A trip to Bruges, Belgium
You may have wondered "why did they visit Bruges?" Consider; It is the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, it is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center's Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.
Bruge has the appearance of a medieval city with a canal circling the city of 117,260 inhabitants. This is a very walk-able city, not many cars, mostly bicycles and every third shop seemed to be a chocolate shop! Let me say that just about everything you have ever heard about Belgian Chocolate is true!
If you have never been to Bruges & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
We had previously selected the Martin's Brugge Hotel, as we could see that it's location was very close to the central square in town, and it looked like a nice place to stay.
This turned out to be a good location to be at, less than one block from the Markt Square and surrounded by shops and interesting restaurants. Go one block in one direction and you are on the square, go one block in the other direction, and you are at the canal.
The Brasserie Strijdershuis restaurant was directly across the street from our hotel, and every time we walked by there, the great food smells were calling our name! We finally decided to have dinner there, and enjoyed it immensely, as we had mussels, french fries and an excellent local beer! Do not let the alley-way appearance fool you, that is just the outside seating area of the restaurant, the inside area was very nice.
Also directly across the street from our hotel was this amazing beer shop named The Bottle Shop. Now we were aware of the Belgian Beer Industry and how these breweries have won numerous awards, but we were not aware of the size of the Beer Industry - there must have been 400+ beer brands in this shop!
Image #1 shows you that this shop had an incredible number of beers for sale. In image #2, we could not decide on which beer to purchase, so we stopped and took a selfie while we made up our minds.
Horse Carriages are popular in Bruges! There are tours of Bruges via carraige that start at the Markt Square Carraige Station. There is a 5 person per carraige limitation.
Markt Square: We had gone into one of the buildings on the east side of the square, and as it had a balcony, we stepped out to get some pictures of the square.
Belfry of Bruges: The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the centre of Bruges, Belgium. One of the city's most prominent symbols, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83 meters (272 feet) high building, which leans 87 centimetres to the east.
The belfry was added to the market square around 1240, when Bruges was an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry. After a devastating fire in 1280, the tower was largely rebuilt. The city archives, however, were forever lost to the flames.
The octagonal upper stage of the belfry was added between 1483 and 1487, and capped with a wooden spire bearing an image of Saint Michael, banner in hand and dragon underfoot. The spire did not last long: a lightning strike in 1493 reduced it to ashes, and destroyed the bells as well. A wooden spire crowned the summit again for some two-and-a-half centuries, before it, too, fell victim to flames in 1741. The spire was never replaced again, thus making the current height of the building somewhat lower than in the past; but an openwork stone parapet in Gothic Revival style was added to the rooftop in 1822.
Provinciaal Hof: Both the exterior and the interior are in the Gothic Revival style. The central meeting room has ten sculptures of royalty by Hendrik Pickery, and mural paintings of famous people from West Flanders. The rest of the building is decorated with more sculptures by Hendrik and his son Gustaaf Pickery, stained glass windows by Jules Dobbelaere, and chandeliers by Edward De Vooght. A number of paintings can be found as well, including work by Joos de Momper, Jan Van de Putte, Jan Baptist van Meunincxhove, and paintings from the Romantic era.
Some of the bridges over the canals were seriously low, for several, everyone had to duck! However, you have to admire their longevity, these canals were built starting in the 12th century BC!
We hiked around the city starting from Markt Square, found a coffee shop, and then continued our hike until we reached the Coupure Canal on the eastern edge of Bruges. As you can see in this picture, the canal is paralled by a walk way, by which we eventually returned to Markt Square.
We spent two nights in Bruges, and on the third morning we caught a train and travelled to the Brussels International Airport for our flight to Vienna, Austria. Once again, the magnificent European Rail System was on time, efficient and took us to the Train Station directly under the departures and arrivals halls, at level -1. You walk upstairs from the train station, and presto you are in the Airport Ticketing area!