Yet another day trip to Brugge, and as the travel guides promised, that place is overhyped and insanely touristy. I reached there smack in the mid-morning of the weekend and a bustling market was already in place selling mostly old women’ clothing, lace, hardware and other bric-a-bracs. The lace shops are undoubtedly tourist traps but also hark back to the era when Brugge was a textile powerhouse, and lace was one of the many materials that merchants dabbled in during its heyday.
I was momentarily outraged that I had to pay a good dollar for a map, but the soothing nature of the girl in the tourist office helped take the edge off. Maybe that is why they hire mild-mannered people for this very reason.
The historic town filled to the brim with people piling onto boats for a ride down the canals. Maybe the midday sun helped the “romantic” atmosphere none. The look of the city has hardly changed since the high middle ages when it gained its charter in the 12th century. The thriving cloth and spice industries and the involvement of the hanseatic merchants did lots to improve its stature among the great European trading centres of its time. While London was in still its infancy, this town thrived and nearly burst at its seams, until its eventual decline when the river Zwijn shifted its course and silted up. By the 16th century, only memories of its former glory remained.
Let’s just say Antwerp surprised me, and Brugge disappointed me. The city was always on the verge of photogenic greatness, but fell short because of some minute detail that looked out of place. What a shallow standard to judge a city. Nonetheless, it is easy to get lost in another time walking past the strange buildings and the haphazard manner of lanes.
Walked around the touristy bit near the Grote Markt, before trying some typical Flemish dishes in De Vlaamsche Pot serving typical Flemish dishes. Their pet bulldogs (one fat, and one small) appeared each time people came to eat, and one head-butted me all too often. After lunch, I walked around even more, completing a diagonal trek around the historic centre bounded by the canal only to be disappointed by the less magnificent sight of a few straggling windmills.
I decided there and then that the sights were quite enough; I didn’t want to enter any more basilicas/cathedrals that celebrate their acquisition of some part of Christ’s body or the security of some Apostle’s creed or to see some statue that is reportedly the only one in the world.