Please note, there are two sets of photos in this blog post, and text follows each photo set, so keep reading to the end of the post.
We left Amsterdam early this morning on the very fast Thalys train to Antwerp in Belgium. At Antwerp we had to disembark, then take the elevator up several levels to catch another train to complete our journey to Bruges. Antwerp Station amazed us, as there were three levels of railway lines, one above the other, each buzzing with activity. We arrived in Bruges just after midday and took a taxi to our hotel in the Old Town.
Rod has been to Bruges before and had a good idea of several places we should visit, so he grabbed a map and guided us around the town. Of all the places I’ve seen on this trip, Bruges reminded me most of Prague, as its cobbled streets were not laid out on a grid, its houses began right on the street, many of its buildings were of a similar height and building style, it had a large open town square flanked by public buildings and a cathedral, and there were plenty of statues.
The further we walked, the more we saw to like about this town. It really is a charming, historic place, which currently enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status.
Read on after this second suite of photos
We took a 35-minute boat cruise around Bruges’ network of canals. Our pipe-smoking boat captain’s English commentary was laced with so many humorous anecdotes that it became hard to separate fact from fiction. But the view from the boat was wonderful, and a number of the bridges we passed under only barely cleared our heads. Ducks and swans shared the waterways with us.
I was delighted to find a really fine statue of Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck proudly displayed in a particularly beautiful part of town. Van Eyck was one of the painters I studied in Year 11, and I distinctly remember learning about his Marriage of the Arnolfini painting at the time.
One thing that struck me about Bruges on my first afternoon of walking around the town was how the changing light patterns of the sun and clouds changed the nature of the townscapes that Rod and I were photographing. At times we had sunny blue skies, yet just a short while later we were sheltering from rain and threatening grey clouds under umbrellas. We didn’t get too wet, and the rain eventually stopped and the sunshine returned for the remainder of the afternoon.
We found a really good restaurant, Cesar, and ate dinner there before walking home in the dark. Only one hundred metres from our hotel, the stained glass windows of a nearby church were illuminated from within.
We’re in Bruges for one more day, and tomorrow we plan to seek out the old windmills.