I am not quite sure what brought me to Bruge that day however, I am forever grateful. As much as I love grand cities like Paris and Brussels, they cannot compare with the city that was almost forgotten. Cobblestone streets, magnificent castles and a picturesque tour of graceful canals that wind around handsome architecture and gentle weeping willows brings a sweet calm. Visit the cities bell tower in Market Square, which is clearly visible even by boat, towering high above for a bellisimo sound of the working bells and a view of the entire city. Shop for everything from fine shoes, handmade laces and chocolates, Belgium waffles topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and monk made beers.
The medieval Belfry still standing mostly from the 1200′s, was once a lookout for fires and now is available to anyone willing to walk the 366 steps to the top of this magnificent historical centre of Bruges. After a devastating fire destroyed parts of it in the late 1200′s, the tower was rebuilt with the octagonal top piece added between 1483 and 1487. With 47 bells working today, the lives of those that live in Bruge run with the sounds produced. If you have the time, check out the carillon room where you can see the bells in action that play different tunes depending on the time of day and occasion.Don’t worry, you’ll have a great excuse for a sweet treat at the bottom if you need an excuse.
Once the most important cloth market in northern Europe, Bruges still produces some delicate and intricate works of art using nothing more than bobbins of thread and an experienced hand. According to Trabel.com, a travel site on Belgium, “Charles the Fifth decreed that lace making was to be taught in the schools and convents of the Belgian provinces. During this period of renaissance and enlightenment, the making of lace was firmly based within the domain of fashion.” The tradition of hand woven lace is still alive and well and produces some amazing pieces.
If you want further proof of how well the city did with it’s trade of cloth before the city was covered in silt, causing a decline of all formerly known, visit one of the cities cathedrals, Church of Our Lady. The gothic Roman Catholic cathedral holds a cherished piece created from marble from Michelangelo, Madonna and Child, which is the only piece to leave Italy during his lifetime.
Another church that I cannot seem to find again is one where a marvelous staircase seemed to be carved from one trunk of wood which leads to an equally lovely balcony where I imagined the priest addressing his congregation. I suppose it’s not as glamorous as some of the other parts of Bruge and therefor sadly forgotten. One day I will return to find it again.
After a long day of seeing the sights that the city offers, take a seat at an out door cafe in the square and enjoy some people watching as you partake in another part of the cities delicacies. Belgium is well famous for it’s hand crafted beers to the point that even the monks have their own brew. The boast over 350 brews from light to quite heavy, even one that uses coriander and orange rind. If you prefer an actual tour, then please by all means visit the De Halve Maan Brewery. A family runs the brewery and I hear that they are fun and informative tours, telling you how it’s actually quite good for you “in moderation” of course. For those that still have no interest in trying a standard beer, perhaps try the cherry (Kriek) and raspberry (Frambozen) ones. The aromas of fresh seductive fruit and a mild malty note offer a lovely compromise from the occasionally bitter taste of hops.
The city of Bruges even after being revived from a devastating hit in the 16th century that killed it’s economy, certainly in my opinion is so charming for it’s lack of 21st century life. It’s not backwards in any means and has great shopping and dining, however, I am pleased to tell you that a lot of the overly modern traits of today’s society has not yet tarnished this charming city.