In Bruges

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April 14th 2014
Published: January 8th 2016
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I packed up my stuff and was on my way by the crack of noon. While I had been incredibly lucky with the weather thus far, as if to truly seal the end of the event, the skies opened up and rain descended. I was really happy my tent was already packed up. The train left from Tilburg and headed to the Roosedale station. I sat with a few Roadburners also heading that way and we chatted while the train moved along. Once in Roosedale, I changed trains and headed into Belgium. I was heading towards the coast, but stopping right before in a town called Bruges, perhaps more famously known due to the film In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell. The train pulled up to the station and I disembarked and walked towards the old town. And an old town this was. It is believed the city existed during the Roman conquest period. The entire city was built around a canal system and most roads were cobblestone. The architecture of the old city is primarily neo-gothic and tall church towers rise to form a sort of medieval skyline. I was instantly taken by such beauty, such a rarity back home as architecture just didn't get as old as that. I walked through the city in full gear on a quest to find a decent hostel for the night. My walk took me to the door of the Snuffel hostel. They were cheap by Belgian standards and provided me with some very helpful information regarding the city. I dumped my stuff and then went back out into this cute little town.

My initial goal was simple, I needed to get some food into me, and was there really anything better than finding a good chip shop? I think not, at least not here. Soon enough I entered such a shop and ordered some good ol' fashioned Belgian fries. According to the Belgians, they were the first to invent these and claim that the French stole their invention as their own. The Belgians are still bitter about it to this day. I ordered a medium size, big mistake. The entire tray was filled with fries and I laboured to get through as many as I possibly could. After this I definitely needed a good walk. I headed to the town square, which housed the grand palace and hordes of tourists. Narrow, cobblestone streets pervaded the surrounding area, as well as all forms of shops and restaurants. The scent of waffles ruled the air. After a few hours of walking, my legs began to tire and I returned to the hostel.

Luckily for me, this place had the cheapest beer in town, and I began by sampling one of the thousands of beer that is produced in this country. This truly is a beer lovers paradise. I first tried a Maes draft and sat at the bar with my drink as I watched other backpackers and locals alike pile in for happy hour. I continued ordering drinks and then started chatting with a guy sitting next to me. He was a Belgian rap artist named Herman and we talked about the language and culture divide within this land. After this conversation I realized that I knew nearly nothing about this place, but that it was growing on me fast. Herman left and soon after I joined a group of younger Belgians who were celebrating one of their friends birthdays. They began ordering rounds and then gave me suggestions on beers to order. I got one called triple Karmeliot, a Trappist beer at 10%. They warned me to drink it slow. As the night wore on I grew steadily drunker, and then the group announced that we would be moving to another venue. We ended up in a cellar pub and another round was given out. We then headed back out towards a nightclub and we smoked on the walk there. I can't say I'm a fan of clubs but once inside I met some people including a few foreigners who were either studying nearby or who were on holiday. By the end of the night I had to be helped back into my hostel and plunged noisily into bed.

I awoke with half my lower body hanging out of the bed and still half dressed. I realized I would have to check out very soon, as I only intended to spend one night in Bruges. I went downstairs and was utterly hung over. I had missed the included breakfast and wanted to die. First thing I did was take a massive shit, then I drank an entire bottle of water, and finally sat in the main lounge and planned out what my next destination would be. I decided it would be Brussels, the capital, but I wanted to spend a bit more time in Bruges yet. Once I had hydrated somewhat I went out and found some lunch. When I returned, the free walking tour I had signed up for was about to get underway. About five other people joined and a guy named Andy would be guiding us. He was eccentric and wanted to do a proper guiding job in a non-traditional way. He loved to swear and loved to make fun of himself and anything around him. He had been doing this tour for a while now and knew the city well. He took us to all the famous sites, many of which I had walked to on my own, but now I actually understood what I was looking at. He gave us great tips on what to see, where to eat, what to avoid, even funny little tidbits such as not to pee in public because it would result in a 250 euro fine. He suggested if you pretended to masturbate instead you would get a much lighter fine funnily enough! I took some decent shots during the tour, and when it was all said and done we parted ways. I left a good review for him on Trip Advisor as I'd promised.

I went back to the hostel, got my gear out from storage and then walked to a nearby restaurant that Andy had suggested. I indulged in some Flemish food, rabbit and potatoes in some flavourful sauce, of course with some beer. I had a bit of ice cream after this too. I slowly walked back to the train station and bid my farewells to Bruges. I can honestly say that, unlike Colin Farrell, I thought this city was awesome.

The hour train ride east took me to the capital of Belgium, Brussels, which separated the Flemish and Wallonian regions. Right away I npoticed that people around me spoke French, and I jumped in with communication confidence. A short metro ride later and I was at my new hostel. The Italians who were sharing my dorm were a bit insular so I left the room to grab a bite at a small middle eastern place. I decided against getting wasted tonight.

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