Friday, April 15, 2011

Surprise Trip to Bruges, Belgium

On this Holland trip, our last stop was supposed to be Brussels, Belgium since it's not that far out of the way home.  Brian, however, totally surprised me by making a side trip to Bruges (Brugge), a small town not far from Brussels, but a town very well-known and one visited by tourists frequently.  (It was also featured in a recent movie called In Bruge, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.)  

I didn't know much about Bruges, I just knew everyone said it had a medieval, old world charm to it.  And because I wasn't anticipating this trip, I didn't have time to read up on anything.  Thus, I don't have much historical stuff for those reading this as a "tourist" help. I've tried finding a few things on the internet to go along with some of the pictures but I can't share a lot.

I can tell you that I was very much charmed by this city.  We stayed mostly in the main square because of our time restraints but there was such a great amount of history, beauty and ambiance that I felt like we didn't need more.  I'd like to go back for sure, and it's so close we could do it easily someday.

Here are pictures from the trip that Brittany and Xanthe/Xoe took. I lost track of who took what. :) The first ones were of buildings as we were driving into town.

(I think that's the Church of Our Lady in the back.)

Some facts about Bruges I got from Wikipedia, as well as their city tourist site:

-Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam, it is sometimes referred to as "The Venice of the North".  (Christy's comment: I sort of wish I would have seen the canals.  Maybe next time).  The next couple of pictures are online pictures so you could get an idea of what Bruges is like.

This is an online picture
This is an online picture.

This is an online picture.

-The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a division of the United Nations.)

-Church of Our Lady-Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122.3 m (401.25 ft), making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo's only sculpture to have left Italy within his lifetime.
This is an online picture but it's so beautiful isn't it?  I don't remember seeing this.  I think it's the tower in the picture above with the statue in front.

-Belfry Bell Tower-Bruges' most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells.[15] The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.
(The Belfry is the building with the tall bell tower on the right)

Climbing the bell tower was the one thing Brian wanted to do, but knowing my fear of heights, he didn't even ask me. :) Brittany wanted to climb the 366 steps as well so they headed up there together while I entertained the kids in the courtyard below.

Picture from one of the windows
I thought this was an amazing picture Brittany caught.

One of the city's most prominent symbols,[1] the belfry formerly housed a treasury (there are some original pieces still on display) and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. 

And here come the bell pictures.

The bells in the tower regulated the lives of the city dwellers, announcing the time, fire alarms, work hours, and a variety of social, political, and religious events. Eventually a mechanism ensured the regular sounding of certain bells, for example indicating the hour.

In the 16th century the tower received a carillon (seen in picture below), allowing the bells to be played by means of a hand keyboard... to play songs during Sundays, holidays and market days.  

There were 48 bells at the end of the 19th century, but today the bells number 47, together weighing about 27.5 tons

A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east.
They weren't kidding! Those are some narrow stairs.

To the sides and back of the tower stands the former market hall, a rectangular building only 44 m broad but 84 m deep, with an inner courtyard. The belfry, accordingly, is also known as the Halletoren (tower of the halls).
The building is a central feature of the 2008 film In Bruges.

This is where the kids and I went to the bathroom and hung out while waiting for Brittany and Brian. Eventually we went out into the main square before they got back, but the kids had fun climbing all the stairs and chasing birds.  You know how much Spencer loves doing that. :)

I know these are all the same but I love looking at these pictures. :)

And it wouldn't be a post without Xoe's token pictures of herself. :)

Out in the Square
It was the beginning of Spring, so there were beautiful flowers already in the planters and even though it was cold, there was still a wonderful charm to it.

At first, all Spencer wanted to do was clip clop like the horses that drive down the main road along with all of the cars.  In this video you can see the bikes, horse-drawn carriages and cars all drive on the same road.

There was some type of little carnival going on.  And of course Spencer wanted to ride the cars over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  Oh, and over again.  All because it looked like a train and had a train engine pulling them.
Look closely to find him in the train.
Pure happiness.

I love the little face he was making here.
And this American balloon maker sort of monopolized our time. He kept making more balloons and taking his time and of course, in true fashion, was trying to make nice-nice with us to get more money.  It was kind of wearing on Brian, and especially when he asked to use our Army Post Office Box to have balloons shipped to him for a cheaper price, Brian just handed him some money and we left to find somewhere to eat. Don't get me wrong. He was nice, giving us recommendations of places to eat, and talking about America and how he moved over there because he married a Belgium woman.  But come on.  He's a balloon artist.  Haha!  We got some great balloons out of it too. He was pretty talented.

(Ignore my non-makeup face.)

Xanthe the Rock Star!
I'd really love to go back there and explore without kids. It has a lot of history for being as small of a town as it is.

Last Stop: Brussels!

1 comment:

Kerstin said...

Beautiful city. I'm a little amused though,as every city with canals calls itself the Venice of ...!