A short, but spectacular afternoon in Bruges

One morning during our stay in Antwerp, a group of us took a brief excursion to Bruges, the beautiful medieval city of Belgium. On the way our escort gave us a pretty good history of the capital and largest city in West Flanders. Often referred to as the “Venice of the North” like Stockholm and Amsterdam, Bruges got an early start because of its port and was once the chief commercial city of the world.
Today it receives about 2 million visitors a year who come for the chocolate, the hand-made lace and the Flemish tapestries, as well as canal tours and wandering through the ancient churches. Oh, and the Belgian waffles.
There are obviously lots of landmarks here, although it was often difficult to know what we were looking at because most things are written in Flemish. Need I say more? So, enjoy the pictures.
Johan, our guide, walked us to our meeting point and along the way we saw a couple of nice buildings.
We decided that the best way to see a bit of the town would be a canal cruise. By now the rain had pretty much stopped and we bought tickets at the first vendor we saw. A few others from the Ship joined us and even though it was a short trip (30 minutes) we got a different perspective while gliding along next to the resident swans.

bruges-5A group of typical stepped-gable buildings
bruges-6Gargoyle-type decorations are said to ward off evil spirits
bruges-7Figures in a window

Once we left the canal boat we wandered around for a couple of hours looking at the beautiful buildings and enjoying the atmosphere.

bruges-10Colorful buildings near a square where the horse-drawn carriages gathered

By this time we were ready for lunch but mindful of the fact that we were going out for dinner, we decided to have something small. The Belgian waffle that was touted all over town seemed the perfect thing. Then we looked for a small, non-touristy place to enjoy it and came upon a cute little tearoom that seemed to be family-owned. There we had our waffles just as the Belgians do, with only sugar and butter. Mine was accompanied by the best hot chocolate I have ever had. At the counter, under a glass dome, there were several chocolate “tulips” which you choose and it is then plunged into a glass of steaming milk where it slowly dissolves. Amazing!
We were then in search of ice cream but had to walk around a few minutes to let all that other sugar settle. After that it was a trip to one of the chocolate shops and we actually found one where they made everything on the premises.
After that, we went back to the meeting place and Johan began leading us to our bus. On the way we walked through an arch dedicated to St. Elisabeth of Hungary and entered a complex known as a “beguinage”. This is a place where pious women settled when they were alone and lived while their husbands may have been off to war or traveling for business. They didn’t take vows but it was thought they were much safer in an area like this. The buildings we saw today were built between the 16th and 18th centuries and since 1927 have housed a small order of Benedictine nuns. A central yard that was filled with daffodils two weeks ago is surrounded by very attractive white brick houses, each a little different, and silence is the norm as one walks around.

bruges-14St. Elisabeth’s Gate

We captured just a few more photos before we crossed the final bridge and were back in the “real” world.

bruges-16Legend has it a man built this for his lady friend and when she refused it he jumped in the river and drowned. Hope it is just a legend.
bruges-17A picturesque old lock house

It was a pretty quiet ride back to Antwerp with lots of traffic on a Friday afternoon. Had a wonderful dinner with friends in Tides and called it a day.

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