It was another beautiful day. I had not gotten the early start needed to go to Dunkirk, so I decided to switch things up and take the day to go to Brugges, a small Belgian town by the ocean.
When I say small, I’ve heard it has a population of 1,000 but receives an average of 25,000 tourists a day.
So I guess it goes without saying that it is a tourist town. But there is a reason why 25,000 tourists a day go there. It really is beautiful.
I was on my own today and it was about noon when I arrived. I wandered my way through the city in comfortable shoes, in no particular rush and with no particular destination. I was determined to let today be a less stressful day.
Roughly in the center of the city is this looming bell tour…83 meters tall and I’m sure, at one time, important to the defensive strategy of the city. I waiting in a long, slow line to climb the 366 steps to the lookout over the city. I got to hear the chimes from inside the tower which left an impression. It was all interesting, but I hated to waste any time because I felt sorry for all the folks waiting in the long line below.
But I did get a few shots of the city from the look out 366 steps up:
Some of the city had medieval history, but I didn’t really know what the history was, so I decided to take one of the canal tours. I had read that they were a beautiful way to see the city and I figured I’d learn some of the story at the same time.
The guide packed us in and immediately began talking and joking. He was switching off between languages though (Belgium has three official languages, French, Dutch, or German), and while I know English was in the mix, I couldn’t tell when he was speaking English except that I kept hearing him boom “Sixteenth Century”…”dates to the Sixteenth Century…” “vas built in the Sixteenth century…” and finally with pride, “twelfth Century!”
So it was a pretty ride and I decided just to enjoy it and not be frustrated that I didn’t learn a thing. There is always Wikipedia.
There are 1,000 restaurants. Maybe more. I settled on a take away of Finnish beef stew and fries. It was good and definitely filled the space that had freed up since the hotel breakfast.
I also thought I would satisfy my sweet tooth by popping in to some of the 1,000 chocolatiers that all boasted they had the world’s finest chocolate and figure out which one was actually best for myself.
I ended up only buying chocolate at one but I looked at a lot of beautiful chocolate. Smelled a lot of good chocolate. And, if they offered samples, I never said no.
In true tourist town form, it was retail heaven and all the big names were there as well as lots of local specialty shops, antique shops, and souvenirs shops…where I got my magnet. Again, I was glad for my little backpack which helped me avoid temptation, but I did enjoy looking at the handmade lace and a few of the other shops of curios.
It was tempting to rent a bike…it’s a thing in Belgium and they were convenient to rent, but the main streets were a bit too crowded; and anyway, I had splurged on the boat tour. So I contented myself to walk some of the outskirts. It was a larger town than I expected. Surely, far more than 1,000 people live there at least with seasonal help.
I took the train back to Brussels where things are getting crazy as they set up for Tour de France beginning here Saturday. There was a tiny bit of evening left, so I caught up on email and made a much needed trip to the laundry mat.
I looked it up and learned that Brugges (spelled four different ways…depending on which language you’re using) was founded by the Vikings in the 9th century. It was a port town and had its hay day between the 12-14th centuries before Antwerp rose in size and importance and Brugges began to decline. By the 1800s, it was the poorest city in Belgium.
Recent tourism has undoubtedly turned the tide and one of the row houses along the canal sells for 1.5 million Euro. And I could feel good about my life knowing I had done my part to sustain this lovely little town with almost no history and no industry. Except selling the world’s finest chocolate.
Step count: 22,000 Cumulative step count: 152,000