City Spotlight: Bruges, Belgium
During my first backpacking trip in 2007 in Europe I decided to go to a town called Bruges. Bruges is located in the small country of Belgium. With a population of just 120,000 people I was very intrigued to check out this city. I arrived via the train from Frankfurt, Germany. It was the longest train ride of my life at that point but I didn’t mind. The views of the country side were breathtaking and I had just arrived in Europe a week earlier so I was just excited to encounter something new. When the train approached Bruges station it was a rainy and dark day. This weather definitely set the mood for this city. Bruges just gives off the feel of an old, medieval city. Its architecture is that of the Gothic style and it makes you feel like you’re actually in the medieval time period.
I had pre booked my hostel here in Bruges ( this is a must during this time of year in Europe because there are a lot of backpackers ) so after getting off the train I now had to figure out how to get to it. The streets here are small and narrow and most are cobblestone. They wind all around and most dont have street name signs ( or at least I could always find them). There are many canals running through the city as well which makes locating a specific building that much more difficult as i would find out. When i finally found my hostel I was tired, wet from rain, freezing and in need a large cold Belgium beer. Luckliy my hostel, St Christopher’s Bauhaus Hostel, provided me with the opportunity to fulfill my needs. I booked this hostel on hostelworld.com because I had just come from one of their sister hostels in London and that hostel was amazing so I was hoping that this one would be just as good. When I walked in there were not many other backpackers there and it was very quite. It was the complete opposite of the hostel in London. I paid around 27 USD for a bed in a 6 bed dorm room ( Europe is crazy expensive) but it was pretty comfy and there were only 2 other people in the room with me during my 3 night stay. The view from my room was pretty sweet. I could see throughout the city and into the country side and considering it was rainy the whole time I was there i spent a few hours a day sitting on my bed reading and sipping coffee while gazing at the amazing city through the rain and fog. An image that will forever be stuck in my mind.
Bruges offers a lot to do for such a small city. On the second day I was there the sun finally poked out through the clouds so I decided to rent a bike and just wander around. I got a recommendation from one of the dudes that was working at the hostel that there was a small quaint town about “20 kms” away that would be cool to check out and have lunch so thats where I went. The road there was long and windy and parralled a canal most of the way but I passed houses and windmills and belgium people going about their daily business. Its odd for me to think about what they must think when they see me ( and I clearly did not look Belgium with my mohawk and flip flops) mesmerizing at all the things they are accustomed to. Anyways, I finally reached the small town and it was indeed that, small. They was on main street that had a bank and bakery and little stores so I
parked my bike and walked around a bit. I had to the tourist thing and eat a Belgium waffle so I decided to get one here. It was fantastic. After about 2 hours the clouds were moving in so I jumped on my bike and made the hour trek back “home”.
In the guide book I had it mentions “things to do in Bruges” and one of them was that this church here has a relic that contains actual blood from Christ himself. Now whether or notthis is true or whether or not I believe it is to be debated but of course I had to see this. The church is called The Basilica of the Holy Blood. Its tucked away in the corner down a small street and honestly if I wasnt looking for it I would have had no idea what was stored in there. There was no entrance fee which was good ( backpackers like free stuff, remember?) but they did ask for a donation so I made a small one because I HAD to see this. There was a small line to see it but when it was finally my turn I walked up to the stage and a priest held the tubular relic in his hands lifted it up to my face. Good thing I paid attention to the people that went before me because the reason he lifts it to your face is for you to kiss it then he wipes it clean. The blood was indeed in there although it looked like red brittle paper. This was very cool
to see and im sure not many people in the world have actually seen this.
Bruges is, without a doubt, in my top 3 cities I have been to. The small medieval town just gives you a feeling like no other and its loaded with old, gothic buildings and tiny roads. Not many cars clog the street and the main mode of tranportation is a simple bike. I love Belgium. Its home to my favorite beer as well. I will return here one day hopefully stay longer than just 3 days.