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Published: March 29th 2018
This morning, at around 10:30, we walked to the Markt Square, where every Wednesday a traditional street market spreads out in the center of this large, public space. The market was doing a brisk business when we arrived--even the horse-drawn carriages--despite a light rain and temperatures in the low-40s (we could even see each other's breath when we exhaled)!
The market is very well organized, with a wide variety of food and produce vendors from which to choose: flowers and plants, fruits and vegetables, cheese, meats and sausages, pastries and baked goods, etc. The rotisserie chicken vendor, with the tantalizing aroma of its roasting birds, was doing a very brisk business on this cold morning. We wandered around for about an hour, with Dee buying some lettuce, white asparagus, a few pieces of fruit and some exotic mushrooms.
Shortly thereafter, as the aromas continued to drive us crazy, I succumbed to temptation at a tiny food stand, where a husband and wife team was offering grilled bratwurst and onions, served on a fresh roll. I chatted with them briefly in German, a language similar to Flemish, which is learned and spoken by almost all Belgians.
After buying 1/2
a roasted chicken, fresh off the rotisserie spit, we scurried back to our apartment with our "booty", devouring the bratwurst and part of the chicken in short order. By this time, the rain showers became heavier, so we waited until 2 PM before venturing out again, while hoping (in vain) for a break in the weather.
We walked back to the Markt, over rain-slickened cobblestones, where we sampled the traditional Belgian fries with mayonnaise which, as any true Belgian is quick to point out, are NOT French fries! Dee and I shared an order, served with a large dollop of mayo heaped on top, along with a can of beer, as we huddled near the bell tower to escape the light rain that continued to fall.
On our way to reach the Groeninge Museum, and the Church of Our Lady, we passed by the De Garre (meaning a narrow opening or crack in West Flemish), which is one of the narrowest streets in Bruges, situated on the Breidelstraat. The term “street" is a rather exaggerated name for what is actually a narrow corridor or alley. Thanks to our good friend Danielle for alerting us to this quirky little
"Judgement of Cambyses" - Gerard David (1498)
"According to an old Persian story, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge who was ordered by King Cambyses to be flayed alive. The left panel [not shown] presents the arraignment of Sisamnes while Cambyses is recounting the guilty charges. Sisamnes had, among other things, allowed himself to be bribed in order to mete out an untrue verdict. In the background, he receives a merchant on the steps of his home.
On the right panel [pictured above], the gruesome flaying of Sisamnes is depicted. On the upper right, Otanes is seated as judge on the peeled off skin of his father. The panels formed a diptych and hang as “justice panels” in the justice hall of the Bruges city hall in order to encourage the chief justices to always avoid corruption.” Source: http://vlaamseprimitieven.vlaamsekunstcollectie.be/en/collection/judgement-of-cambyses
street, which reminded us of a similarly tiny pedestrian passage in Paris known as the "Street of the Fishing Cat” (the rue du Chat-qui-Pêche in French).
After walking through the Burg Square, and passing by the fish market area along the Dijver canal, we soon reached the Groeninge Museum. The museum's many highlights include its collection of so-called Flemish Primitive art (Flemish and Belgian masterpieces from the 15th-century). There are also works by a wide range of Renaissance and Baroque masters, in addition to paintings from the 18th-and-19th-century neo-classical and realist periods, all of which are displayed in a small number of easily accessible rooms on the ground floor.
This collection of paintings, most of which involve religious themes, is considered to be the best in the world. It includes works by such notables as van Eyck, Provoost, Weyden and Bosch, and we marveled at these medieval artists' skill, especially their use of color--hard to believe their paintings remain so vibrant after 500 years!
One gruesome painting in particular, the "Judgement of Cambyses" (by Gerard David), was especially riveting; see the photo section. Another work that caught our attention was "The Last Judgment" (by Hieronymus Bosch).
Madonna and Child
Michelangelo (circa 1504); Church of Our Lady.
When we left the museum, it was but a short walk to the Church of Our Lady, (Dutch: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), which dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at 377 ft. in height, remains the tallest structure in the city, and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.
The altar piece of the large chapel, which felt like a walk-in cooler on this rainy day, displays the most celebrated art treasure of the church—a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child
by Michelangelo (from around 1504). It was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants, and in 1514 donated to its present home. The sculpture has been recovered after being looted, twice, by foreign occupiers—French revolutionaries in 1794, and Nazi Germans in 1944.
In the choir space behind the high altar are the tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, the duchess Mary. The gilded bronze effigies of both father and daughter repose at full length on polished slabs of black stone.
After leaving the church, we walked through the nearby Simon Stevinplein, a pleasant square lined with restaurants and several chocolatiers. By this time of
the day, the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees, so we felt a little like drowned rats when we arrived at our apartment.
Dee's comments: Off to the market in the main square, where I loved the selection of vegetables, flowers, meats and cheeses. It began to rain, as Mitch had his eye on a bratwurst sandwich, and we bought a 1/2 chicken to take back to the apartment for lunch. I cleaned all of the fruit and vegetables I bought at the market, including some white asparagus, and my find of the day--some exotic mushrooms, which I cooked for dinner later today.
After waiting for the weather to improve, we went to a museum and church, after a brief stop for Belgian fries and a beer. Onward we went, despite the rain, until reaching the museum, where the medieval paintings were quite interesting. After visiting a very large church, it was back to the apartment for Happy Hour. I made some mini-bruschetta for appetizers, then some of the leftover chicken from the market, with asparagus, mushrooms and cucumber salad for dinner.
Forgot to share this with you yesterday >> I had ventured out by myself, in
the rain, to find a nearby department store (where I bought some cologne for Mitch, whose supply had run out), and made some other stops.
On my return to the apartment building, I got off the elevator, and proceeded to use my key to open the apartment door, but to no avail. I did not see the doormat, with a smiley face, that sits on the floor in front of our door, but thought Mitch was trying to trick me?
Then it finally dawned on me---I was on the wrong floor, trying to enter the wrong apartment! Thank goodness nobody was home...
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