Saturday, June 20, 2009

A hop, skip and a jump.

Apparently Belgium is so close I can walk to it, so said a friend of mine. As true as that may be, due to a time constraint, I opted to take the 3.5 hr train ride into Brugge instead. Brugge happens to be one of the top tourist destinations in Belgium, and rightly so. It was a medieval city that in it's prime rivaled the biggest cities in the world in it's power and trading influence. But luck was not on it's side, and by the 1500's the channel that provided the city with it's acclaim started to back up with dirt and debris. Since that time the city was abandoned until the mid 1900's when it was "re-discovered" and renovated.

So, according to guide books, you are supposed to feel like you're going back in time as you step into the city streets. I don't know if it's because I'm jaded or not, but the city looked like that of any other 16th/17th century city in Europe that hadn't been bombed during the war leaving it's integrity intact. That said, Brugge is a striking city... especially so with it's over abundance of chocolate shops lining every street! It is also home to Michelangelo's Madonna and Child, which was the only sculpture to have left Italy during his lifetime. But what's even neater than that is the fact that you can see it for free in the Church of Our Lady. Then, the city boasts 15 Euro a night stays at one of their Youth Hostels with breakfast included in the price. Granted, the showers are a bit archaic, but 15 Euros is 15 Euros. And the cream of the crop came in the form of a free map made by locals to point out THE things to see. Such an ingenious idea, and great gift for the traveler who wants to see it all!
But those maps aren't for Brugge alone. Oh, no. They have them for every major city within Belgium. Including the number 2 city on my list, Ghent. Only 25 minutes away from Brugge, Ghent has an entirely different feel. Besides the city center, the rest of the city is quite modern. The city is much larger than Brugge (although no less striking) and it gave the sensation that there was barely a soul on the streets. I truly felt as though I was in a ghost town until I reached one of the city's squares where there was a tiny craft market and French speaking band playing. The city center has a row of 4 cathedrals, each stunning in it's own regard. I could only help but wonder how one chose which church service to attend because the 4 options would be too hard to choose from based on architecture alone.

Due to the fact that it was Sunday, most things were closed, and there was hardly anyone on the streets I decided to take a stroll down the river towards the city's castle and then call it a day. And even though it was only 4pm when I left for the station, and didn't explore everything I could have over the weekend, I felt no guilt. Because, after all, Belgium is so close I can 'walk' back there any time I want.

1 comment:

Chad & Bonny Day said...

Like I've said a thousand times, I'm so Jealous!!! You are such a good writer by the way. I might have said that before as well.