Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Bruges - picturesque medieval city

Bruges was just a three hour drive from Amsterdam but it took our ship all night by sea!  The ship docked in Zeebrugge, an industrial port and we shared a cab into the historic centre of Bruges.  It was your classic historic medieval town, with cobbled streets and market squares encircled by historic houses and churches.  The network of canals, once used for mercantile traffic, is now the premier tourist attraction and a tour along these city arteries provided a glimpse of back gardens and picturesque bridges.  We spent a full day in the town and enjoyed it tremendously, wishing we had enough time to do some of the museums.  The highlight of our day was the taste of the best ever Belgian waffles - but of course, we were in Belgium!

Market Square - the heart of the city
"Typical" architecture in the Square, rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style in the 19th century

The Belfry Tower on the south side of Market Square, had been burnt down and rebuilt multiple times since its construction in the 13th century.  It reminded me very much of the tower in Sienna.

The most impressive building in the opulent Burg Square is the Stadhuis (City Hall), dating back to 1376, one of the oldest in the country.  Across the front are the emblems of the cities and villages controlled by Bruges. 

The Provinciaal Hof (Province Court), very similar in style and look to the Stadhuis

Basilica of the Holy Blood, first built in the 12th century - a double chapel - Gothic on top and Romanesque in the lower church.  We only visited the upper chapel, and only barely because there was a service.  The actual relic of the Holy Blood was displayed along with copies of the original stained glass windows.  The originals were removed after the French Revolution and are now in the Victoria and Albert  Museum in London.

A canal tour is a great way to see Bruges, providing glimpses of residential back gardens and quaint shops along with some interesting buildings
Heading towards the square

Double bridges

Backgardens and lace-covered windows

A boat garage perhaps?
Interesting boat port alongside

Artist with his work on his bike

More Marilyn memorabilia - the skirt twirls!
Antique store

A genuine Belgian waffle for lunch!

A lot of quaint shops - too bad this Christmas shop was not open
Belgian lace - very light and intricate
Clocks and clock works

And of course Belgian chocolate!
The famous Half Moon Brewery, with Museum and tasting room, had long lineups! 

This beautiful Madonna and Child was done by Michelangelo.  It was twice stolen and recovered, said to be the only Michelangelo to leave Italy in his life time, bought by a wealthy Bruges businessman in Tuscany.
The entrance to the Begijnhof, the home of the lay order of the Beguines, women who spent their lives in piety and service without taking the same vows as the nuns. 

The peaceful courtyard around the Begijnhof

Minnewater (Water of Love), a peaceful, lake-filled park on our way to the train station. 
 It was an easy ride back to Zeebrugge even though we got kicked out of first class which we unknowingly boarded without even realizing that there was more than one class...;-)
We enjoyed our visit to Bruges very much.

Next stop:  St. Peter Port, Guernsey 

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