Bruges, alias Brügge

The Ghent-Ostend Canal to Bruges is framed by rural pastures and cornfields. Cows graze at the banks and there is the odd whiff of wholesome country air. 

Approaching Bruges one becomes aware of the origin of the name as one “brug”(bridge) follows another. Most of them are lift bridges, and hailing the bridge keepers over VHF became a bit of a language challenge: Hallo bridge “Steenbruggebrug” or “Moebruggebrug”.  We learned quickly that these lift bridges only open for flotillas of boats. Even the Coupure Yacht Harbour in Bruges, where we stayed, can only be entered after the harbourmaster raises a bridge. So it didn’t come as a surprise, when after our first night there, we saw about 10 boats leave at once in the morning. 

in the harbour were quite a few boats we had already seen in Ghent. One of them was hard to miss and got all the grey-haired boys leaning open-mouthed and drooling over the railings: it was a sleek looking new boat whose owner steered it solely by remote control. It’s a weird sight seeing the captain standing at the bow as the boat moves magically out of her mooring and sails away!

Back to the medieval town of Bruges!

We definitely chose the wrong time to visit this unique town! Its summer holidays in Europe and the town was just overrun by international tourists. At first the crowds made us feel a little edgy. But then the beauty of the town took over. 

So while the cobblestone pavements massaged the bottom of our feet, our eyes feasted on amazing facades, churches, gateways and picturesque canals.

Fittingly, we heard the clip clop of hooves from the many horse carriages carting tourists through the streets.

The traffic reminded us almost of street crossings in Saigon. Bikes, pedestrians, carriages and cars all criss-cross the squares, amazingly without colliding. We are getting better on our bikes too having learned to look ahead and just to keep going and trust others to do the same. In general, car drivers are very considerate and have to give priority to bikes at most crossings.

Erring around on the first night we stumbled onto the fish market where people enjoyed diverse fish and seafood delicacies and the odd glass of wine. Austin had to try a pickled Belgian herring skin and all, ugh!. 

On every corner of town there were some temptations: Belgian chocolate shops, waffle stands, Belgian beer tasting bars, and last not least Antwerp diamonds. What else does a girl want than chocolate and diamonds!

Bruges has museums galore: old and modern art, museum of the famous Bruges lace making, historic museums, a diamond museum and a few old windmills to visit.

To enjoy the sunshine and avoid the Sunday crowd we opted for a cycle tour along a disused canal to the small village of Damme. The ride took us along the tow way through rows of poplars and into the delightful village of Damme. 

The gothic Town hall features intricately carved rafters and a sculptured facade overlooking the town square which is surrounded by lovely cafés and restaurants.

The tourist office is also a museum about the legendary Till Uilenspiegel (Eulenspiegel in German), usually depicted as a jester who holds a mirror up to people’s faces. This medieval creation has been written about by dozens of German, Dutch, Swedish writers, and last not least by the Belgian, Charles de Coster, who had him placed in Damme. All my German friends will remember the cheeky stories of Till Eulenspiegel.

© Austin Robinson 2019