night shot of the downtown area
I love Brugge! How could you not? What is Belgium known for…umm let me fill you in…the most amazing beer in the world, chocolate, mussels/frits, and waffles (well among other things). My goal for the short weekend I spent in Brugge was to consume as much of the before mentioned food/drink as possible….and I have to admit, I did pretty well for myself!
I hopped on a train from Paris (Nord) to Brugge early Saturday morning (2.5hrs), which put me into the small historic city around 10:30 in the morning. I had spent all my time the night before researching the Belgium beers and unfortunately didn’t have any place to stay that night. So my plan was to first find a bed for the night and then start my world wind tour of the city. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in the right city - there was a small convenience store just outside of the train station which carried a beer selection that would easily out due any of the Belgium beer shops in DC..and everything cost about 1/3 of the typical US prices….yes!
I had a little difficultly finding a place to
stay and due to time constraints ended up opting for a kind of below par hostel located right in the middle of the historic district (top bunk!). The City of Brugge:
Brugge has a ton of medieval architecture. The historic centre of Bruges (which is where I stayed) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches over 3000 feet, making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. At one time Brugge was the "chief commercial city" of the world due to its ocean port.
As I mentioned to numerous people already, Brugge is easily the most picturesque city that I have even seen. It’s called the Venice of the north because of the waterways, which wind there way throughout the city (see images below) and really make Brugge something special. The city has a somewhat historic district, which really lends itself to exploration. Both days that I spent in Brugge followed the same format: each morning I’d wake up, hit up the local waffle joint and then proceed to walk around the city for 5 or 6 hours.
I love these tasty little treats
Unfortunately it was really cold (it snowed both days) but I didn’t let that slow me down. Stopping to sip a beer here, eat some chocolate there, taking a ton of photos, repeated. The cold weather actually made all the bars and restaurants even more cozy since they all seemed to have a fireplace. I was pretty exciting to drop into a small brassiere, order a Trappist beer and kick up my feet by the fire
Most historic cities that I have seen tend to have one really nice city square where most of the activities take place, but Brugge must have had about 10 different city squares, each one nicer then the last. In fact on my second morning I stumbled into some sort of gathering in one of the city squares where they were passing out free beer (score!). It was 11:00 in the morning and there must have been 200 people crowded into this square all sipping the local beer (Brugge Zot). Trappist Beer:
I was honestly overwhelmed by the selection, availability, and price of the beer here in Belgium. As most of you know I have started to really get into beer these
Brugge City Center
Another picture of a waterway right around Brugge's city center
past few years so I had been planning this weekend in my head for a while now.
There are 6 Trappist breweries in Belgium (7 total in the world the other one is in France): Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Wastemalle, Westvleteren, Achel. Each of the Trappist breweries created multiple beers except Orval (which just created one) and my goal was to at least try one from each brewery. Which I did….kind of
One of the Trappist beers - Westvleteren is EXTREMELY difficult to get. From my research I learned that you are not legally allowed to resell this beer so none of the bars or grocery stores would have it. I also discovered that the only way to get one of these beers involved a long drawn out process (1) The trappist monks only brew like 30,000 gallons a year and thus have a very limited supply. In order to get a case (which is the most you’re allowed to get) you have to call up and make a reservation to pick the beer up. But the trick is that the phone likes are only opened for a very short period of time a few days of the year.
So if you are lucky enough to get through the phone lines and make the reservation then all you need to do is go and pick the beer up. Like I mentioned earlier you’re limited to 12 beers and your not allowed to resell them once you get it. I had heard rumors about some bars “unofficially” selling this beer so I made sure to ask everyone that I could about it….but the closest I came to this one was a display bottle in the wall of Belgium Beer (check out the pic). Food:
Hands down, the best and most surprising thing that I ate this weekend was waffles…and boy did I eat some waffles!! The only thing that Belgium waffles have in common with the waffles that you get in the States is the appearance. It would be impossible for me to describe the taste, the best I can do is just say that I had them plain…they are so good that they don’t need any toppings (but you can get anything on top). I found a little shop about 5 minutes from my hotel and picked one up about every other hour.
In addition to
Another delicious treat
the waffles that I constantly consumed I also had a chance to eat some traditional Flemish dishes (rabbit stew) and some German food (bratwurst) and of course Chocolate….lots and lots of Chocolate (which is much better then Swiss chocolate in my opinion).
I would definitely recommend Brugge to anyone who only has a short period of time in Belgium. I had initially planned on going to Brussels but though it would be a little much for 2-day….I could be more pleased with my decision. It was also a little bit of an adjustment for me to get back to traveling solo - I guess I had been spoiled the past few years by always having the opportunity to travel with Haley (I miss you!), but overall it worked out really well (I didn’t have to share my chocolate!)
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