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Friday, February 26, 2010

In Bruges

Today, I ventured to Brugge, Belgium with two of the CUBC tour guides and fellow students. We all met together at around 8:45 at Brussels' Central Station. After a few late comers, we crammed onto the train en route to Brugge. We luckily made it to the city without any major problem like every other trip, haha. Once we arrived, we split into two groups and attempted to take on the city like we always do.

Our first tour started with a walk around Brugge's Lake of Love, which is known for its scenery and unusual swarm of swans and ducks. It was the post card setting that I saw on the Internet. It is too bad that we had typical European weather, overcasting clouds, rain, and an unexpected cold front due to heavy winds (lovely). Our guide introduced us to the city, making an effort to stress our observation of the architecture. Brugge has by far the best architecture I have seen during my travels. It was very similar to Amsterdam with more gothic hints to it. We then went to Beguinage, which was once a woman-only neighborhood. During many of the wars in Europe, there was a surplus of widows and single women. Brugge established a neighborhood where these women had a secure lifestyle built around supporting each other. The entire time, I was thinking about the similarity this neighborhood had to sororities (not saying they are all widows and single).

Our next set of stops included Godshuis, Old St. John's Hospital, and the Church of our Holy Lady. There was a main theme amongst these three stops, giving. Godshuis was a set of small houses built for poorer individuals. They were gifts given by wealthy individuals as a last stand to prove he/she was worthy of eternal life in heaven. We were shown a set of Godshuis(es) across a canal from Old St. John's Hospital, the last European, church-related hospital. We learned that the hospital was used more for spiritual healing than curing sicknesses. It is remarkable how loyal the people of the city were to their faith. But, the hospital was infected with a multitude of diseases. At the final stop in the area, the Church of our Holy Lady, we learned that a Brugge family purchased one of the few pieces sculpted by Michaelangelo that is outside of Italy today . They bought it as a gift for the Church of our Holy Lady. The sculpture now resides on a side altar. We enjoyed the peaceful bliss of the sanctuary before venturing back into the dismal weather.

We then walked to the back side of the Church of our Holy Lady where we stumbled onto the Gruuthouse. The Gruuthouse was the quarters of the tax collector, Charles V, of a beer spice, called gruut. Let me tell you, this guy was "flossed." This house was about 15,000 square feet, located right on the canal, and it had a widow's watch and a private balcony in the Church of our Holy Lady. He had no excuse to not go to church, because it was in his living room!

After visiting the Gruuthouse we went to the Quai of the Rosary. I don't know much about this spot, except that it was an awesome photo opportunity.

We meandered past typical Brugge-style houses and shops until we made it to the Town Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The town hall was an amazing art-like structure that looked almost identical to the town hall in Brussels. The Basilica of the Holy Blood was an unusual experience. Supposedly, the church has a relic holding a few drops of Jesus' blood. People waited in line and gave a decent donation to touch this golden vile. I did not expect for Brugge to house one of the most controversially important relics of my faith. But, apparently the Holy Blood was brought to the city after the first Crusade.

We finished our first tour at Brugge's Market Square, the center of the city's activity. Amongst the small shops, sits another amazing monument, the Belfry Tower. We were fortunate enough to "climb" up the mind-boggeling stairs to snap a couple pictures of the city's landscape before we were blown off the top balcony due to the fifty mile/hour wind. No one was hurt in the capturing of these photos.

After enjoying some spectacular Flemish stew and fries, we joined up with our tour guide for a second tour. We meandered past chocolate shops and restaurants, and made it to Jan Van Eyck Square. We saw a lodge of a "freemason-like" society right at the end of a beautiful canal. After nearly being hit by several cars and sneaking into someone's backyard (check the photos), we went to St. Anne's Church. It was a simple church in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood that was built during the Baroque Era. We finished up the day walking back through the park with the Lake of Love, and an enjoyable train ride back to Brussels.

The entire city felt like colonial Williamsburg. It is a must see!


What I Recommend You Do In Bruges:

1. Only go to Brugge for a day or two.

2. Stay in a small hotel near Minnewater Park (Lake of Love).

3. Find Dumon, the chocolate shop that Rick Steeves made famous.

4. Take a guided walking tour of the city.

5. Eat at the restaurants off from the market square (get something Flemish).

6. Go during April, supposedly the flowers are awesome.

3 comments:

  1. Did you make it to the Groeninge Museum? That was a favorite stop of mine, back in the day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No I didn't. I didn't go anywhere I didn't write down.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nils - this is a great piece of writing. Very focused, great description of all these places. Great use of embedded links, the summary at the end, all of this is great. Good job.

    ReplyDelete

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