Brugge. Bruges. Doesn’t matter how you like to call it, it’s a name that rings a bell. Isn’t it that little city in Belgium? The one with the Belfry and medieval buildings? Filled with cobblestone streets and chocolate everywhere? Yes it is.
When I talk to people who want to visit Belgium or who’ve already visited Belgium, 99% of the chances are they’ve been to Bruges or desperately want to see the ‘Venice of the North’ in real life. Before yesterday, I would’ve said, come to Gent. Go to Bruges, only for a daytrip, but spend most of your time in Gent. Now, I’ll still say come to Gent – simply because it’s my absolutely favorite city in Belgium and it’s pretty fantastic – but also spend as much time as you can in Bruges. I was wrong, a daytrip simply isn’t enough.
As a Belgian, I’ve always had a different view of Bruges. It’s the place where I spend five great weeks during my internship in an old cloister and pick-nicked on the Vesten during sunny lunchbreaks. It’s the place where I’ve visited friends. It’s the place that’s crammed with tourists from the very moment the sun starts to shine. Where you can’t walk on the pavement without bumping against other pedestrians’ sweaty bodies. Where a drink costs twice as much as in any other city. Where guides with umbrella’s herd their cattle in the city centre. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Bruges: it’s beautiful, but sadly that has never been a secret.
Enough about the slightly less pleasant parts of Bruges. Bruges is a great city. It’s unique. Has ages and ages of history still lingering in the streets. Beautiful views and romantic parks. Flowers and canals with boats. And what I love the most, lots and lots of hidden treasures. Those little discoveries that cause moments of instant happiness. A small bronze bear on top of a roof. Daffodils in full bloom at the Béguinage. Statues with mossy heads. A shop completely crammed with old – old as in: you can only find them on flee markets – postcards, stamps, souvenirs and comicbooks. A pharmacy that kept most of his old bottles and still original interior, with an extremely proud and friendly pharmacist – he invited us – us = my best friend and me – in when he noticed I was taking pictures, it took us half an hour before we got out of the shop, he was so enthusiastic about his pharmacy –. My only advice when you’re going to Bruges: look around, look up, open doors and start to explore. I hope you’ll have as much instant moments of happiness as I had.
And then the food. Maybe somebody already noticed, but Belgians love the good life. Good food is a big part of that life. Watching the shop windows makes your mouth water and your tongue craving the taste of those chocolate pralines. Or handmade cookies, waffles with strawberries, fries with mayonnaise – I only eat them with ketchup, but whatever – and beers in the right glass. When I’m travelling and I’m starting to get hungry, I try to avoid the restaurants close to the major sights – definitely do that in Bruges, you won’t feel sorry – because they’re probably too expensive and the food is half as good as the food you’ll find in that restaurant three streets further. So I was very happy when my friend and I stumbled upon Tom’s Diner. We were very lucky to have a seat at the bar, since it was fully booked for the evening, and oh boy, I thank God on both knees – as a figure of speech – for that. The best pasta I ate in a long time. A big recommend for everybody visting Bruges. Of course, it’s hidden somewhere along those cobblestones streets with tiny old houses, otherwise it wouldn’t be one of those hidden treasures I told you about.