Saturday, 28 March 2009

Bruges - Brugge

Bruges is like Disneyland for grown ups. A fairy tale-like town packed with hordes of tourists queuing up for attractions and food. And chocolate. LOTS of chocolate. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but I can't help but think that the main parts of town have lost their authenticity. The mains streets, much like London and Paris, have been taken over by major designer brands. The town's two main squares, Markt and Burg, are so overwhelmingly crowded with tourists that you wonder whether they are the main attraction, and not the amazing historic buildings.

Wander off the main popular sites, though, and Bruges will reveal its true charm. Just a few blocks away from the main squares the streets and canals are surprisingly quiet and gorgeous to look at. I don't know how they do it, but the entire town is kept exceptionally clean and well preserved. It's like it was built yesterday.

Even wanting to steer clear of the hordes of tourists, the two main squares are must sees. We particularly liked the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a tiny church right on Burg square, which is said to hold a vial of blood from the man himself. We heard it got really crowded during the day so we headed straight there from the train station and even at around 10:30 there were only a handful of people in the church. Cute church, and the whole thing about it housing the blood of Christ does give the place a different vibe.

We spent most of our time in Bruges wandering around random side streets and were rewarded with beautiful architecture, peaceful parks, and even managed to find a restaurant where the locals eat! Great food for a fraction of the price.

Something had to go wrong though. Around lunchtime I started to get really bad stomach pains which plagued me for the rest of the trip. I ended up not eating for the rest of the day as I couldn’t bear the thought of putting anything in my mouth. All that chocolate had my name written on it and I couldn’t have any of it. Mind you, this was the first time I ever got anything like this. I have had all kinds of street food from places like Bangkok and Sri Lanka and never had a problem. My first tummy bug had to be in Belgium, of all places.

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