Brugge

Fun Fact: You can see Brugge’s highway from the moon. I want to believe that it’s true.

Beautiful Brugge (or Bruges) is an enchanting “museum” town from West Flanders in northwest Belgium with romantic buildings, white swans, horse-drawn carriages, canals and cute cafes. My time here was mostly spent overdosing on Belgium chocolate.

Brugge is Picture perfect. Being a morning person, I woke up early to explored the streets, canals and artistic buildings Brugge is famous for. It felt other worldly walking through narrow cobblestone passages and I could just picture myself owning a small little bookshop on one of the canals. Maybe next to a beautiful little bakery.

No one rises early here and the streets are an empty wonderland in the early morning hours. I visited during spring and every bridge had a bouquet of fragrant flowers. The bridges in Belgium are the best place to journal and daydream. The beautiful white swans contributes to the magic of this place. There is quite an interesting story about how the white swans of Brugge came to be here. According to the locals Emperor Maximilian was imprisoned and his Councillor Pieter Lanchals beheaded in the 1488 Brugge revolt. This dreadful act enraged the Emperor so much that upon his release he ordered that swans will swim these canals for eternity as a tribute to Pieter and to serve as a reminder of that appalling crime.

Rozenhoedkaai

The absolute best way to tour Brugge is via a Rozenhoedkaai (Rose Hat Quay) canal boat cruise. I listened to violin music play while we were cruising to Burghers’ Lock which leads to the statue of the incredible artist Jan van Eyck (c 1390-1441) known as one of the early innovators of Early Netherlandish painting. I have such a big admiration for this Dutch master’s work. I felt so privileged to walk the same streets he lived and worked in. Next was Dijver and soon after we were all asked to duck as we drifted past the lowest bridge in Brugge.

According to the man leading the cruise the Flemish coastline was flooded by the North Sea in around 500 BC. When the water eventually retreated they left behind several sea arms and established Brugge as a thriving port. The views were spectacular!

Blackbird Cafe

I am a brunch-person. This is something I’ve inherited from my father. It’s how I get an authentic feel for the city or town I’m visiting. A lay of the land if you will. On my second day in Brugge I stumbled across the most eclectic little cafe with the whimsical name “Blackbird“. I couldn’t resist. Despite all the tables being reserved, they managed to squeeze me in – the perks of being a solo traveler. Their breakfast was art and my soul was happy.

This cafe was also super close to Markplatz (Marketplace), the next stop on my list. Market place’s little houses reminded me of those little countdown Christmas calendars you get where you pop open a window and a chocolate falls out. It is also quite fitting considering that this is Belgium. By now people started filling the streets and horses were drawing carriages over the cobblestones. I am still convinced that some or other spell from medieval times froze this city in time.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali is my absolute favorite artist. He disturbs and delight me constantly. I closed my eyes and spent the money to see his art. It was quite a hefty lift if you convert it back to rand, but worth every cent. My top pick out of all Dali’s collections were the wonderland and Casanova memoirs collections.

The story of Alice has always fascinated the surrealists, even Dali couldn’t escape the attraction to this bizarre storyline and featured the characters in a series of drawings and paintings. He also used a number of the concrete and sensual motives from the Casanova memoirs in a series of painting. Dali translated the Casanova Memoirs into a series structured like a banquet with a large and varied menu. His sarcastic (almost cynical) tone where he points out the ridiculous vulgarity, rather than emphasizing their cultural refinement, as critics usually do, fascinates me.

“Meals refer to my deeper self and add ornament and weight to my talents…”

Dali

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Next on the list was seeing Brugge’s most cherished relic, the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Holy Blood. I visited after mass when the trinket that is believed to hold the blood of Christ was on display. Legend has it that Joseph, one of Jesus’ disciples, collected the blood after preparing Jesus for burial, and it was brought to Brugge after the Second Crusade by the Count of Flanders in 1150. Although this legend has never been confirmed or debunked, there is something powerful around the idea of Christ’s blood being so close you could touch it.

Michael Angelo’s Madonna and Child

The one piece of art I wanted to see was Michael Angelo’s marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child. It was a little touch and go as it was still closed to the public due to restoration only a few days before I visited. Favor smiled upon me and I was able to see this beautiful piece of work in the Church of Our Lady. I sat on the floor right in front of it and recited the Afrikaans Madonna en Kind poem. I also admired the beautiful angels that guarded this church and said a little prayer.

Belgium Waffles

You can’t visit Belgium and not go overboard with the chocolates and the waffles. GoFre was a must-have experience for me and a bucket list item I’m happy to tick. We don’t have anything like this in South Africa and it did not disappoint. It is a waffle on a stick freshly made and you get to choose what type of chocolate to drench your waffle in followed by a selection of possible toppings to finish this love affair off. I opted in for a coffee infused milk chocolate with chocolate shavings.

Later that day I passed the Old Chocolate house where I had a hot chocolate. They bring you warmed up milk and actual chocolate that you then melt into your milk. Already feeling the chocolate overdose I opted in for dark chocolate. A good choice on my part.

The next morning I made coffee, jumped into a shower and had one last stroll through Brugge before setting out for my next adventure. I loved my AirBnB but is smelled like smoke, and as a non smoker that was quite disappointing. On the other hand I absolutely loved the fact that my room came with a Nespresso machine to tame the lingering sweetness left from all the chocolate I indulged in.

Although pulling a suitcase over cobblestone roads is a real pain that makes you question every single life choice that lead up to that very second it also made me feel like a character stuck in a storybook. I gained 2 kg from all the devilishly delicious Belgium chocolate I ate and it was worth it!

XOXO

2 Kg’s heavier

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