Bruges, Belgium

[ 1 ] May 12, 2011 |

With a full day of touring Brussels under our belts, we headed back to our amazing fantastic hotel to say goodbye one last time and pick up our packs from luggage storage.  After watching the woman at the front desk try to pick up my pack to politely hand it to me, fail miserably, compose herself, try again, then mutter something in French under her breath, I quickly stepped around the desk to save both of us from any further embarrassment. Even despite all our weight conscious packing, I guess I didn’t realize how heavy our packs are. So after mounting our trusty backpacks we jumped the train to Bruges and gave our aching feet a rest, at least for a few sedentary hours on the train – enough time to learn a little bit about the city we are about to encounter.

10-second history lesson about Bruges – Founded in 1128. Starting in 1277 due to its access to the sea, it grew into one of the largest shipping ports for all of Western Europe (aptly named “Venice of the North”).  Reaching the echelon of its importance and stature in Europe in the early 1500’s, the canal providing Bruges access to the sea soon began to fill in with sand causing the cities fall from prominace and leading the city into a three century long period of stagnation.  Largely untouched by development since the 16th century, Bruges is one of the best preserved and thus most visited medieval cities in all of Europe (not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

City Map Circa 1546

Arriving in Bruges we quickly realized that navigating the tricky bus system was our only public transportation option so we decided to hoof it the kilometer or so to our hostel/hotel.  A pulled muscle later we arrived at “The Passage”, a half hostel half hotel establishment whose experience was so “special” that it got it’s own video blog post by Alison.  You can check it out here.  (LINK) (LINK2) Tired and feeling a bit broken, we called it a night and decided to tackle this medieval city with fresh legs.


7:00am, church bells.  7:30 am, more church bells.  8:00am, MORE church bells.  OK I’m up already.  I open the curtains to realize that the tower of St. Salvatore’s Cathedral is about a block away. Following trusted advice, we came to Bruges with one game plan – get lost.  So that is exactly what we did for the next 12 hours.

It’s rare to encounter an attraction that is so encompassing of your senses.  Given that the city of Bruges itself is the draw and attraction the sights, sounds, and smells of the entire city completely envelope your senses 24/7.  It’s quite an experience and one that is best captured in photo and caption.

Cityscapes – A few of our favorite photos of the city.

The Provinciaal Hof in the Market Square

Bruges Cityscape

Bruges Cityscape 2

Windmill Perched Above City Moat

Church of Our Lady – The main attraction in Bruges and home to Michelangelo’s Madonna with Child, the only sculpture of his to leave Italy during his lifetime.  The tower, standing at 401 feet tall just so happens to be one of the worlds tallest all-brick structures.

City Canal with Church of Our Lady Tower in Background

Interior of Church of Our Lady

Madonna with Child by Michelangelo

Making Lace – A group of ladies get together every weekday from 2pm to 4:30pm to make exquisite lace using the traditional hand woven technique.  The speedy one of the group (see video below) has been making lace here since she was 8 years old when it was still an active nunnery – she is now 81.

Making Lace

St. Walburga Church – Small Jesuit church build in the 17th Century that we fell in love with.  Alison and I spent an half an hour staring at the pipe organ and intricate wood carvings respectively.

Exterior of St Walburga Church

Pipe Organ at St Walburga Church

Pulpit Carving at St Walburga Church

Medieval People – Alison would fit right in.

Short People

Tall People

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Category: Belgium, Blog, Destinations, Featured Posts, Pat's Blog

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  1. Russ Porter says:

    Hey Pat and Alison, I think I’ve finally arranged to be able to view and post the blogs/pics of your trip. This so so cool. Makes me feel that I’m there with you. Thanks for keeping us posted and letting us share your trip with you via the internet.

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