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Published: March 28th 2018
Early Evening In The Market Square
This is the central square in Bruges and is enclosed by the Belfrey Tower, eateries and the Town Hall
We are back, sleeping on the floor again. Our foldout bed in Luxembourg is fine, but the white soft fluffy expanses of a real bed should never be underestimated. I’ve slept in the back of cars, under cars ( a story for another day), in tents, out in the open, in hostels with 60+ other people and the associated noises, and all were good under the circumstances, but at my time of life, you really can’t go past a nice firm bed, preferably made up by someone else, with fresh bedding and room to stretch out like a starfish in; it’s heaven.
Day 2 in Bruge was overcast and raining but I don’t think anyone noticed. It is such a privileged experience to visit such a place, that no sun is no worries. By the time we wandered out into Markt Square for breakfast, buses full of tourists emptied their wide eyed contents onto the cobblestones and shuttled away to pick up more. The new arrivals huddled together, under a canopy of umbrellas, in clusters gathered around individuals with flags on tall poles. I watched one group of Japanese people listen intently to a highly charged guide who appeared to
Belfort, the Belfry Tower
This Tower was built in the 13th century , largely financed by local traders, as a display of the prosperity and wealth in Bruge at the time
be scolding them, or at least laying down some strict tour guideline. God help anyone who loses sight of that Flagpole Man!
My plan today is to climb the 86 metre Belfort Tower for a better view and then spend the day wandering aimlessly, just seeing what lay around the next corner.
The temptation to eat is never far away and as we walked past the umpteenth chocolate shop, resisting the pull of the smells and shiney window displays to enter, a greater danger lay ahead. My god, what is that smell? Completely unaware, we approached the seductive aromas of The House Of Waffles. Even now I can still smell it; that warm, welcoming scent of cooked sugar and butter surrounded by apple cinnamon, and as you focus and strain to pass, a sideways glance at the sun kissed golden squares of lattice sitting on the bench, within reach but not yet ours, was too much. I was hooked. Inside the quiet contentment on the faces assured me this was right, it’s OK Steve. We sat down, and 30 minutes later floated out the door as if it struck by the Waffle Fairy. Alright, that’s a step too
Walking around Bruge, it is impossible to escape the many canals and bridges that wind around the old town. They were a mode of transportation and many buildings had docks or little sheltered moorings that led directly into buildings.
far but they are the best thing you’ll eat in Bruge and the trips incomplete without them.
By the way, if anyone thinks I’m ‘waffling‘ on a bit too much, I now treat that as encouragement and a complement!
Another food to sample is the Belgian Frites, the local take on hot potato chips. The stall in front of the Belfort sells these little gems by the bucket and they really are the cleanest crispy chips you will eat. Other than that, there’s obviously chocolate and any other food that you fancy. Beer is also a big deal here and if you were inclined you could sample 100 different beers in the beer garden in the courtyard across from our room Window. Numbers 50 To 100 are probably just 1 to 50 repeated but by then I don’t think you’d care, or know.
Cycling seems to be the favoured mode of transportation in Bruge, at least in the old town. They zigzag across lanes, cut into the paths of buses, trucks and horse carriages, with a blind faith that would see you killed in Melbourne. Vehicle users seem to have more tolerance and respect for cyclists and
anticipate the erratic manoeuvres that come out of nowhere. Helmets are not compulsory so head injury stats could be interesting. There is free underground bicycle parking and plenty of racks outside. From the train you also see masses of bicycles parked at stations, a phenomenon ridgidly avoided in Bacchus Marsh. Car parking replaces green areas at our station and cycling is seen as for kids or the weekend warriors cycling brigade.
Our last decadent gesture before leaving Bruge was to revisit the Praline Chocolate Shop for a last chocolate coffee, and yes, that is one drink, and to buy more chocolate for Easter. Apparently it‘s poor quality chocolate, full of sugar and fat, that makes you gain weight whereas quality Belgium chocolate is OK. While this advice came from a Belgian chocolatier, I’m inclined to believe it. I also believe in the Easter bunny if it means I get to eat more chocolate.
Having spent too much on chocolate, made a purchase in a jewellery store, and had a delicious pizza for lunch in a pleasant trattoria just off the main square, complimentory Italian music provided, we negotiated the confusing ( for me) bus system, and went to
The Money Shot
This is the most photogenic view in Bruge and even an amateur photographer ( me) can make a reasonable job of this. The colours are unaltered and it just seems to come out like this; breathtaking.
The railway schedule is easily negotiated and trains run on time and are very clean. On our return trip we rode double decker trains as it was peak hour traffic. Inspectors are ever present and I was checked twice before we reached Brussels, and 4 times on the way to Bruge. We shared our journey with commuters who chat to friends, work on computers or bury their heads in books in order to pass the time. Most commutes would be at least an hour but this system seems to make it acceptable; no one stands, it’s warm, every seat has a fold down table and toilets are there if needed; perfect.
Our journey passed through flat wet sodden fields where water had no escape. Small cottages sat alone, surrounded by water and waterlogged horses and cattle stand fixed in the mud. Villages of stone or rendered houses come and go and the plain cubed style of architecture is very orderly and appealing. There’s no ‘McMansions’ out here and it appears life is what you need, not what you think you need. Here is a simplicity that echos Leonardo de Vinci’s line, ‘Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication’.
It just looks enough.
The rain hits the train windows with a sharp, stinging sound and beads horizontally before falling to the tracks. More inspectors scan the carriages , questioning some, disregarding others and passing on respectable ‘old’ folk like myself. Wind turbines shrouded by mist come into view and look like aliens watching our passing. Namur looms again, as it’s most famous law school graduate, Mathias Corman, as our Finance Minister, cuts a path through the social fabric of Australia. He’s probably lucky Peter Dutton wasn’t presiding over who entered Australia in 1996 or he may still just be a councillor in his local village.
Since climbing aboard the new train in Brussels I appear to be going backwards due to my seat selection and a miscalculation in the direction of the train. Sometimes it feels like that’s been the case for years. Still, I reckon you just keep swapping seats in order to keep things interesting.
I’m enjoying the ride back to Luxembourg more than the trip to Bruge. Is it because we know we won’t get lost, or is it the snug, smug feeling in a warm full carriage of commuters; they’ve been to
I climbed the 366 steps to the top and the view is very underwhelming! I had to stand on tippy toes to see the Market Square due to the high walls and take overhead blind shots with the camera to record some images. It was worth it, but at €12, $19, a bit expensive.
work, I’ve been to Bruge? Graffiti, gang logos and amateur art defile every bit of concrete along the line as we pass through trackside settlements of small cottages huddled together, as if to keep warm.
We were met at Arlon Station by Tim, who negotiated the rain and confusing GPS directions, to have us safely home to a Natalia cooked meal after our Bruge trip. It was a short stay and, given the opportunity again, I would include time for a Flanders Wartime Tour, an important time in our history.
Today is a rest day, preparing for our trip to Poland and further on. Nothing to report although the Portuguese Tart I had at the bakery was delightful. Catch up in a couple of days, adios.
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