Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brugges, Belgium

Friday 21.10.05 –

After sitting through another painful English class, this time with a presentation about Greece, we (John, Meredith, and I) headed to the train station. Our ride from Luxembourg to Bruxelles and from Bruxelles to Brugges was quite uneventful. We walked from the train station through the city center to our hostel. Our hostel was named Charlie Rocket’s. As you may guess from the name, it is a combination of a bar and a hostel. We walked in and saw a lot more bar than hostel. We eventually figured out how to check in, and were told we had a 4 person room and at the moment, we had it to ourselves. This was good news, since we had expected an eight person room with many roommates. We put our stuff down, and headed out for food.

We wandered through the city looking for food that wasn’t ridiculously expensive. We ended up at this pita place, and got some pretty good, though not all that Belgian, food. After eating, we perused our guide book for something to do that evening. We came across the entry for de Garre, a beer hall/bar that sounded cozy. We found it, with some difficulty, as it was down an alley that was barely wide enough to walk through, and sat ourselves down. It was a real cozy place that had been there for something like 150 years if I read the Flemish on the menu correctly. So its probably 15 months old, seeing as my Flemish is awesome. Meredith and I got Frambozen, Raspberry beer, and it was amazing. John had something that wasn't as good, but was still very good. Anyway, it was a real cozy place, but we didn’t stay long, since we were tired. We headed back to Charlie Rocket’s (still no roommate!) and crashed.

Saturday 22.10.05 –

We awoke quite late, nearing the 10 o’clock hour. We were very hungry, and we went to look for somewhere to get some waffles. (Us being in Belgium, waffles were the thing to eat for breakfast, natürlich.) As we wandered, we hit the edge of the city (it is not very large.) We found the original city gate, complete with drawbridge (motorized now). That was pretty cool; nearby there were also two windmills, built hundreds of years ago, and still grinding wheat to this day. We eventually found a cozy diner, and had waffles with whipped crème and strawberries. (As an aside, the word for whipped crème in Flemish is slagroom, a rather unappetizing name, don’t you think?) With our waffles, we had some hot chocolate (once again, Belgium=chocolate) and it was great. The meal was quite filling, and we headed to the museums.

We went first to the Belfort, a gigantic bell tower in the center Markt of the city. We climbed it, and the view from the top was terrific. It was a terrific view of the city that seems to have been frozen in the middle ages. (As it says in the guidebook, the city seems almost fake in that the buildings look too good to be true. The city has been restored countless times, and much of the buildings are made of 20th century materials in the style of the buildings that had been there for hundreds of years. Whether or not the city is fake looking, it is still quite fantastic.) Anyway, there was also a very cool mechanism for bells and such. It was gigantic, and it was able to play classical music. I heard Beethoven (a theme from Symphony 9, I believe) and I believe Vivaldi played by it at some point that weekend. That was real cool. To get in to the Belfort, we bought a museum pass for €15 that got us into 5 museums/sights around the city. We headed to the Groeningemuseum, where I proceeded to see Jesus get crucified about 100 times, then saw him as a baby, being held by the Virgin Mary about 100 more times. After that, I saw various other scenes of the Virgin Mary another 100 times. Some 90% of the paintings were portraits or other paintings of people, which tend to bore me. When I found a large (3mx1m) landscape type painting, I sat in front of it for a good 10-15 minutes, taking in everything, avoiding seeing more paintings of people.

It had a bunch of modern art at the end, including one piece that absolutely floored me. I have never seen art this incredible in my life. I don’t know how I could describe it, but I will try. It was kind of… well not really… it was rather like… not that particularily, but it was, yes, it was three… um, squares. Each one was about oh, a meter square. They were side by side, separated by a few centimeters. And get this, they were painted red, yellow, and blue. It was incredible. Even the name, “Squares in Red, Yellow, and Blue” was just incredible. I have no clue how people come up with this… but those who do should be shot. What bollocks. Quatsch mit Soße.

After that we hit the Gruuthuse, which was applied art and much more interesting than the Groeningemuseum. They had all kinds of cool stuff. Not really much to describe there. After that we went to grab lunch. We found a little restaurant that wasn’t outrageously expensive, and had some very good omelettes. (Omelettes were very popular in Belgium, for some reason.) After that we went and saw the Church of Our Lady, which was very cool, and was home of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. It had a couple cool alters, an awesome alter, and lots of very cool artwork. By this time, we were very tired and ready to nap. We headed back to Charlie Rocket’s and crashed. When we awoke, we had a roommate. She was a recently graduated law student from Michigan on a 2.5 month trip through Europe. We headed out to food after our short nap. We had some chicken and fungus or something and it was all right. I had a chocolate shake, and it was again great (Belgian chocolate!).

After dinner we headed to de Garre again, since it was such a wonderfully cozy little place. We hung out there for quite a long time drinking awesome beer, telling stories, playing cards, and just talking. I ended up having Peach beer (they had it on tap!), a couple different trappist beers, and the beer he brought me when I asked for "dark and malty". They were all just fantastic. Eventually we left, and headed back to the hostel. When we got there, we didn’t want to go back up to bed yet so we hung out in the bar downstairs for a while, bought a bottle of wine, telling more stories and talking some more. We eventually went upstairs, woke up our roommate to get in the room, and went to sleep around 330.

We were awoken by the aforementioned roommate far too early, and we headed out to check out and see a couple more museums. We first went to look for breakfast again, and on the way wandered into the “Burg” which means palace, and is aptly named, seeing as it is a palace. There was a very cool chapel, among other things, with the walls covered entirely in paintings. After this we were ridiculously hungry, and went to finally find breakfast. We ended up at the same place as the previous morning for waffles. They were equally good that morning. After that we went to this hospital museum, where I saw Jesus get crucified a dozen times more, and we saw some mildly interesting items. After that we headed to the train station and headed home.

Next week is Italy for a whole week. Rome, Florence, Venice, and possibly Pisa and Siena. Prepare for another doozy.



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