I used to be one of those travellers who research the places they are planning to visit, learn about the place and get there knowing quite a bit and certainly knowing what to expect. Sadly, that was before, when I had another job and, in retrospect, far more time for myself.
So, this week-ends’ destination, Bruges, was selected on the basis of some positive reviews from colleagues at work, and the fact that it is a UNESCO heritage site.
I came here by train (the elegant Thalys) in first class with breakfast being served on the way… good sign! I read a bit about the town on the train… mixed reviews. The film, which I’d never seen, apparently portrays Bruges as a sh*^%*le… not good! Oh well, I’ll see for myself!
I got into Bruges around 11, checked into the hotel, dropped my luggage and started into town. The sky was a bit cloudy but not too bad. To walk into town coming from the station I was advised to go through the park. However, I chose to take a street, instead, to get a more immediate feel for the place.
It started innocently enough, with some pretty Inns and B&Bs…and then I turned a corner and I got this Copenhagen feeling!!! And not in a good way. Bruges, it turns out, is an unspoilt medieval town, preserving most of its architecture from its heyday period, the 1500s, when it was a prosperous trading centre. More importantly, though pre-dating the Roman invasion, Bruges established itself in the 9th century, upon the descent of the Vikings.
So, you can understand how joyous my feeling when I realised Bruges is a mini-Copenhagen!!! Same type of red-brick architecture, similar layout of market places and squares, same…air as my beloved Copenhagen.
Later in the day I had the opportunity to get to the more famous landmarks, the Markt, a beautiful square, the imposing St Salvator Church, the postcard worthy Minnewasser, the so-called Lake of Love.
Bruges is quite pretty, not at all ‘the epicentre of northern European dullness’, as the Guardian article reviewing the film ‘In Bruges’ described it(filling me with horrified anticipation). I’ll see more tomorrow and I’m sure I won’t be displeased but, nonetheless, I decided today to only take the train south of Paris from now on….At least while I have this job and my acquired Copenhagenphobia!