Because I am incapable of sitting still, I decided to celebrate my one month anniversary in Europe by taking a trip to Bruges, Belgium. A lovely sunny weekend in a town so lovely that if Disney had built it we’d all hate it and claim it’s unrealistic-
Bruges is in the Flemish part of Belgium meaning they are culturally and linguistically the same as the Dutch in Holland, and this means because Bruges and Amsterdam were both built around the same time they have similar architecture (though the Flemish have a greater fondness for brick and stone). What impressed me most about the place besides the fact that every building still has its 17th century style is the level of detail that you can find everywhere-
No way around it, Bruges is absolutely lovely. The only problem is on a nice weekend such as this everyone in the surrounding region agrees with this sentiment and so Bruges was packed with tourists- mainly daytrippers, the town is quiet at night- to the point where there were several times more tourists than the 20,000 people who live in this small town. You couldn’t even walk down the sidewalk in some places! So based on that I’m definitely not going to complain about tourists in Amsterdam for a few weeks at least, and probably not a place to come in the summertime when there can only be more of them…
Luckily I am apparently turning Dutch because I had a strong urge to rent a bicycle, and so most of my wanderings involved going in the comparatively less crowded middle of the streets ringing my bell at anyone who might get in my way. (There is no better way to feel superior to other tourists than rent a bicycle- you might still be a tourist, but now you can run the other guys down!) And really there are few nicer things to do in this town than bike around and stop to take in views here and there on a nice day-
(Yes, they have canals in Bruges and you can take a boat ride on them. In case you forgot that the Flemish are really Dutch.)
My favorite lovely building that I came across in Bruges though is without question the Church of Our Lady-
There are several church towers in Bruges but this church is the largest, and what impressed me most actually was inside. In short this church had perhaps one of the most incredible collections of artwork inside that I’ve ever seen in a church, and it was doubly exciting because I just plain was not expecting it!
The most famous sculpture here and hence the reason most people come is the Madonna of Bruges, the only Michelangelo work known to leave Italy during his lifetime. (It’s been plundered twice, once by Napoleon and once by Nazis, and is now behind bulletproof glass ever since a crazy guy attacked the Pietà in the 1970s.) But in addition to that they also have incredible sculptures, altarpieces, and even some tombs recently excavated from the 13th century. Awesome stuff.
Anyway, after a long day of sightseeing it was time to indulge in some chocolate-
And settle down for dinner over some Belgian beer!
The dish in question is of course steak tartare, which I’ve mentioned before as one of the tastiest things I know of (and this is apparently why this blog always marks the occasion of me eating tartare). The funny thing about ordering it is whenever I do in my lovely American accent the waiter always gives me an odd look and asks if I know what it is, so I always smile and say yes, I do, and I really do want my delicious raw meat mixed with raw egg and spices please. What’s doubly entertaining about all this I suppose is how it’s advertised in Flemish on the menus as “steak Americain,” so why are they so weirded out if an American wants an American style steak?
The meal of course like any other in Belgium was served with frites– they magically appeared with mayonnaise at every meal even if you specifically ordered a meal that had no mention of them, leading me to wonder what the rate of heart disease is in this country. All washed down with a delicious local beer of course…
And so went my first foray into Belgium. It was quite lovely and the tickets are dirt cheap from Holland on the weekends, though, so I’m sure I will be back!