Last month, S and I spent a weekend in Bruges. It was great. Really great. Bruges is probably too fun to spend more than a weekend there. One more beer and one more portion of mussels might have been too much. Nope, never mind. There’s no such thing as too many mussels. Anyway, here are seven things about our trip:
One. The last time S and I were in Bruges, February 2013, we did not have the proper respect for Trappist beers and, as a result, they punched us square in the face. This time, we looked them in the eyes and gave them a firm handshake, and it was awesome. We returned to our favorite hole-in-the-wall pubs, De Garre and ‘t Poatersgat, discovered a love for Orval, and sang our faces off as we cheered “farewell” to a dear friend moving back to the States.
Two. The city of Bruges is exactly what I want a European city to be. It’s walkable, bikeable, filled with quaint buildings, churches, and beautiful artwork, dotted with chocolate shops, and criss crossed by canals. The whole city smells like waffles and fries. Then there’s the occasional whiff of sewer, but we’ll look past that.
Three. Our friend, H, booked the QuasiMundo bike tour and it was the best way to see Bruges. Our guide taught us a lot about the city’s history and present-day life with a hilarious sense of humor. There was a triathlon clogging the downtown, so we took our tour to the outskirts, biking around the windmills and then out to the most charming town of Damme for a beer.
Four. On our bike tour, we learned that the Bruges Madonna is the only sculpture by Michelangelo outside of Italy. According our bike guide, the Medici’s, who had commissioned it, didn’t think it appropriate, calling it “too loose and erotic.” At this, a group of merchants from Bruges said, “Loose and erotic? We’ll take it!” And so (thanks to this and, of course, the Monuments Men), in Bruges it sits. Regardless of the story’s truth, it paints an interesting picture of the attitude in Bruges during the Renaissance…and today.
Five. The “Belgian Blue,” is a cow specially bred to be extra muscular. It’s impressive derriere has earned it the nickname, “The Beyonce of Cows.” You could say that Bruges likes its beef so it put a ring on it? Ugh. That doesn’t even make sense.
Six. We also toured the Half Moon Brewery, where we learned the story behind the city’s mascot, the Bruges Fool. Apparently, town officials were trying to get back in the good graces of a prince who they had recently slapped on the wrist. Or he was trying to get back in their good graces? I’m not sure. We had one of the brewery’s beers before the tour and another after, so the details are a bit fuzzed. Anyway, during their talks, he asked what they needed and they said an insane asylum (or they demanded it?). His reply was that if they wanted an insane asylum, they should just lock the gates around the city because Bruges is filled with fools. After our night at ‘t Poatersgat, we can now attest to being part of that….
Seven. The second night of our visit was a big world cup game for Germany. As two of our friends on the trip were German, and one of them an avid fußball fan, we scoped out the best place to watch the game. At a quiet little bar with a big screen tv, through which a cool breeze blew, we sipped on Belgian beers and cheered on the Deutsch as our dear friend F sat yelling expletives in German. At his first outburst, our friend A said, “What does that mean?” His wife, J, blushed, laughed, and said, “Nothing….” At his second outburst when the German team missed a shot, our friend A turned to him and yelled, “I know!” We’re learning a lot about the European passion for soccer.
Our second trip to Bruges was a fun-filled, Trappist beer and moules-frites fueled adventure, and a grand send-off to our good buddy, H. We’ve been home for a few weeks now and I’m really ready for another Orval and a steaming pot of mussels! Thank you for a wonderful weekend, Bruges.
Moule-Frites in one of the best sauces ever at De Koetse.
Chocolates at Dumon, one of four chocolate shops in Bruges that only use traditional ingredients.
Moules-Frites at Passage, a great little restaurant.
Waterzooi, a Flemish Fish Soup. Delicious!