21 August 2011

In Bruges

I'm not really sure to say about Bruges. First of all, I did not much enjoy the movie. Sure it was sort of funny but it was also really slow and somewhat depressing. For another thing, it is actually in the Flemish part of Belgium so when you are there the town is called Brugge. But for the rest of the world it is known by its French name. The place itself is a typical tourist city when seen on a sunny day. It is much larger than Mons, there are many souvinir shops and many chocolate shops and also normal shops of course. There are lots of brick builidings, there are canals and there are loads of people! It was very warm and very sunny. So I spent an entire day in Bruges and you really can have enough of most cities in just one day. You can see the main sites easily enough. If you were on a real holiday to Bruges I'm sure it would be entertaining enough for a few days, there are loads of restaurants and cafes where you can eat outside and just while the day away. But in my few hours there I saw enough, and got very tired. To begin with I found the cathedral, which was easy enough considering that you can see the spire from all over the city.

You have to pay to go into the cathedral. It's not much but then they also say you can't take photos! Everybody else was though, so I did too of course! Inside was nice enough but mainly like any other church or cathedral. It is gothic and full of arches. It was quite large and airy, and had loads of paintings hanging. There is a sculpture there by Michaelangelo, the only one outside of Italy apparently. Mostly though it was just a church and there's not really that much to see.

So after the church I kept on wandering and found brick buildings and courtyards and lots of trees. The canals are nice, except that they are full of boats giving tours. Not nice little canal boats either, big motor boats. It is difficult to take nice photos of the canals and bridges because there are bloody tourists everywhere! This is why you have to be a tourist in the very early hours of the morning, or during the off season. That's how they get the nice postcard pictures. Or maybe they photoshop them. Speaking of postcards, I am glad I have finished with the buying and sending of them because that sort of thing costs me a bloody fortune! Once you add together the postcards and the ridiculous price of international stamps here and then convert it back to NZ dollars I have probably spent around 50 bucks! On postcards! So I hope everybody that get's one appreciates it.

So I kept on wandering and found a market along the canal, with interesting stuff but nothing so amazing as to catch my eye and make me buy it! Next I found a street full of souvinir shops and chocolate shops. There is so much chocolate, and it smells so good, but no free samples! Some shops had just normal chocolates and others had 'artisan' stuff, like this little swan. I also saw a chocolate shoe and chocolate boobs. No picture though, sorry, but I figured we should keep this thing PG.

The next large tower that I came to was the belfry, on the market square. Considering its name, there was actually no market in this square. Lots of restaurants and people though. It was about lunchtime and getting very hot. This belfry you could climb up, so I waited in line for about half an hour in order to get a nice view over the city.

On the way up to the top of the belfry there were rooms to stop and look in. There was one containing the clockwork for the big clock on the outside, which was actually quite cool to see, and also showed the big device for making the bells ring. It was a big wheel that turned in time with the clock and had these bits sticking out of it which hit wires as they turned, which in turn made the bells ring. Like the device in a music box, only much bigger!

So at the top were the bells and windows that you could look out of. Bruges is an okay city to look at - there is not really any amazing landscape to see but the buildings are cute and there are plenty of trees, and it was a nice day. It doesn't take long to get your fill of the view though, so then it is time to make your way back down the narrow staircase while more tourists are also trying to make their way up.

As you can see, it was a very narrow staircase! It widened out down lower though. It has been trod on for so long that the steps are all quite slippery.

So there were a few more things on my list of must sees, most of which as always involve some building or another. There are the old 'hanseatic' buildings, which are not actually entirely authentic because a lot of the very old buildings had fallen into disrepair and have been renovated, but done so in a way that they look as old as possible. This down here is the porter's lodge, because for awhile the canal system made Bruges a very important port. Again they were nice enough looking buildings but all those tourists really get in the way! Not to mention the bright sun screwing up the exposure on my camera.

Finally I went off to find one last church, which was associated with 'almshouses', where nuns live, or used to live, and apparently are nice, quiet, peaceful places. There are pictures in the guidebooks. Only it turns out that they are not actually open to public access anymore. I moved onto another 'must-see', which was a convent-garden inside an abbey. I'm not sure what the big deal was though, it was just a big grassy area with trees, surrounded by brick buildings and a church, with lots of tourists wandering around. So after a bit of a wander and not being impressed by the extreme tranquility of it all (I was, after all, hot and tired, and the place was really just a grassy area) I went off in search of shops and souvinirs. And then my day was done! I was tired of Bruges, it was time to go home and to bed. The trains were awfully crowded, many European women are rather smelly, and there were these silly teeny-boppers on the train with their mp3 players dancing in the middle of the aisle. They were in the middle of the aisle because there were no seats left - I am always amazed over here that they will let a train be so full that the aisles and stairs and bits between carriages are full of people just sitting and standing. Surely that is a safety hazard! Today I am packing, it is very warm and humid and is supposed to storm. Tomorrow I return to Ireland and am looking forward to it!

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