So now that Sri Lanka is done, it’s time to branch off!
Gonna note that, for the next few posts, I’ll be doing a bit of back-and-forth between locations. So instead of a numbering system, in just sticking to names. Blog’s oddly our of order anyway (something about the Pottuvil post didn’t stick properly), but in this case, it’s deliberate.
Before we get to Brugge, quick note about airport security at Colombo and Mumbai. Those airports are the only ones it can remember where I was pleasantly asked “How are you?” while receiving a pat down. Polite touch (and I do mean that literally).
Jet Airways got in from Mumbai 30 minutes ahead of schedule at the Brussels airport, so I was pretty happy about that. MUCH LESS HAPPY about the fact that my travel backpack is currently GONE, lost somewhere between Colombo, Mumbai and here. Glad I packed some extra clothes, but it does mean getting to the airport earlier tomorrow, seeing if they have my bag (because the turnaround in getting it to me tomorrow wouldn’t work) so that, HOPEFULLY, I have it for Ireland.
Train ride from the airport to Brugge is about two hours, and you pass by lots of pictuesque Belgian fields, with cows grazing on what appears to be steroid-laced grass. Seriously, these cows are buff. Along the way, you also see little blips of the Flemmish Architecture that Brugge is famous for.
So I’m going to level with you. I really didn’t come into Brugge with a plan other than “see pretty buildings” and “learn about pretty buildings”. The first part is pretty easy to achieve, as everything is within a short walk and a few canals run in and out the streets, making it kind if a small, cute Venice or Amsterdam. The second part I’ll be doing… well, pretty much now.
When you get out of the Brugge train station, there’s a tourist info centre that hands out excellent maps for getting around, but not so excellent for actually explaining why something you saw may or may not be important – PS, Brugge itself has received a UNESCO designation for cultural importance. Luckily, in lieu of a tour guide, we have Wikipedia and the interwebs!
So, here’s some of the stuff I saw today.
- Begijnof – a place that was kind of like a convent, kind of not – more a quiet place for women to practice their faith away from distractions (see: men). First bit of quiet during the day, and also home to a neat Japanese art installation, some tree houses set above the green space.
- Burg Square – home to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, complete with a Holy relic, a tube of – spoilers – Jesus’ blood, Also home to the old town hall and court buildings, and an alley known as “Donkey Alley” (it’s where donkeys went) that actually bears a strong resemblance to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
- The Hanseatic Quarter – Brugge’s old merchant’s quarter.
- Church of Our Lady – usually home to a museum, most of which is currently being renovated right now.
- Market Square – Maybe Brugge’s most iconic area, home to the Brugge belfry, the old waterhouse, and tonnes of restaurants and merchants. May go up the Belfry tomorrow morning before heading off to the next stop.
These are some of the “Big Sites” of Brugge, but the great thing is that, if you get away from the crowds and just wander away from it all, you can still see some beautiful stuff. I walked past the town centre to one of the old city gates, and there were two beautiful windmills sitting atop green hills, one of which actually gave you a nice view of the Brugge skyline.
Now, the one thing I have to mention about Brugge is that it is definitely touristed. Lots of lines wandering around, people going back and forth, camera clicks, languages that are definitely not Flemish. It’s pretty much the price you pay for beauty in Europe, and I’m sure I’ll be running into that in Brussels, Ghent and Dublin over the next few days, too. Not a bad thing per se, but a change from Sri Lanka, for sure. That said, nobody’s offering me their tuk tuk here, so that’s nice.
Absolutely gorgeous city, and I’m currently chilling at my hostel, the “Snuffel”, enjoying a glass of Belgian beer from their extensive bar, before heading out to get some evening shots. Beautiful city, so I can’t see how that would be a bad idea. When I called it “Cute Venice”, I’m also referring to the fact that it’s a known commodity on the tourist circuit. Again, though, that’s not a bad thing if it can be backed up.
Brugge backs it up.