Geo: 51.2094, 3.22523
Today I took a paddle wheel river boat to the small town of Damme, which is only 6 km from Brugge. It would be an easy bike ride or a pleasant walk along the canal, but I chose the slower paced boat. It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the dock from my hotel. The walk included the windmills that I saw yesterday. The temperature slowly climbed as the day went on, but the morning walk was pleasant.
The boat is called the Lamme Goedzak and it takes 30 minutes to travel the short distance to Damme. I think people were walking faster than the boat! Once we reached the outskirts of Brugge, the views opened up to fields with grazing cows and horses, large windmills turning in the distance and lots of shady poplars along the banks of the canal. An interesting note, the poplar is a relative of the cottonwood and these trees were nicely spreading their sneeze inducing cotton all over the place. I was pretty stuffed up by the time we arrived in Damme.
Damme is a much smaller town, with the main attraction being it's old church, a cute little square and a windmill.
I visited for 2-1/2 hours, which was plenty. The boat drops you off at a landing that is just a short walk (like 1 minute) from the center of town. There was a small market happening with some meats and cheeses as well as a lady selling various pates and foie gras. The visitor center is right on the square and has free toilets! I have found it very rare to find a free toilet in Brugge and have been paying 50 cents to use the one in the visitor center there. So that was nice.
I spent my time wandering around the town, looking at the charming houses and enjoying the quiet. My wandering led me to the Church of Our Lady, which is on the outskirts of the town center. This church dates back to 1225 and seems to be mostly ruins. The tower is still there, but the pointy top has been removed, along with the nave, aisles and transept. I enjoy ruins so this was a treat and great for pictures! The church is open later in the afternoon and apparently you can climb the tower on some rather rickety stairs. I did not stay long
enough to be able to try that! The outside views were enough for me.
I ate lunch at a cute restaurant where I had a piece of quiche that came with a tiny pasta salad and a pile of micro greens. It only cost 10 euros and was very good and very filling! After lunch I walked out of town and down to the windmill. The path was also the bike path so I had to keep my ears and eyes open. There were lots of bikes! I also found the area that contains a reconstruction of part of the 17th century fortifications of the city. I did not hike all the way around as I wanted to catch the 1:00 boat and it was warm.
The boat ride back was as nice as the one going. While other day trips from Brugge may offer more to do, Damme is close by and good for a short visit, whether by boat, bike or foot.
I chose to take the bus back to Market Square as I wanted to do some shopping and wandering and it was too warm to walk back and do all of that. So I rode the bus
with all the old people instead!
A warm afternoon in Brugge is still a nice one, especially for sitting in the shade along a canal enjoying some ice cream. I also stopped back in at the Basilica of the Holy Blood and toured the treasury portion this time. This is where they keep the fancy thing that the Holy Blood relic goes in when it goes out on procession. The relic was also on display in the church and is basically a tube containing a piece of cloth with Jesus' blood. Interesting!
And lastly I toured the Frites Museum. This museum tells you all about potatoes and how Belgium created the french fry, or maybe not, but those living in Belgium say they make the best frites.
The rest of the late afternoon I spent wandering the streets looking in all the little shops. Each lace and chocolate shop seems to have the same thing and everyone has their favorite. I could window shop chocolate all day! There are fancy shops and regular shops that all sell Belgium chocolate so I would guess it mostly tastes the same. I guess it depends on how much you are willing to spend.
ended the day with another helping of Flemish stew, but this time from a little restaurant that was more fast food than fancy food. And it was just as good as the more expensive meal I had the first night I was here. Also, I walked 9.5 miles today! It did not seem like that much, but I made a lot of loops around the towns so I guess it all adds up.
Tomorrow I head to Brussels to finish out my trip. Brugge has been one of the best cities I have visited and I will be sad to leave. I hope to have the chance to return and discover more of what Brugge has to offer!
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