Bruges - Belgiums Medieval City

Trip Start May 13, 2004
Trip End May 29, 2004

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Bruges, which means "landing stage" in the old Norse language, was in its heyday one of the most important trading centres in Northwest Europe. It has since become one of Belgiums premier tourist attractions, drawing millions every year. What was supposed to be a one hour long journey took two cos I missed my stop and although I thought of pressing the emergency button and causing the train to come to a screeching halt, I realised I'd probably be thrown into jail cos the look on my face wasn't innocent enough, plus I'd probably have failed the lie detector test if I had tried to explain that I had spotted Claudia Schiffer and badly wanted her autograph.

Anyhow, upon arrival, I found my way through the old cobble streets and around the the meandering canals towards the Belfry at Mark't Square. Towering over the city (which wasn't a major feat considering most of the buildings were two storeys high), the 88 metre tall Belfry is Bruges most outstanding landmark, offering a breathtaking view of the city. Unfortunately, the original architects were non handicap friendly people and hadn't built a lift! Therefore the 366 step climb up a winding stairwell made me wish I had gone easy on lunch and not had all that junk food. My reward upon reaching the top was to have my eardrums blasted by the deafening chimes of a carillion of 47 bells which ring out at regular intervals, altogether weighing a total of 27 tonnes.

Tucked away in a small corner of an area called Burg Square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Its a small little chapel dedicated to the relic of the Holy Blood, a small bottle of rock crystal, believed to contain the blood of Jesus Christ, brought to Bruges from Constantinople (that's Istanbul for those who got a f grade in history) sometime around the 12th century. Every year, on Ascension Day, a procession takes place along the city's streets, with a knight carrying the relic.

A two minute walk away from Burg Square takes you to the Huidenvettersplein. There was everything to love about this small quarter of historic homes, except if you were an English student asked to spell it's name. Many of the homes have been turned into restaurants with al fresco dining, and the warm European summer made it a wonderful place to chill out and have Belgian waffles and ice cream.

Adjacent to Huidenvettersplein is Rozenhoedkai Street, usually the starting point for an enchanting canal tour of Bruges and for photographers the site of a great photo of the Belfry. But with all that junk food still swirling around my stomach, I decided against it and continued to explore the city by foot.

The Beginhof is another part of Bruges not to be missed. It is former convent housed in a secluded court of almshouses with a quiet inner garden. The convent was inhabited then by the Beguines, a catholic order of unmarried or widowed women from wealthy families that took it upon themselves to look after the elderly. The serenity of the place was otherworldly, and I felt as if time had stood still whilst I was there.

It didn't, and before long I had to make the trip back to Brussels for the night, but not before exhausting the memory in my camera!
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