Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Medieval Bruges

I love the beautiful old city of Bruges with its fascinating architecture. It is definitely a walking city. Strolling is the only way to see and admire all of the streets and buildings.
With such a sumptuous variety of architecture on offer it is difficult to know where to begin. But the canal boats beckon. A smooth, serene sail along narrow waterways which give views, not otherwise seen, of wonderful buildings, with an informative guide giving a potted history of the City.
The buildings vary from bricks and wood to plaster-faced, plain, ornate, square, hexagonal and octagonal. Some are satisfied with simply edging the water, others hang out over it and at least one spans the canal.
Back on dry land the Main Square is a popular place with residents and visitors. It is dominated by medieval buildings such as the 13th century covered market, a hexagonal belfry (366 steps to the top – for the energetic), and the 14th century Town Hall - very erect, with towers and turrets reaching to the sky and tall, narrow windows ornamented with the coats of arms of surrounding towns. Across the Square are several 17th Century houses of varying designs.
Feeling peckish? There are a number of restaurants and cafes in the square and nearby.
For a view of the towers of the St. Salvator Cathedral, the church of Notre-Dame and the belfry, I strolled along to the Green Quay. It also gave me a chance to sit down and rest, admire the tree-lined gardens and the hump-backed bridges. Seeing a bas relief pelican over the main entrance to a cluster of pretty little houses I went for a closer look. It is actually De Pelikaan, homes for the elderly, which was founded in 1714.
Returning back towards the centre of town I detoured around the back streets and discovered a small square where I found a delightful metal statue - a small carriage with a lady stretched across the back seat, a startled looking horse and bowler hatted driver.
Not far away is the Dyver with its tree-shaded river banks, gabled houses, ivy-covered bridges and, behind, the church towers – again. Very quiet and peaceful and, if the ground is dry, another opportunity for a sit down or maybe eat a picnic.
Two popular museums are the Groeninge with a fantastic collection of early Flemish paintings and the Gruuthuse (House of Groats) which is a museum of arts and crafts.
Bruges is one of those delightful cities that can be visited time and time again. If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend a visit even if it is a one day trip from Brussels – it can be reached very quickly by train.