Geo: 51.2094, 3.22523
Here I am, finally in Bruges (yes, a movie reference), and I am loving it! This beautiful city was once the largest and most powerful in Europe. It went through a decline starting at the end of the 1400s, but has now become a major tourist city for good reason. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and there is plenty to do and see. I just hope 3 days lets me get my fill! This morning started off with a good breakfast. This hotel does not have as many options as the one in Amsterdam, but still plenty for me. There was yogurt with a variety of toppings: cherries, rhubarb sauce, apricots and prunes, cereal, pastries, fruit salad and a selection of meat and cheeses. I had a nice pot of tea and orange juice as well. I knew I had to fortify myself for my first stop, the Belfry.
I think the Belfry is one of the most well known buildings in Bruges and is located on the Market Square. It looms over the surrounding buildings and plays wonderful music from its carillons every 15 minutes. Every 2 years, the music changes. There are also free
carillon concerts but those don't start until the middle of June so I will miss out on that. It's 366 stairs to the top of the Belfry and the view is worth the climb. I got there before 9:30 so I could be one of the first people in line. They only allow 70 up at a time so later in the day you could wait for a bit. There are a few landings with exhibits on what the tower was used for and the bell system. After several narrow, twisty staircases, you finally arrive at the top and are treated to beautiful views of Bruges and the surrounding area. There are markers to tell you what towns and cities you are looking at. In one direction, Paris is 270 km away. In another direction, the sea is just past the horizon. Make sure to stay for at least one of the quarter hour chimes, if not the hour chimes. I heard two and they were wonderful.
I made my way back down to the square and headed next door to the Visitor Center. I purchased the 72 hour Bruges City Card. There is a 48 hour option but it is
only three euros more for the extra day so why not. The card covers entrance to many of the museums (one visit only per site) as well as one canal boat ride and discounts on other attractions in the area. It also includes a really nice guidebook! The Belfry is covered, but I got there before the Visitor Center was open so I paid the eight euros myself. The Visitor Center is next to the Historium so I used my card for the first time to check that out. This museum is a guided audio tour through a day in the life of a person living in Bruges during it's Golden Age. You go from room to room viewing videos of different aspects of life as it was. It was interesting, but I don't think I would pay for it if it wasn't covered by the card.
The guidebook has three different walking tours and I chose to do the first one which covers all the main tourist attractions. You wander along cobblestone streets, through squares and parks, along canals and into museums. Just adjacent to Market Square is Burg Square. This is another breathtaking square with the City Hall (1376-1420)
dominating the view. It is also the site of the Basilica of the Holy Blood which dates from 1139. Yet another beautiful church interior!
The walk continued on past the fish market and Tanners Square to the most photographed spot in Bruges, Rozenhoedkaii. This little bend in a canal gives you a perfect picture of Gothic buildings with the Belfry looming behind. I would like to check it out at night to see it with the street lamps glowing. There are so many great photo spots and you could spend all day in just a few places trying to get the perfect shot!
I visited the Church of Our Lady, which houses one of the only Michelangelo sculptures to leave Italy, the Madonna and Child. Next the Beguinage (or Begijnhof) with its peaceful interior. It used to be home to single religious women (not nuns) who formed their own community, but is now occupied by nuns. The Beguinage is next to the Minnewater, which is a peaceful canal area with a large number of swans. Apparently it's one of the most romantic spots.
I wandered back to the Market Square and had a delicious hot chocolate. You get a cup of hot milk
and add a chunk of whichever flavor of chocolate you choose. It was great. I also visited the Chocolate Museum. There you learn the history of chocolate making in Belgium, a demonstration of said chocolate making and samples!
I did a lot of sitting in the square, just listening to the people and taking in the views. For lunch I had some frites and a hot dog. For dinner I decided I had enough junk and found a place that had salads. I had a delicious salad with goat cheese, honey and bacon. It also had corn, little fried potatoes, pine nuts, red onion, tomato and cucumber. A good way to end the day! I walked 6.8 miles (well some of that was climbing steps) today and enjoyed every minute of it.
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