Monday, May 5, 2014

Time warp - Brugge style

Brugge is an ancient city in West Flanders which is sort of northwest Belgium which is tucked in between the Netherlands and France. Yes, Belgium is quite small, you can drive from one end to the other in just a couple of hours or so. But if you think there isn't much to see, Blanka will have some sharp words with you and spend the next few hours telling you more than you ever would want to know about her home country.
Brugge is as good a place as any to introduce you to fabulous Belgium. Most important is because we were married in Brugge 40 some years ago.
Anne, Hans and Blanka
During the 12th and 13th centuries Brugge was the most important and biggest trading center in Europe. We had the privilege of having two enthusiastic Belgians, Blanka's nephew, Hans, and his friend, Anne, give us the grand tour. Not just the regular tourist spots (they were easy to spot because of all the people with cameras), but back alleys and out of the way canals and gardens. All and all a very delightful time with far more information than we could store in our memory. 
You are welcome to travel with us:

We parked on the outer ring of Brugge (it actually has two moats
ringing the whole city) and walked down streets that probably haven't
changed much in hundreds of years - if you ignore the cars.

Several small enclaves like this are scattered throughout Brugge.
They were originally built to house widows and the poor. 
And yes, we started to see little patches of blue between the clouds!
Maybe we will get some real blue skies before the day is over.
The closer you get to the center of the city, the bigger and fancier the
homes and guild housed become.
Many of the houses had coats of arms and date.
This one was built in 1535!
Canals. You walk a couple of blocks and you run into another canal.
They link all parts of the city and were the major shipping routes in the past.

This imposing gate leads into the central area of the town.
Imagine being a peasant in the 1700's and having to
walk through this gate to go to market.
Do you think the magistrates
delighted in lording it over the little people?
The architecture was also imposing!


And then we come to the main streets with the famous "stair step" roof
details and elegant facades.

Each guild had their own crest that was proudly displayed.
At the heart of the city is the "Grote Markt", (Great Marketplace) and the town hall.
 These buildings still house the political and judicial functions of
the city.
To the right of the town hall is the tallest building in
Brugge, the Belfry. In most European cities the tallest buildings would be
churches, but in Brugge that honor goes to the merchants. It was built
in 1240 and the upper parts of the tower added in 1487.
The lower levels and the surrounding halls were used by the
Flanders cloth guild, upper levels housed their treasure chests and
city archives. 
City life was regulated by the 47 bell carillon.
Specific bell combinations for starting the day, begin
and end of  work, fire alarm, and of course the hour of the day.
The 27 tons of bells still ring today and can be heard all over town.
The biggest bell is 11,000 pounds -
how do you lift it 1300 feet off the ground?
Hint: you do not carry it up the stairs.
Gruuthuse Museum is housed in the very opulent 15th c home of one of
Brugge's wealthiest families. They made their fortune in beer! As Blanka
will tell you, Belgium is famous for great beer.
Tapestries like this one lined the walls to keep the chill from
seeping through the brick and stone walls. Just a typical
scene of daily life.
Stone work on this mante piece is really exquisite.
This is the main kitchen stove, about twelve feet wide, three feet deep.
Any one for home made soup from the caldron?
15th century piano
17th century chest.
Don't mess with me.

As you may know, Belgium is famous for its lace.
Blanka wanted me to take these pictures especially for Christy.

For some reason this lace dress from the 17th c was not for sale.
This is my favorite picture, taken from inside the museum.
Notice the nice  blue sky! Yes, by the time we left the museum we had nice skies smiling down at us.
This is the little organ in the cathedral.

And this is the big one!
These pictures are for Guy.

Lets set the record straight. The French should not get credit for french fries.
French fries should be called Belgian Fries. To prove it, just visit the
Friet Museum (Fried Potato Museum) in Brugge. Want more proof?
Just ask Blanka, she knows.
Notice the stone relief above the door. St George slaying a fire breathing
dragon, with the fair maiden looking on. Maybe the potatoes got
fried by the dragon.
This is the exchange house near the port. It was first established
in 1276, later rebuilt in 1493. No one even knew the Americas
existed when Brugge was a flourishing city.
Time for a break to rest our weary feet. The oldest inn in Ghent
is just the right place. Supposedly this inn has been in
continuous use from 1515 to this day.
Imagine eating wild boar in the inn's court yard in 1515.
Inside the cozy inn.

Blanka wanted to you to know that this cute
little house would suit her just fine. At less than
12 feet wide I doubt it will hold all her
pretty nic-nacks, books and who knows what else.
Definitely NOT Blanka's choice.

With the sun dropping in the sky we take one last look at a windmill on the edge of the city.