Saturday, April 15, 2017

Brugge Belgium

     Thursday, April 13 found us docked in Ghent Belgium. We arrived during the night chugging down the Schelde River and back inland through the locks of a canal. After breakfast we were separated into four groups (there are 165 people on this cruise) and boarded buses for the drive to Brugge Belgium. All we saw of Ghent was the industrial harbor area – too bad, it sounds like a lovely city.
     But, Brugge is very special in its own right. It is another medieval city which has happily retained most of its charm due to unfortunate circumstances. With its inland port it became a prominent trading center, especially in cloth.The wealthy merchants built many beautiful buildings. However, in the 1400's Brugge lost its harbor area due to the river silting up and other circumstances and the city came to a virtual standstill. They did not have the money or any reason to modernize; so much of the city looks just the way it did in the 1400’s.
     It took about an hour to drive from Ghent to Brugge. Our bus let us off just outside the city gates and we entered through a beautiful park and walked over one of many bridges. We were looking at a lake called the Lake of Love (Minnewater – sounds like Minnesota), which was the original commercial harbor area. The lake was filled with beautiful white swans which are one of the symbols of Brugge.
     Moving on we passed a group of small houses which were called the Beguinage. These were from medieval times when women who had no family wanted to live together, but not as religious. Now it is a convent. We walked along the narrow streets admiring all the old houses which reminded me of row houses. There were different styles of architecture and exterior surfaces, but they were all built together sharing a common exterior wall. 
     Brugge is also a city of canals – originally built to carry commerce. In fact Brugge is often called the Venice of the North. We had a lovely cruise around the historic canals and saw all the beautiful old homes built right on the water’s edge.
    In addition to canals and bridges we saw the Hospital of St. John which was built as a hospice in the 12th Century; the Markt, which formerly had many guild halls, and all that is left is its 13th century belfry called the Belfort; the Burg, which is the heart of the city dominated by the Town Hall which was covered with statuary; several churches and many other magnificent buildings.
We had time to shop for my favorite Belgian items and try Belgian waffles before we headed back to the bus and returned to the ship.

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