Brugge is a medieval city in northern Belgium, in the Flemish section of the country. I consider it Europe’s hidden medieval gem, if ancient history/architecture peaks your interest. Dutch is the main language spoken, although French is also regularly spoken as well as English. After watching the movie ‘In Bruges’ following prompting from my cousin and a former co-worker, I made Brugge a must see place on my recent trip to Europe earlier this year.
After getting to Brussels from London, I took the one hour train ride to Brugge. Traveling with a friend, we decided to not buy train tickets in hopes that we could catch a free ride and save money. We were wrong. A ticket controller made his way onto the train and straightaway asked for our train tickets. We played “dumb” and spoke exclusively in English. Normally you can be charged heavy fines for trying to free-ride if caught but we took the next option of buying tickets on the train and quickly did so. Slightly expensive than what they would have been had we bought them prior to boarding, but I’ll take buying a pricier ticket over heavy fines any day. Lesson Learned.
The weather in Europe during the month of April can be very unpredictable. On this day, there was a misty rain. We got to Brugge and the rain welcomed me in for much of the first hour. Visiting Brugge, there are many ‘must sees’. The Belfry is the first. It is a tall structure that catches your eye from anywhere outside the city center. If you are brave enough to climb to the top- after paying eight euros- you will get a chance to listen to the fantastic bell ringing display as well as the opportunity to get a panoramic view of the city. Breathtaking.
The Beguinage is the second. This area housed nuns in the yesteryears of Brugge’s history. The area looks serene today, with its white buildings and numerous trees and tulips. It reminds me of my days as a college student in Bishop Rogan minor seminary. The next must-see sight is Heilig Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood). This is a catholic church that is said to house a relic of the blood of Christ. I got a chance to hold this relic, and was deeply compelled in part because of my catholic roots. Following this church visit, we visited the Church of Our Lady. This church contains a Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo. It is said to be Michelangelo’s only work to have left Italy in his lifetime. All the churches were incredibly beautiful, ordained with gold, ornaments, and sculptures. If nothing else, anyone who appreciates architecture will really love Brugge.
Chocolate and beer are synonymous with Belgium, so we tried some of both. The Belgians are very creative with their chocolates, and Brugge did not disappoint. From breast sculpted chocolates to a Barack Obama sculpted chocolate, it was absorbing walking down the streets looking at different chocolate designs in stores.
Getting food was something we felt would be the easiest of everything in the day. Instead, it turned out to be the longest experience. One hour, this is. In Brugge, there is no concept of forming a line, or knowing what you are going to order before it’s your turn, or placing that order in a timely manner. Instead, what you have is a melee. After waiting an hour at the restaurant ironically named Quick Burger, we finally got our food, which turned out to be garbage. On our way back to Brussels that night, we bought crepes- a Belgium delectable- and beer, both of which made up for the horrible burger joint experience. Though brief, that was my experience in Brugge.