Day 77 & 78: In Bruges

We took the train to from Delft to Bruges, with a brief stop in Antwerp. The central station here is called the most beautiful train station in all of Europe, and I happen to agree.

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Three levels of tracks

Four levels of tracks

Bruges: as Colin Farrel’s character from In Bruges put it: “if I grew up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t so it doesn’t.” We rated it a bit better than that.  It’s a medieval town of 20,000 in the centre.  More canals, cobblestone streets and buildings with stepped roofs – the perfect inspiration for a good gingerbread house.

We walked across the whole town to get to our hostel.  As we neared our place we were anxious to drop our bags off, but were held up by a very busy street market and a marching band.  If one must be held up, a marching band playing “Moves like Jagger” is the most amusing.

We had the most carb-laden 24 hours of our lives. Fries (I don’t quite understand how fries are a note-worthy culinary experience) our free white bread hostel breakfast, a bucket of pasta and of course beer. We couldn’t even fit in waffles.

It’s pretty touristy, but the others where more concerned with canal boat rides, whereas we were more preoccupied with beer.

Belgian beer – It’s the best in the world.  Smaller, stronger, sipable, and served in its own special glass. The bars have so much shelf space for the specific glasses.  We tried a new one each time and weren’t disappointed.  The Hendrick Straffe was the best so far.  We visited one brewery that was celebrating it’s 500th anniversary, and found a summer microclimate in the courtyard.

We hung out near the wind mills, which offered a good view of the city.  Somehow we hadn’t seen enough in the Netherlands.

A few interesting building details:  There were built in foot scrapers recessed into the wall.  Also, in the past, citizens were taxed on the number of windows, so often they would be filled in.  Oh the lengths people will go to to avoid taxes.  The years of construction were often displayed largely on the building.

The building below may appear to be under construction, but the scaffolding is actually a permanent art installation, confirming that if you call it art, it is art.  It’s a former Masonic lodge, now owned by a self proclaimed vampire, Dr. Retsin, who one a week opens his doors to entertain for a few hours, which we unfortunately (?) missed.

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The second afternoon we spent in a game Cafe playing appropriately Bruges – the board game.

There are a number of iconic towers, the Belfry(bell tower), the spires of the church of our Lady (home to the peregrine falcons keeping the pigeon population in check), and others.

Overall the the city was very walkable in scale (less so in infrastructure), and had a pretty strong biking scene. There we a limited number of cars, but unfortunately the few drivers we saw were some of the most obnoxious we’ve encountered on the trip.  A hummer is ridiculous anywhere, especially on narrow medieval streets.

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