Travels in Belgium: Brugge (June 4-5, 2014)

Brugge Main Square

Attractions:

  • Historical Market Square
  • Lace Jewel shop
  • Basilica of the Holy Blood
  • Belfry overlooking the market square
  • Canal boat cruise
  • Church of Our Lady with Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child
  • Memling Museum at St. John’s Hospital and Apothecary (Sint-Janshospitaal and Apotheek)
  • Groeingemuseum and Arentshuis

The sounds of hooves pounding echo on the cobbled stones. From our sheltered carriage, we watch the passersby and the medieval buildings along the canals zip by. Our carriage rounds the bend and stops at Lover’s Lake. Swans and ducks mill around the area, herding their young and gliding along the canal’s murky waters. It is a romantic haven for those who enjoy watching people and nature in harmony.

Lake of Love

During our tour, we stayed two nights in Brugge (Flemish) or Bruges (French and English)—a picturesque town that once was an important cloth market in the 14th century until the economy went downhill in the 16th century. Today, it is a thriving historical center. During our first night, we went on a galloping ride through the town in a horse-drawn carriage towards Lover’s Lake, where we stopped for pictures.

Lake of Love

Afterwards, we explored the historical market square and had dinner nearby. The market square is surrounded by Gothic-style brick buildings meeting at an impressive belfry that overlooks the heart of the town.

Brugge Main Square

Brugge Main Square

Here one can enjoy the selection of restaurants nearby or peruse other shops nearby. We had dinner at one of the restaurants along the side streets leading away from the square. This unfortunately was a mistake as the food was expensive and mediocre. We tried the waterzooi (a stew of chicken or fish, vegetables, cream, and eggs), mussels, pasta, and vegetable soup.

Chicken Waterzooi

The following day, we met our local guide who took us on a walking tour to Brugge’s historical sites. Our first stop was the historical market square. Afterwards, we had a lacemaking demonstration at the Lace Jewel shop located nearby. Apparently, in Belgium, there are two techniques of lacemaking: Renaissance (or Brussels) lace found in Brussels and Bobbin lace found in Brugge.

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In the 15th century, lacemaking was an important skill that all women in convents and schools in Belgium were taught per Charles the Fifth’s decree. It was once a fashionable item that was widely sought by both men and women. Today, lacemaking is not commercially produced in factories rather it is a handicraft that is produced individually in small shops often by older women.

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Next we visited the Gothic-style Basilica of the Holy Blood.

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It is said that it houses the relic of the blood of Christ, which was brought to Brugge in 1150 after the Second Crusade.

Our walk took us past the belfry that boasts an exciting view of the city and onward to the dock for a canal boat cruise. The boat cruise allowed us to view Brugge from another angle; past the rows of residences on the canal side and under the bridges of old.

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After the boat cruise, our guide took us to the Church of Our Lady. This church houses Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child (also known as Madonna of Bruges) [1501–1504].

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It is the only piece that has left Italy during the artist’s life and was purchased by the wealthy cloth merchants, Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni (Mouscron).

The tour ended. We were given free time for the remaining part of the day.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant before heading to the Memling Museum at St. John’s Hospital and Apothecary (Sint-Janshospitaal and Apotheek).

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As one of the sixteen museum collections in Brugge, St. John’s Hospital museum focuses on the Flemish primitives, mainly Hans Memling, and various collections of medical memorabilia.

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We also visited the Groeningemuseum and Arentshuis—the museums that house art from the 15th to 21st centuries from the Southern Netherlands (present-day Belgium). The main focus is undoubtedly the Flemish painters: Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, and Gerard David. This was one of the most impressive art museums I have visited.

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For a respite after all the exploring, we went to Servaas Van Nullem for tea and pastries. Utterly scrumptious and refreshing!

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Additional Comments

All in all, Brugge is one of the “must see” places in Belgium. Its rich history and culture cannot be explored in a couple days. I definitely will visit again someday. After all I only went to two of the sixteen museums in the town.

References

Bruges. (2015). Visit Bruges. Retrieved from https://bezoekers.brugge.be/en

Lace in Belgium. (2015). Lace from Belgium. Retrieved from http://www.lace.be/

Steves, Rick. (2015). Bruges Travel Guide Resources. Retrieved from https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/belgium/bruges

UNESCO. (2015). Bruges Historic Centre. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/996

Belgium

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