We would have never made it without her help-- yet another excellent Dutch person! The second train was less crowded but about 10 times hotter than it should have been, but it was pretty short. Our connection in Gent was only 5 minutes as well, but the train to Brugge was delayed by 10 minutes so we made it just fine. Definitely lucked out with the trains.
We arrived in Brugge at about 10 PM and caught a bus to our hostel. There was a short walk from the bus stop to the hostel, and we didn't have the best directions. Luckily, the Belgian people might be even more friendly and helpful than the Dutch-- no less than three different people asked us if we were lost and offered assistance in finding our hostel.
So nice! Our hostel turned out to be really good. The room was nice and clean, and there was a big common area/bar with tons of people in it. We dropped our stuff and headed back out to central Brugge to take some night pictures.
The square was beautifully lit, so we spent a while wandering around and enjoying the architecture and the window displays. As you all know, Belgium is known for a few things-- beer, chocolate, fries, and waffles. The chocolate displays were definitely the best.
Back at the hostel, Jeremy and I went to bed while Adrienne tried to shower. She had a pretty great experience: first, the shower was in the bar, so she had to walk through all the people to get there. Second, there was no light. Third, there was no temperature control. Fourth, she had to pull on a chain the entire time to keep the water running. Needless to say, Jeremy and I decided to just stay unclean until reaching Brussels.
The next morning (Monday 6-27), we woke up early to get breakfast at the hostel. It was the standard breakfast (toast and cereal), but they included delicious graham-cracker-flavored spread! Can't remember its name, but it was delicious.
After breakfast, we walked to the main square in Brugge and took a million pictures, then headed to the water to take a million more. Brugge is one of the cutest places we've been so far-- might even rival Strasbourg!
Then we went inside a beautiful church that housed Michelangelo's Madonna and Child sculpture. It was really lovely, so we spent a while walking around and taking pictures. After church number 1, we had some fries at a little shop.
They were really delicious but extremely hot, so we all lost some of the skin on the top of our mouths. Definitely worth the pain, although our waitress was a horrible bitch.
We tipped her one cent for her efforts-- she must be the only foul person in all of Belgium!
Then, we went to De Halve Mann brewery to learn a little bit about how the Belgians make beer and to try some of their famous brew.
The tour guide was pretty hilarious. She had a really dry sense of humor but was ver funny during each part of the tour. The view from the roof was excellent and the beer was delicious. Only downfall was that it was horribly hot inside the brewery. Good thing the beer was cold.
After our beer experience, we picked up some Belgian chocolates to see if all the hype was merited. They were totally fabulous!
Different than the Swiss chocolate in some ways but very similar in its differences from American chocolate. I think the main one is that they don't put wax in their chocolate-- apparently ours is loaded with wax. Gross.
We headed to another church to check out what was advertised as the "coagulated blood of Jesus." Naturally,we were pretty skeptical, and for good reason!
You couldn't even see the blood-- it was inside of an ornate silver chest thing! So you had to take it on faith that the blood was actually there, and obviously that it was from Jesus. I'm not sold on the whole claim. The church was really beautiful though...
After the blood fiasco, we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags, then hopped on the local bus to go to the train station. Here, we ran into some trouble.
It was really hot all day, but definitely no hotter than it had been in Spain. Apparently, the weather was totally insane by Belgian standards, and they had stopped running a ton of trains because the "cables were too hot." So there were millions of people in the train station trying to fight their way onto the fraction of trains that were still running.
Plus, there must have been people dropping like flies, because there were TONS of Red Cross people there, running around like maniacs bringing water to people. Anyway, we tried to push our way onto three different trains before finally succeeding.
Once we got on the train, it was ridiculously crowded and hot and unbearably smelly. There were definitely not seats, so we parked ourselves on top of our backpacks and got as comfortable as possible given the circumstances.
An hour later, we arrived in Brussels and escaped the madness. This train ride was our last train in Europe-- our train pass expires on the 28th and we take the bus to from Brussels to London. We saved the worst for last so we could go out with a bang! Goodbye Eurail pass, you were great and paid for yourself almost 4 complete times! Excellent!
So, lesson learned in Brugge: first we complained about the heat in Spain and got freezing rain in Northern Europe. Then we complained about the rain and got record heat again in Belgium. No more complaining. Will post about Brussels tomorrow. Tot ziens!
We were very sad to leave our Dutch friends in Rotterdam, but at least the train to Brugge was a good experience. We had a series of difficult connections-- the first train was massively crowded so we got moved to first class! There were no seats together, so Jeremy ended up sitting by a very talkative girl from Amsterdam. She was extremely helpful with the trains. We only had 5 minutes to connect in Antwerp to our train to Gent and our train was already 2 minutes late, so she ran with us to find our next train.