Entering Brugge at night is a magical experience. The city has successfully been able to keep the newer buildings and renovations in keeping with the medieval look of the town.
I was lucky to have stayed with Christiaan over a weekend. Christiaan has lived in Brugge all his life (when not travelling extensively on his motor cycle or bicycle) and knows it incredibly well: history, architecture, heart and soul.
Having got in touch with Christiaan via Warm Showers, a cycle tourer homestay website, I arrived in Brugge quite late in the evening, we stowed Tilly safely in the garage and went straight out for dinner in a local Thai restaurant.
The food was fantastic and not surprising, considering Brugge’s proximity to the sea, had excellent seafood.
After dinner Christiaan showed me around the old town but as it was so late and the buildings were no longer lit we decided to do the tour tomorrow. At this point we decided to go for a bier in one of the traditional bars – just “one for the road” as the saying goes!!
The beautiful original old wallpaper and tiles are still in evidence.
The bier menu was more extensive than the ones seen in most restaurants! It even included ‘fruit bier’ – “for the ladies” – I didn’t partake!
In conversation with Christiaan about his experience of English and Scottish pubs (warm ale/beer, same glasses) he mentioned that most Belgian biers are well above 5% with, of course, the trappist biers being the highest – monastery wealth in the city and surroundings came from assorted places including taxes and produce.
There are too many places to mention in the city with house micro brewery’s.
After a sensible two biers (!) we started the walk back to Christiaan’s apartment – however we were sidetracked when nearly home by a lovely new brasserie that was having its opening night. It would have been rude not to stop in and be supportive – so several more biers later it will surprise no one that I am dancing with the owners wife, who was also working the bar!
Eventually we made it back to the apartment and sat up drinking, chatting about travelling and playing music until we realised it was 5.30am!
So anyway … about Christiaan. Prior to his retirement he has been a train driver on the Belgian railways most of his working life, during which time he has been able to take blocks of time off work to travel more extensively than anyone I have ever spoken with before. He was very open about sharing his experiences, photos and giving advice for how to travel positively and safely. Despite this awareness some of his stories are pretty hair raising as well as very entertaining! A good, grounded sense of humour appears to keep him going!
I spent a very wet and windy Sunday in the apartment looking at his amazing photography and hearing these stories – by the afternoon I felt I had travelled the globe twice over – it was a pleasure to spend time with such an open hearted, open minded and giving person.
By the evening the wind and rain had stopped and we went into Brugge to see the buildings at their most beautiful. Christiaan also gave me some pointers in photographic composition so I hope these do justice and give some sense of what an amazing place Brugge is.
Beautiful art nouveaux paintings above neighbouring doors. Brugge as well as being a trade and economic power over the centuries was a magnet for artists.
The photograph of the belfry on the market square shows how it looks now but the painting shows that for numerous years there was an additional wooden structure on the top – unfortunately after it had needed replacing on a couple of occasions due to fire from being struck by lighting it was finally not replaced.
The chocolate shops are as amazing and beautiful as the rest of the town.
Likewise there are some incredibly old and luxurious hotels in the city which maintain their past charms.
Brugge is a very sensory and tactile place which likes “the best of everything” and maintains this in a very classical manner. It has a lot of warmth and charm to it both of which are impossible to fully convey through photography but I hope a sense of this is evident.
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