year.

When we continued walking we stumbled across a next square, the Markt with the impressive Belfort. This tower is built in the 13th century.

The Belfort tower is 83 meters high and anyone who climbs all 366 steps will be rewarded with a stunning view over the city and its surroundings. For a brief moment we considered climbing the tower …… but felt that we had a good excuse: we needed to have dinner first. Of course dinner had to be something typical for Flanders: moules marinieres, flemish frites and a good local beer.

A good end to our first day in Brugge.

We started our second day with breakfast in a restaurant at the Markt. What better to kick off a day in Brugge than with waffles with fresh strawberries and cream, a world class delight.

After breakfast we just walked around the old town without any pre-set plan and took a boat ride through the canals. We came across some beautiful sites.

The wooden buildings are constructed in the 13th / 14th century, the golden century of Brugge. The picture on the right is the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kerk (Church of our Lady) which to our surprise contained a statue of Michelangelo.

The “Madonna and Child” / “Madonna of Brugge” statue is one of Michelangelo’s only sculptures outside of Italy. The statue was bought in 1504 by a wealthy cloth merchant who donated it to the church. Twice a dictator (Napoleon and the Nazis) stole this statue but thankfully it was returned to Brugge.

Another walk around town brought more nice pictures.

The statue on the picture to the right is not particularly wonderful but it is in honor to Brugge’s most well known poet: Guido Gezelle. Not sure if I ever read anything from him but I remember that my mom had a few of his books.

Our walk finished at the market. One more picture. Have a look at the flags. It tells about Belgium. There is of course the Flemish flag (yellow with lion), the flag of the European Union and the Rainbow flag (LGBTQ). The one missing is the Belgium flag, is there a message in this?

Our trip has to end with another great Flemish dinner: stoofvlees with (again) Flemish frites. A very nice local dish.

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