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A day at Bruges

Home -> Europe -> Belgium -> Travelogue Belgium -> 17 December 2013

Tuesday 17 December, a day at Bruges

When we wake up, it is gray outside and it looks like it is going to rain. We are having breakfast in Bruggge so we check out quickly. A bit too fast because when we are in the center we suddenly realize that we have left my coat and worse, the laptop. So we first have to go back but better that we find out now than tonight when we are already far from here.
Sculptures at Het Zand, Bruges Sculpture at Het Zand, BrugesWe park our car a bit outside the city center (free of charge) and walk to 't Zand where we will have our breakfast at one of the many restaurants. It is the largest square in Bruges with fountains and a number of sculptures representing scenes from the history of the city.
It seems that in 2016 they started redesigning the square and that the fountain is no longer there. The images are no longer there either, but they may come back again at a later stage.
Nativity scene in Bruges Nativity scene in BrugesThroughout the city we see Christmas stalls and if we wait a few more days, there will be more and bigger Christmas markets such as on the Grote Markt. The municipality also organizes an icesculpture festival every year around Christmas but we miss that too since it hasn't started yet.
These nativity scenes are located near the Onthaalkerk Onze Lieve Vrouwe, with 115 meters the second highest brick building in the world.
View at the Heilige Geeststraat Our dear lady church, BrugesBruges is indeed full of religious monuments such as churches but also chapels and religious statues. In the Onze Lieve Vrouwe there is a world famous work by Michelangelo, Madonna with child, which was meant for the cathedral in Siena but was bought by a Bruges trader who donated it to the church.

Next to the church is the archeology museum that tells playfully about life through the centuries in Bruges. But in addition there are a dozen museums in the center of the city where the history, or parts of it, of the city is being treated, so if you are interested party there is plenty to visit but we think that one museum is more than enough today.
Guido Gezelleplein Coat of arms GruuthusemuseumWherever you look around (in the center) you see historical buildings, such as here on the Guido Gezelleplein where the Gruuthuse Museum is located in a former 15th century city palace and where a varied collection of objects from the 13th to the 19th century are exhibited including a lot Bruges carpets and a used guillotine.
House in the Arentshof, Bruges Rider of the apocalypse, BrugesNear the Onze Lieve Vrouwe church is the Arentshof, another nice courtyard that had to be opened to the public by order of the municipality at the end of the 19th century.
In the garden there is also a sculpture group, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, another religious work of art that depicts death, war, hunger and revolution. Why the sculpture group is here is not entirely clear to us, but they were made by the artist Rik Poot.
Bonifacius bridge, Bruges Bonifacius bridge, BrugesA century ago the Bonifacius bridge was built, a nice little bridge over the Reie. Canals in Bruges are called reie after the river Reie that once flowed through Bruges. Because of the many canals, Bruges is also called Venice of the north (but there are more places called like that, for example Giethoorn in the Netherlands).
Cottages at the Bonifacius bridge House on the Mariastraat, BrugesThere is no quay but the houses are built in the water like in Venice. They are all old houses and we wonder how they are maintained to ensure that no water comes in. And the water against the wall will also cause cold and moisture on the inside. It is probably a costly thing to keep the walls well and in a dry and warm environment. Or maybe at that height the rooms are actually used as storage basements for things that need such an atmosphere.
Venice in Bruges Canal at the Mariastraat in BrugesThe canals provide a nice atmosphere to the city and on all bridges there are tourists to take extensive pictures of the canals, the houses and the swans that swim there.
In the summer you can also explore the center of Bruges with a boat.
Court on the Noordstraat, BrugesOn our way to the Minnewaterpark we pass a courtyard at the Noordstraat, the socalled godhouse De Vos. Christiaan de Vos built here homes for 6 poor widows in the beginning of the 18th century. Such a godhouse (we don't know a better translation for the belgium Godhuis) was a foundation and a charter arranged everything that was important for the residents. So these residents got 15 shillings every month and a loaf every week. There was also a chapel and according to the charter the residents had to pray there twice a day.
The Minnewater, Bruges The Minnewater, BrugesThe Minnewater is an elongated lake on the south side of the center of Bruges and was once created as a kind of reservoir that regulated the water supply of the river Reie because the water level of it could vary considerably. There are several explanations for the name of the water but the most beautiful is a tragic love story, a kind of Romeo and Juliet tale, but with Minna and Stromberg in the leading roles.
Monasterium De WijngaardTo the north of the Minnewater is the Begijnhof Ten Wijngaerde, the only preserved beguinage in the city. But beguines (singles who were part of a lay organization, so no monastic order) are no longer living there, now there are a number of benedictines. Already in the 13th century a pious woman community was established here but most houses that are left are from the 16th, 17th and 18th century.
Fountain with horse head in Bruges Letterbox noteWhen we walk out of the beguinage we pass the Paardendrink (horse head fountain), a fountain with two bronze horse heads on both sides.
Slowly we walk to the Grote Markt and on the way we come across a note on a letterbox: "To the postman: we accidentally dropped an important paper in your mailbox" with the request to return it. Or would it be a trick to get a letter cheap to a fellow cityman?
On the Grote Markt we sit down for a last meal and a drink. Fortunately, it is also heated here because it is now getting a lot cooler and occasionally it drizzles. We have not seen everything of Bruges yet, but it is becoming less and less attractive to walk around outside in thi wheather so we decide this will be the end of this trip.
Three days in Paris and a whole day in Bruges, we have seen a lot again, and also walked a lot. It is time that our feet get some vacation to heal the blisters. We still have 400 kilometers to go before we are home and we arrive at the beginning of the evening, tired but also very satisfied!


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