So, a pleasant evening eating and drinking at Punta Est on Predikherenrei finished with Vanya and I going for a short stroll around some of the more attractive tourist haunts in the centre of the city and, there’s no doubt about it, Bruges is a very picturesque place especially at night.
Entering the city from the east along the N9, we’d already seen the Kruispoort (indeed, we walked through the Kruispoort) together with two of Bruges’ remaining four mills (the Bonne-Chieremolen and the Sint-Janshuismolen) and we’d passed numerous old and wonderfully elegant buildings (many of them now transformed into boutique hotels) but most striking were some of the views that we took in while walking alongside the city’s canals to the Punta Est restaurant. Bruges has been referred to as the Venice of the North (although nowadays many other cities including England’s own Birmingham make that same claim) but my money is squarely on Bruges.
We wandered Bruges late into the night taking in most of the tourist sites in the area immediately around the Grote Markt including The Belfry, the Provincial Palace and the Provost House. This large square is home to various museums (the Historium, the Salvador Dali Musuem and the Beer Museum to name but a few) but it was late and a long walk lay ahead of us back to the Van.
I was back in Bruges shortly after 5 am the next morning – a mosquito buzzing around in the Van had kept me awake most of the night and by the time I had tracked it down and squashed it I was wide awake. I left Vanya sleeping in the Van and set off back to the city for a better look.
There were very few people up and about during the first hour or so of my return into the town. I made my way back to the Markt Square, a large open square surrounded by guildhalls, cafes and restaurants teeming with people the night before but, now deserted. The Belfort Tower dominates the square and it is possible for a small fee to ascend it’s narrow stairway to the top of the 83 metre tower but; not at 11 o’clock at night and not at 6 o’clock in the morning.
Bruges’ Markt Square figures prominently in the film thriller “In Bruges” starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fienes. I’m told the local tourist office hold leaflets showing where the various sets were filmed but, needless to say, the tourist office wasn’t open during my visit so again I missed out but, no matter, over the ensuing four hours I saw pretty much everything worth seeing.
Talking of the Markt Square, not all of the buildings on the Square are original but, the Craenenburg Cafe (minus it’s brick facade which was added in 1956) lays claim to being the building from which Margaret of York (another of the Plantagenents) watched a jousting pageant at her wedding to Charles the Bold in 1468.
One place well worth visiting and not too far from the Markt Square (nothing in Bruges is too far from Markt Square) is the 13th century Church of Our Lady which is home (now) to the aforesaid Charles the Bold and, perhaps more important, a Michaelangelo statue of the Madonna and Child. This small statue dates back to 1503 and was gifted to the church by a local businessman.
Bruges appears a very pretty and a fairly peaceful city but it does get more than it’s fair share of tourists. We were fortunate during our brief 2 day stay in that the number of tourists in the city was low and we were therefore able to pick and choose where we ate. That’s important in a place where frites, waffles, beer and chocolate appear very much to be the order of the day. We each enjoyed our meals in two different restaurants we tried on the Predikherenrei and while we paid tourist prices, they were not silly prices and the service was excellent.
Just 30 miles from Bruges is Ghent (spelt Gent in the local language), my favourite city in Belgium. That’s our next destination.