"" Writer's Wanderings: Bruge, Bruges, Brugge

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Bruge, Bruges, Brugge

The clip clop of swiftly moving horses and the sweet melody of a carillon mix together as we walk through the quaint and historic town of Bruge or Bruges or Brugge. We've seen the name spelled several different ways and probably depends upon what language you are looking at. Belgium is French and Flemish and I think a little German. A lot of influences from the countries who historically occupied the area.

Our trip to Brugge from Ghent where the river boat docked was on a nice bus and took about an hour. We have portable receivers with an ear bud that pick up the voice of the guide as we walk and make it so much more convenient than having to struggle to keep up and close enough to hear without the aid of electronics. 

Brugge, being quite a tourist magnet has a large parking area just outside the town where the tour buses can stay and passengers can conveniently enter the town by several pathways through a park area called Minnewater. It borders the Lake of  Love. The area is named for a young woman, Minna, who fell in love with a man from another enemy tribe and she made the long journey, running away from her father, until she found her lover. Unfortunately she collapsed into his arms and died there. The park is named for her, 

Our guide enjoyed filling us in on a little of his boyhood adventures as we walked. He didn't mention the legend but did point out a hotel in a restored mansion of a very rich person that was a romantic place to stay. 

We reached an abbey or monastery. It was described as both but was inhabited by Benedictine nuns and women who have chosen a solitary life. The monastery dates back to 1245 and must look absolutely beautiful when the narcissus are in full bloom. 

There is quite a network of canals--so much so that it has been called the "Venice of the North". Our guide chuckled and said they call Venice "the Brugge of the South." The canals and old bridges do make the town quite picturesque.

There is an old hospital building that also dates back to the mid 13th century. Our guide delighted in telling us about the blood letting and leeches used back then to treat people. 

Eventually we found our way to where we were to take a boat ride on the canals. The ride was delightful albeit a little chilly at times. Our driver spoke excellent English and was very informative. We passed under lots of low bridge arches, one of which made us duck our heads a bit. There are five boat companies who each own four boats and most of them are electric. It made for a bit of traffic but not so much to take away from the enjoyment of the experience.

By one of the locks that regulates the level of the water in the canals is a large flock of white swans elegantly cruising through the water or snuggled up on land snoozing.

The buildings and homes lining the canals are mostly made of brick. The older ones have stepped gables. At one time there was a tax on windows--a crazy way to regulate property taxes. The original brick buildings were at one time painted to protect the bricks. Since that was long before Sherwin Williams and Dutch Boy paints came along, they used ox blood which gave the name to a color of paint that is a deeper dark red. Some of the buildings were still painted that color but this time using paint not blood.

Pigeons at one time were very important to the area as they used them to send their correspondence from one place to the other. Our boat guide pointed out some towers that apparently were where the pigeons flew to and from. His comment was, "Imagine waiting for a love letter to arrive." Some kind of air mail.

We followed our guide on land again for a time until he got us to the Grote Markt. That seems to be the common name for the main town square in these towns. It was very active. Brugge is noted for having a lot of tourists, as many as 8 million a year. We were given time for lunch on our own and a little time to explore before having to meet in the square for our trip back. To find a place to eat meant dodging horse and carriages which left from the central square, and the hordes of bikes as well as the vehicles and delivery vans. A little precarious but not hindering.

On our list to see was the main church. No matter where you went you could see the spire of the Church of Our Lady. The church dates back to the 13th century and houses a museum as well. For 8 Euros you can get into both I believe. We were able to go into a small part of it for free. It houses a Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo. We are not sure if that is the one we saw. The information in front of the statute seemed to indicate a different artist. We decided not to pay the 8 Euros to see the rest. Time restraints and obstinance are the only excuses.

We wandered a bit after the church and decided we needed one more waffle before we were due to leave Belgium. This time we tried the Liege waffle which is roundish and has crystalized sugar inside, I didn't like it as well as the regular Belgian waffles but you put that rich dark chocolate on anything and it's good.

There was little time for a nap upon our return to the River Empress after I posted my blog. After another 11,000+ step day, I could have used a little more time to rest. Bob got his on the bus. He reclined his seat so I didn't have to worry so much about him falling into the aisle when he slept.

Our dinner was again excellent and followed by a trio of stringed instruments who played everything from classical to movie themed pieces. Half way through it though, my eyes swam and I figured it was time to call it a night before I fell out of my chair and Bob would have something to tease me about for the rest of our travel adventures.

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