Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bruges. Cruising the Canals.

Posing on a one of the many bridges in Bruges.

B
ruges is as walkable a historic city as it comes.  In fact, there really is no better way to see it.  Thankfully, I don't even recall seeing a single of of the now ubiquitous hop on, hop off buses.  We most certainly did our share of hoofing it - first making it to Grote Markt and from there to The Burg.  Everywhere we walked, I just soaked in all the views of this charming historic city.  There's so much medieval splendor, it's not wonder it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

I have been very happy just walking and looking at the buildings here and with all the hustle and bustle going on, there's really no chance of getting bored.  In fact, it could be sensory overload for some people.  But I love it!



Z even led us past Viskmarkt which in the old days was the Fish Market. Today, there were a few handicrafts vendors selling their wares.  Nothing caught my eye so I walked on by.  The market was nothing much to look at - I didn't even take a photo of the place.  What caught my eye was the view of the rooftops peeking over the covered pavilions of Vismarkt :-)



But, I and my feet do appreciate a break every now and again and with Bruges's many canals, we had opportunity to rest and do a bit of sightseeing at the same time.


We stopped halfway across one bridge where I asked Z to take a photo of me - my tourist photo :-)  We then spent a few minutes taking in the view.  A few canal boats cruised by and at that moment, I decided we needed to go on one.  I know, I know, it's an uber touristy thing to do but I love boat rides.  Somethings you get to see views that you don't get to see when you're walking.

We continued our stroll.  By now, the really dark clouds had moved off and it was turning into a perfect for exploring Bruges!.....if only we could eliminate several hundred tourists!




It's only the third week of September but autumn is already settling in.

We happened upon another church - Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk or as it is more easily said for us non-Flemish speaking folks, Church of Our Lady.  Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the church is well known a the home to many art treasures including a beautiful Carrara marble, Madonna and Child, sculpture by Michelangelo.  The statue, sculpted in 1504,  was the only one of Michelangelo's works to leave Italy in his lifetime and is today one of the few that can be seen outside Italy. It was bought by a Bruges merchant, Jan van Mouskroen, and donated to the church in 1506.  The church also contains a painting of the Crucifixion of Christ by Anthony van Dyck and a rococo extravaganza of a pulpit, designed by Bruges artist Jan Antoon Garemijn. Not having done any research about the church beforehand, I didn't know any of this stuff was inside so we didn't enter the church.  Such a shame.  Perhaps on my next trip back to Bruges? :-)

Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk)


The soaring 119 meter (396 feet) tall spire of the church can be seen from miles around.


We meandered the streets until I caught sight of what looked like a boat launch for a canal cruise.  It called out to me so  I approached the man behind the ticket kiosk and asked when the next boat was leaving and what the cost was. In 10 minutes and 11 euros per person. Done! I forked over the money and Z and I headed over to the awaiting boat. It was already pretty full but apparently, not completely full so we had to wait for a few more passengers to join.


Once the boat was full and everyone was comfortably seated, the captain recorded our ride in his log, fired up the engines and we were off!  He asked what languages he had to speak in and for the most part, the cries back were for English.  There were a few French speakers on the ride as well.  I think everyone who has anything to do with tourists in Bruges has to be at least trilingual - conversing in English, French, and Flemish with ease.  Most certainly the boat captain had no issue narrating everything in both English and French.  He pointed out landmarks as we motored along at a fairly gentle pace.




Our boat ride took us into the heart of several of the neighborhoods that make up this historic city.



We passed under many a bridge.


Some were so low that the captain instructed us to duck our heads.  I'm so short, I was okay sitting up but some of the taller folks had to lower their heads.


It really as a very peaceful ride.....I think that feeling was partly due to the fact that we were separated from the throngs of tourists who were walking the streets.




The skies were blue and the sun was out.  It was a picture perfect for a boat ride along the canals!  Finally, a bit of good luck, weatherwise!



We eventually arrived at a dead end.   Jan van Eyckplein or Jan van Eyck Square, named after the famed Flemish painter who spent much of his life in Bruges, was ahead of us.  



 The Church of Jan van Eyckplein dominates the square with a statue of Jan van Eyck standing before it.  The square is located in what was once the old harbor of the city.



The boat captain turned the boat around and we headed back.  The square is located in the St. Anne's neighborhood which is supposedly a working class neighborhood.  Not that you don't find charming buildings in working class neighborhoods but I found the ones here to be exceptionally pleasing to my eye.  I made a mental note that we need to come back (if we have time) and explore the neighborhood on foot.

Crow stepped gable roofs.


On the way back, our boat captain pointed out one of the highlights of the canal boat ride.  His name is Fidele and he's a Golden Lab.  He's a long time fixture on the route and holds the title of *The Most Photographed Dog in Bruges*.  He was peacefully napping when we cruised by.  So cute!  I think there was a collective *Awww* when we passed by Fidele.



Every now and again, the captain would narrate something over the microphone.  I don't remember a word of what he said.  I was too absorbed into the scenery.  It's just so beautiful here.  As we went along, I kept picking out places that I would love to live in.....if I ever win the lottery and can afford to buy a place here!  Yes, day dreaming.  It's a good thing.




It was less than an hour when we returned to the boat dock.  As we got off, I was shocked to see the length of the line of people waiting to board - there were at least enough people for two boats!  Z and I both commented we were lucky to have taken the ride when we did!


The boat ride was a short but very relaxing break.  I was ready to be thrown back in with the horde of tourists....I think.

More of Bruges in the next posting!