August is holiday month in the Netherlands, which makes me think of Christmas, but actually is when everyone takes epic vacations. Co-workers of Tim’s will say, “Oh, I’m going on holiday next week. I’ll be back in September.” Literally. The Dutch head off to France, Turkey, Italy… so we decided to get in on the action and head off to the medieval city of Brugge, Belgium (or Bruges, if you prefer). From the train station in Delft it was about a three-hour journey, and we changed trains twice, which isn’t hard unless you incorrectly read your timetable and wind up at the wrong station.
There was no “Welcome to Belgium!” sign when we crossed over, and the scenery didn’t change much between these two closely-linked countries. We arrived in Brugge and took a taxi to our B&B—the only time I’ve been in a car since leaving the US on July 5 (!). From Trip Advisor (how I love thee) we had gathered that Brugge is a city of B&Bs. Regulations prohibit them from having more than three rooms, and there were many with impeccable reviews, whereas larger hotels tended to have mediocre reviews (or be exorbitantly priced, or both). Our B&B was aptly called Charming Brugge. It’s a gorgeous, huge old townhouse (with a kitchen I am covetous of) that the owners purchased and renovated from disrepair within the last five years. The before and after pictures are stunning in their difference.
During our three days in Brugge we did two organized tours: de Halve Maan brewery (gushing beer since the 1500s; the highlights of the tour were the view from the roof and the incredibly dry humor of our guide) and a canal boat tour. Brugge, like Delft, is a canal city and formerly a massive trade hub (think prior to the 1600s) known for textiles and lace. The half-hour canal tour was worth the seven Euros not for the “guide” (every thirty seconds the driver would announce some site in view in one or two languages, then push a button and the same text would repeat in a few other languages, creating this constant disjointed audio effect) but for the beauty of seeing the city from the water. Some of the old buildings, like the hospital, had little crannies at water level where boats could pull up and people could enter. I was tempted to abandon ship and make a swim for it!
Beyond that, we mainly explored. Brugge was clogged with tourists in the main drags, so much so that it was difficult to walk down the street, but once we got away from the market square that problem thinned out and we could just take it all in. I would comment on which buildings I would like to own/live in/take photos of (nearly all of them); we sampled beer and food and sat in shady parks; we peeked in and out of gorgeous ancient churches.
In the Church of Our Lady, I saw my first Michelangelo! Brugge has tucked away here one of a handful of Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy. It was intended for a church in Siena, but purchased by merchants from Brugge. There were many sculptures in the church, but the marble of this one looked unlike any other. The Church of Our Lady had this wonderful sense of being a holy place, so many years after people labored to create and worship in it.
We had a lovely time in Brugge, and I cannot get enough of medieval cities (Rothenburg, Germany, being my current favorite). Their quirky, uneven streets always invite my feet and mind to wander.