Bruge and Ostende, or let the madness begin…
Thanks to a pure coincidence, I managed to find a promotion for rail tickets, which let us spent each day in a different town.
The first one was destined to Bruge- a town as lovely as a fairy tale. My desire to this visit it was triggered by the movie In Bruges, shot there. I love water in every form and a town with canals was like a magnet for me. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed.
Even we just set foot here, on the boulevard separating the rail station and the town, we entered a magical surrounding. Beautiful, yellow autumn park, crossed by a big canal and over the tree tops church belfries and sharp pointed house roofs.
After a few minutes walking through the alleys we got to a small pond with swans swimming and horse carriages strolling around. How not to fall in love with Bruges!?
Our tour continued through the small cobblestone streets, rising over them the typical houses with pointy roof and shops with hand made chocolate tempting us from every corner. We chose the famous fries instead of chocolate and kept on our route.
You can see history landmarks on every turn in Bruge, but we stopped by the main ones. The whole town is an UNESCO site and is known as the “Venice in the north”. It’s golden days were during the Middle ages and the strategic location is it’s most prominent feature, therefore the blooming trading.
Our first destination was the Old St.John’s Hospital- built in the 11 century, used by locals and foreign merchants. Next to it is a coven, currently Hans Memling Museum.
Just opposite of the hospital is the Church of Our Lady – gorgeous cathedral, storing one of the most magnificent statues of Virgin Mary and Jesus from Michelangelo. Thanks to some lunatic, who tried to vandalize “Pietta” in Rome, this one is kept under armored glass 15 m away from visitors. Nevertheless, it’s worth it and the entrance fee is symbolical- just 2 euro.
After labyrinth of narrow alleys we got to the heart of the town – a square with Town Hall, the Belfry and the most magnificently decorated church- Basilica of the Holy Blood. Only by looking at it’s facade you can imagine how rich Bruge was and how much they respected and loved art and beauty.
The interior is quite impressive as well, with all the main features of the Gothic style and the fortune it requires. There were just a few people, so I recommend a visit and the best part is the free entrance. You can see many treasures and relics at the museum, the most important one, whose name the basilica bears, is a beaker with Jesus’ blood, brought in the time of the Second Crusade.
After the basilica we visited the biggest symbol of Bruges- the Belfry. It is part of a 13th-century hall complex, which in the Middle Ages serves as a warehouse and sales hall. This imposing building is 83 meters high and consists of two square brick sections from the 13th century with an octagonal lantern tower in sand-lime brick (1482-1486) at the top. Until 1741, a 19-meter high wooden spire crowned the tower. Belfries have a symbolic meaning and bear witness to the late medieval self-awareness of the cities. In addition, they are among the oldest examples of medieval civil and public architecture. They have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. The belfry tower is no less than 83 meters high. Climb the 366 steps and discover a treasure house, an impressive clock mechanism and a carillon with 47 bells. Your sporting achievement will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Bruges and the surrounding area. The Bruges carillon is located in the tower of the Belfry, on the Markt. The carillon has 47 bells. There are plays on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. A whole series of concerts are organized every year.
Proud of succeeding to get to the top we were rewarded with a choir by the bells, performing the Hymn of Europe, just a few centimeters of our heads. Needless to say what it felt like … Right after getting our minds together we saw the breathtaking view…
Dazzled by this beauty and left breathless by the stairs we had to find a place to rest and to lunch as quickly as possible. As you can imagine, the possibilities in this touristic place were endless, just as are the prices. However we managed to find one place after few compromises, in front of the Belfry, so we experienced not only tasty food but a lovely atmosphere. This time, besides the fries, we ate a traditional beef stew, very tasty, similar to the Bulgarian one. I had great desire to taste the oysters, served everywhere, but our budget wouldn’t handle it and I wasn’t sure if I would like them. Nevermind, I will try them eventually.
After lunch our tour continued with something a must in every town with canals- a boat tour. There are few firms offering it, their pontoons at different spots throughout the town, but the route is the same, also the price, so there isn’t much difference which one you’ll choose. We wondered a lot if we want to even do it, since the canals are seen from the streets and the weather was cloudy and drizzly, but I’ve put it on my finger and just had to get on a boat … It turned out to be the right choice, even if you see the same things from the streets the feeling was different.
The day was special not only because we visited the exquisite Bruge, but because I had planed to see the sea. It may be the North one but still a sea. For that reason we hoped on the train again and after no more than 15 minutes got to Ostende- a small town with the longest tram route at Belgium coastline. We hadn’t enough time for the ride, but something must be left for our next visit. For some this detour may seem pointless, just to see some beach, but it was definitely worth for me. As you can expect, the town was almost empty and the rain had started again (every day it started around 4 PM, apparently it’s crucial hour:) ). We were greeted by huge bicycle parking, city center with magnificent cathedral and a fair in front of it. This view combined with the beautiful sea made a really surreal atmosphere. We met only seagulls, few people and a lonely man walking his dog.
Maybe because of this or maybe because i LOVE the sea this few hours were one of the most memorable moments in our whole trip. I couldn’t get in the water for obvious reasons, but I touched it 🙂 We must enjoy the little moments.
Already seriously blown by the winds and rained on we stumbled upon a closing fish market, where, since we were in a fishermen town, bought salad with seafood. It was mainly shrimps and crab rolls but completed our sea feel.
The travel back to Brussels was with a warm train, we managed to find empty seats where we snoozed for a while since we had one stop left -The Atomium. It’s a building representing the atom structure, built for the Expo in Brussels. Through the day you can enjoy marvelous views of the city, but of course we saw it at dark. This was a plus, I imagine that it won’t be so magical in daylight.