Posts Tagged Bruges

A trip to Ghent (Part 2)….and some cool weather abroad!

Hello!

Must have a been a month or so since my last post so I thought I best get off my ample behind and write another post. Took me 5 minutes to get this far as WordPress keep changing buttons all over the place…it’s very annoying but I suspect I shouldn’t complain seeing this is all free and I can speak to my raft of fans (….cue tumbleweed….). Oh, Happy Valentines Day to all by the way. Hugs all round!!

Got the new bike the other week and it’s a flyer I can tell you. Who would have thought that a skinny tyre would make so much difference? So, if you’re around my area, don’t aim for the bike riders, one of them could be me. I’m also spending a bit of time souping up a fish-tank that I liberated from one of my work colleagues; had I known it was going to be so involved, I might not have. However, bits are slowly being cleaned, purchased and such…hopefully it will be filled and chugging away in the next couple of weeks. Bar that, all the news is work based so I shan’t bore you or risk being fired after ranting 🙂

Forward to the images!! As you can see, this is me finishing off the trip to Ghent, and in fact, the trip to Belgium entirely as, after this, we are back to boring old Wales. Not really. I shall try not to make it too boring…throwing in the odd interesting story as ever. Bar that, I could talk politics. Maybe not.

Anyway, here we go. First up are some pictures that I took when I went on the canal tour around Ghent. A lot of time was spent looking up as you can see. Interestingly, I swear that these canals were longer than those in Bruges but maybe it was that the tour was longer, who knows but I found it quite a lot more enjoyable than Bruges. First noticeable image in this set are the tops of some buildings we passed. I believe that the golden ship signifies that the inhabitant was a trader in goods from overseas or even a mater of a trading vessel (the nautical cues back this up). Whether that is real gold or not though is open to argument!

Does the top of a house need to be this fancy? I think not, but I suppose it was the thing back then...

Does the top of a house need to be this fancy? I think not, but I suppose it was the thing back then…

Next, we chugged along one of the longest buildings in Ghent where in days of old, merchants would store their goods. I seem to recall now hat it has gone the way of all old buildings like this, conversion in houses. But what a house you’d have, eh? Apologies for the man in the very bright jumper…the ability to take your time and use the art of composure is somewhat lacking when you have a moving target!

You! Metrosexual in the orange...tone it down!

You! Metrosexual in the orange…tone it down!

Around the corner past the square you got what I believe is the best view of the Gravensteen (mentioned in my last post) in the city. What an imposing building. That it got left to rack and ruin and was going to be used as a factory beggars belief. Should anyone be encouraged to visit this area of Europe after reading my posts, I sincerely recommend the few euros charge to get in.

Yes, it's that castle again (jarring chord)

Yes, it’s that castle again (jarring chord)

Further on, we came to a number of bridge and the canal started getting shallower and narrower by the minute…however, when you had lovely bridges such as this passing over your head, it wasn’t such a bad thing. I recall that this bridge is a recently restored one that makes up part of the University in Ghent.

One of the gates to the University of Ghent

One of the gates to the University of Ghent

All too soon, it was time to make an about turn at a very imposing and handsome gate (you can see, if you look through the bridge, that we could physically go no further as the canal has been dammed) but as we did, I also noticed some very large graffiti on the block of flats behind it…it appears to be someones cynical view of a treehouse if you look closely. Clever? Vandalism? I’m not sure…I find things like that quite appealing, I count myself as a Banksy fan.

Old and modern in one frame

Old and modern in one frame

My parting shot following disembarkation from our little boat and wandering to the train was this image of the archetypal curving and swooping frontages of shops and buildings that Bruges and Ghent are both famous for. Thank goodness for the rebuilding after the First World War.

A typical sweeping street facade

A typical sweeping street facade

Back in Bruges it appeared that interesting weather follows me. or maybe do I see it more than most as I can see what I am looking at better than some? I’m no Carol Kirkwood but as I arrived, it got very dark and then followed a hail storm with a hail core. Yay! I was lucky though, as my window faced in just the right direction, I was high up and the timing was right. Window open, camera at the ready….

The leading edge of the hail storm....

The leading edge of the hail storm….

I looked this up on Google and Wikipedia and it would appear the fact that we got hail was fairly rare, as these hail cores (feel free to do a Google image search, they look just like this) are quite rare at low levels and are usually seen at elevation where the stones are admittedly bigger. You can’t get lower than Belgium and its surrounding countries! However, the weather has been getting weirder of late, so anything is possible..

...you can now see the curve of the core and the rain and hail falling....

…you can now see the curve of the core and the rain and hail falling….

Just at the side, so no big hail. Damn. It was so dark, I expected lightning too. The pictures have been lightened slightly to bring out a bit of colour in the surrounding features…

...a little further on and the hail's still coming down....

…a little further on and the hail’s still coming down….

Then, just like that, it was all gone and we were left with a muddled sky, presumably all the turbulent stuff left behind by the wind.

...then, the turbulent skies to finish.

…then, the turbulent skies to finish.

Well, there we have it, a big finish for the last day of my Belgian exploration! Lovely place, very nice people, lovely food (all very reasonable if you stay away from the centre of the city), lots of beers, waffles and chocolate. What is there not to like? I should expect that I will go back, I found the place quite charming and educational. I hope you enjoyed the tours!

See you next time for some domestic scenery and weather, thanks for dropping in and enjoy the remainder of Valentines Day.

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A final wander around the canals in Bruges

Hello!

Firstly, I’d like to apologise to everyone if this post looks in any way different. WordPress has sprung and update on me and it took me a few minutes to get my bearings! All the buttons are here, there and everywhere when I thought that the previous version was perfectly acceptable. Onward and upwards I guess…I do a get this for free I suppose. However, I’d love the option of UK spell-check, I don’t like automatic corrections to the wrong spelling. Apologise does not have a Z in.

Enough grizzling. This is yuletide! In advance, just in case I forget, I shall just wish you all a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year. Has everyone bought way too much stuff that they or the recipient doesn’t strictly need? Good. That’s how it should be. I plan to buy a new bike in the new Year as my cheap “let’s see if I can still ride” bike has travelled nigh on 1000 miles now and is beginning to creak a little….literally. It’s off to be fettled over the Christmas period then Mr Gumtree will assist me in selling it. Unless anyone’s in the market? I will give you “mates rates” if you mention the blog!

On to the pictures. as the title above alludes to, this was one of the final few trips I took around Bruges indulging in people watching, the odd museum, the occasional beer, a waffle or two and such. I don’t think that I have ever had a holiday where I don’t wander…I must have itchy feet. I remember a holiday once to Tenerife, a hulking great volcano in the Atlantic disguised as an island. Surrounded by such natural wonder and all that goes with it, what did my mother opt to do? Sit on the beach. Because, of course, she had been in the proximity of a live volcano that may one day wipe out the eastern sea-board of the US. I forgot.

Firstly, a bit of a random picture. I like stuff like this. I glanced over along the canal and what did I see? Why, a relaxing dog lying in the window of a 18th century house of course…bless.

Guard dog. Belgian style

Guard dog. Belgian style

Talking of dogs, I was in a shop this morning where I made a fan. A springer spaniel who would not leave me be. Mind you, she was a fantastically obedient and well-trained gun dog but she was so affectionate…kept staring at me whilst pretty much climbing up my leg. It must be my aura. I did actually say to the owner that she probably wouldn’t fuss if I put her in the boot of my car! This may well have been the case but apparently as soon as the “work” switch was thrown she was a very focussed gun dog. Amazing. My kind of dog…not like the lazy one above!

Moving on, I was taking advantage of the beautiful sunny weather to take a few wide building shots with lovely natural light as I walked around. In case you don’t recognise this area, it’s the lagoon where I took some of my night shots…..

One of the most picturesque lagoons I have seen

One of the most picturesque lagoons I have seen

I continued up the side of the canal past all the chocolate shops and sweet smell of roasting coffee to get to the gates of the city and the main canal that is used by the larger traffic nowadays. My first stop was the gate, I believe that this is Gentepoort (the gate from the direction of Ghent)….

Gentepoort...thankfully minus traffic and bikes on this occasion!

Gentepoort…thankfully minus traffic and bikes on this occasion!

As you might be able to see by looking down to the left corner, it’s not used for traffic as the others I posted images of were. In fact, the road passes to the left of the main gateway and the gate itself is used for a cycle path. Watch out for those bikes, they have right of way in most places and they don’t often slow down!

Up through the long narrow park running alongside the canal now and I was just in time to catch a picture of this big old bruiser of a river cruiser. On a recent holiday to Germany (this Summer) I saw more and larger versions of these moored and moving on the Rhine and Mosel. The prices for these are pretty steep and it seemed a shame for the passengers as they never even got out, the cruiser just chugs on through.

An invading cruiser on the main canal. It was so big all the other traffic had to move out of the way!

An invading cruiser on the main canal. It was so big all the other traffic had to move out of the way!

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to be able to review things at a slower pace. Much like this fisherman on the canal just along from the city centre. Not being able to speak Flemish (the most popular language in Bruges) I didn’t dare approach him to ask if he had caught anything, but the hunched shoulder and look of boredom gave me a good guess. I can’t say I would have eaten his catch myself but I suspect he was just there for the sport. Maybe.

Chances he caught anything apart from a boot and a shopping trolley, anyone?

Chances he caught anything apart from a boot and a shopping trolley, anyone?

Back to the main square in town now and look, blue sky! Time for a dizzying upward sky shot including the steeples of the old churches. Hurrah. That and the fact that there are clouds included; you all know my love of clouds by now (more coming on that soon).

Some lovely scenery....oh, yes, the buildings are nice too, I guess :)

Some lovely scenery….oh, yes, the buildings are nice too, I guess 🙂

I had a good wander around the grounds this time too and found that there was a small open museum in the bowels of the building. Alas, the signs were in French and Flemish so i could only glean a bit of information but it appeared that the area and the garden was a reconstruction of the area put aside as a medieval pharmacy that was used by the church for hundreds of years.

The garden outside the old pharmacy (the one that didn't have a security guard in it)

The garden outside the old pharmacy (the one that didn’t have a security guard in it)

Inside there was a sign saying that I wasn’t able to take pictures but, hey, rules are made to be broken aren’t they so I snapped one for you all. What an awesome place. Just imagine all the smells of the herbs and such when they were being measured and mixed by the monks. Even if they didn’t cure your illness, at least you smelt good whilst you lay in bed! There was a security guard sat in front of a small herb garden so I couldn’t push that one; you need to just close your eyes and picture that.

A stolen internal view of the old pharmacy. A bit different nowadays isn't it?

A stolen internal view of the old pharmacy. A bit different nowadays isn’t it?

Well, there we have it. Last post before Christmas. As I said before, have a good Christmas. I hope everyone gets what they wanted and if you don’t….well, you should have been more specific! Not too many mince pies and booze now but, having said that, I will have a bike for sale in the New year for you to lose the weight with, so, feel free 🙂

Happy Christmas. See you in 2015

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The canals of Bruges and the City Gate

Hello

Yes. It is I. If anyone was wondering where I was, I just had my second holiday of the year. Two holidays in a year…we thought this guy worked in the public sector?! Well, that is a whole other blog, but less talk on here about work the better.

I went to Germany, in particular the south west of Germany, to a teeny little town called Adenau just on the Nurburgring, to fulfill an ambition to drive around it. I was also visiting towns and cities in the vicinity, as I’m not a 100% petrolhead, you know. More about that once I get the photos on here (quite a while by the looks of it so far) but, suffice to say, it was the hardest driving I have ever done and this includes the 10 hours there and 10 hours back when I was being harassed by aggressive Belgian truck drivers!

Anyway, back to this holiday for the time being. I have picked a selection of photos over a couple of days that cover me wandering the quieter areas of Bruges, up the less frequented canal paths and up to the massive windmills and city gates. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of the culture contained in Bruges…I really would recommend it for a short holiday. Honestly.

Firstly, a nice wide (as wide as i can get anyway) shot of the canals along from the Markt that I featured in my last load of night shots. Quite a variety of younger more brightly coloured buildings here…

A wide shot of the canals leading to the Markt

A wide shot of the canals leading to the Markt

Next, I sauntered the canals looking for buildings of interest, I thought that this picture showed a nice mix of the old and the new. Maybe just me but I thought the mixture of the old buttresses and such on the water and the fairly modern glazed building in the background was quite attractive….

Old meets new, Bruges UNESCO style!

Old meets new, Bruges UNESCO style!

Further on, I caught a tourist ride passing the fantastic church in the centre of the city. The lady at the front doesn’t look too impressed does she? Maybe it’s because she realised after a few minutes that she was being used as a windbreak by all those behind her!

Touring the canals in the centre of Bruges....windy and cold is the name of the game

Touring the canals in the centre of Bruges….windy and cold is the name of the game

Now, this facade was really striking, the majority of it being timber. I am sure that this is not original but the age must be quite high as you can clearly see the weathering from the good old European winters on this. I bet there are carpenters who make an absolute fortune restoring facades like this, seeing the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, if I lived there, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind too much. Until I got the bill….

Ooooooh, think there's a touch of dry rot there, guv'nor

Ooooooh, think there’s a touch of dry rot there, guv’nor

Now, this was just added in for the amusement factor to be honest. Apparently, according to a guide I overheard, this is the smallest medieval window in Bruges. Alas, I had to zoom in so far there is not much in the way of context but it had to be less that a foot wide and about 15 to 20 feet up a wall. Quite what it gave light to I have no clue, it was almost worse than useless!!

Why? Why would you put the smallest window in a city there?

Why? Why would you put the smallest window in a city there?

Onwards to the windmills. There are a number of these scattered by the city gates; I can only presume they were placed here in the old times to ensure that there was a fast transport route nearby, i.e the canal. Nowadays, although they are maintained very well, as you can see, they aren’t used to grind seed or produce anything, which is a great shame in my opinion. The tourists would lap up stuff from here…just think of a cafe selling cakes and pastries made using the flour of the mill you are sitting under. I’d pay for that and sure others would.

Kruispoort Windmill. Impressive

Kruispoort Windmill. Impressive

And so, onto the more modern city gates before the older ones…quite a beast isn’t it. I was quite amazed at the patience shown by the oodles of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians when a yacht pootled through this gate. Obviously there is a traffic light system for both sets of traffic (yes, even the boats) but still, it was just so normal to them but alien and amusing to me. I saw all sorts go through here whilst I watched, some cruisers, the river barges hauling I don’t know what and private boats of all shapes and sizes.

The more modern gate and bridge to Kruispoort

The more modern gate and bridge to Kruispoort

However, here we have it, the City Gate, or at least one of them. There are a number of preserved old city gateways: the Kruispoort, Gentpoort, Smedenpoort and Ezelpoort; alas, through early development and dilapidation the Dampoort, Katelijnepoort and Boeveriepoort have disappeared. I can see from my fancy map of Bruges that this is the Kruispoort; apologies for the blooming Fiat 500 that nipped into the frame. Those who know me will know I despise those cars…to vent properly regards them would take another post but I shan’t expose you to that :).

Kruispoort...and an unwelcome visitor in the frame

Kruispoort…and an unwelcome visitor in the frame

Finally, an image of Bruges that I am properly proud of, one that I took at night early on in my break and one of the most photographed corners of the city and canal basin. I thought it worked out very well and gave a good view of the building and The Belfry in the background. Hope you enjoy it, as I endured many furrowed brows taking this at about 10 at night! No creativity some people….

A night view of the canal basin towards the city centre and The Belfry

A night view of the canal basin towards the city centre and The Belfry

Well, that is Bruges for the moment, I note from my quick look through upcoming images that Brussels is next, political heartland of the EU. That statement either fills you with horror or excitement. However, those who hold politics in the same regards as I (yaaaaaawn) will be glad to know that Brussels is a very photogenic city, so there was plenty to see!

Until next time, toodle-pip, thanks for stopping by…shan’t keep you waiting so long next time!

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Oh, the cobbles!

Hello All,

Welcome to my second post of wandering the streets of Bruges. For those who are wondering just how many pictures of a mild architectural theme I am going to post, I will be posting a further wander out by the city gates, then onward to Brussels and the splendid city sights there. In the next few weeks, I will also be posting some very historically relevant images as, when I was in this area, I thought it only right to visit the First World War battlefields of this area; that might be a big post to be honest, the scale of some of the places we went in our little minibus is truly staggering.

However, in the meantime, I continue to explore Bruges. I was thinking back and essentially, I think I approached my daily jaunt in a grid fashion. I recall that the map of the old city area was quite rectangular, so these images are from the top of there, but just short of the old city gates, which will feature soon with their gorgeous windmills and canals.

It’s interesting to look up when you walk around a new place isn’t it? This is especially valid in a modern city, but there is the odd surprise when you walk around medieval cities too! Just glancing up as I walked towards the large park at the end of the map, I saw this chimney. It also gave me a rest from looking at cobbles. I sure I get a nervous twitch when I see them now….

Is the rod pushing it out or pulling it in?

Is the rod pushing it out or pulling it in?

Just along from here, there was a highlighted street on the map referring to the poor houses of Bruges. These were scattered around the city but there was a concentration of them here. I think what the map meant was what in the UK we would refer to as “almshouses” (building donated by churches to the poor, elderly and distressed in the medieval period) as they certainly didn’t look like work houses or anything like that. In fact, they were extremely handsome buildings I wouldn’t have an issue with having to live in myself.

As far as I could gather, these were still occupied, well looked after and I dare say the residents were sick to the back teeth of tourists like me walking into their front garden!

Almshouses in Bruges; very small, very white, not very private

Almshouses in Bruges; very small, very white, not very private

Moving not so far away from here, this charming bridge lead to a monastery which is still in use today also. it was quite strange to see monks driving around in modern cars to be honest but they wouldn’t let people take pictures so I can’t share the joke with you I’m afraid. However, the fact that this sign was in about a dozen languages and had a very obvious image on it requesting no pictures didn’t stop some people. How very rude. Gets my goat that does. As you can see, the canal is getting wider, mainly as this seemed to be a turning area for the boat rides.

A view along the end of the canal to a working monastery

A view along the end of the canal to a working monastery

Close to the gates was this building. If anyone can tell me what it is, please do. I am 100% sure that it was used for storage and the hooded doors halfway up on the right hand side suggest this is the case, as there would be a rope on a pulley to lift the products up to the main body of the building. If there is an explanatory plaque somewhere I usually take a picture but on this occasion I obviously forgot. It may have been because the shot took me an age to take as I had to wait for tens people to move through the frame! I seem to recall that it may have been connected to the windmills but apologies for the woolly explanation!

However, even though I can’t remember what it was, this was quickly one of my fave places to come and eat a baguette or bring a coffee. The building, the bridge and the tree were easy on the eye and on occasion the ducks and swans from down the way popped in for crumbs. Yes, I am that easily pleased.

A very impressive cylindrical corn store (I think)

A very impressive cylindrical corn store (I think)

Back to the city, I decided to do a little more looking up and, not so far from the square and the canal junction, I found this gorgeous facade of an old chapel. Now, I am not a religious man, but that it pretty awesome isn’t it? I stood and wondered if that was real gold leaf. Due to wind rain and all that, I suspect not now but in the flesh it was very impressive, less so by the medium of digital photograph, but still. Wow.

On entering the door below, I was disappointed to find that it was no longer chapel with an atmosphere full of reverence and silence. It was a beer and chocolate shop. Sigh.

This rates as the most impressive shop front I have ever seen.....

This rates as the most impressive shop front I have ever seen…..

I promised night pictures didn’t I? I seem to remember I did so here we are. Only a couple on this occasion as, on this walk I forgot my tripod and then it started to rain so I didn’t spend too much time out before going to my favourite restaurant (that, coincidentally sold 400 different type of beer). I took some better, more stable images later on, so I shall include those as well when I get to them.

These images are just in the main square (Markt) not so far from the hotel and the building in this, is the town hall that housed the large museum showing the history of the city.

The Markt at night

The Markt at night

Now this one I am quite proud of. Why? As I managed to take a time exposure of a car passing by….by hand. Indeed. Yes, well, I was leaning on a bench but it came out pretty well, so I shall congratulate myself, as it’s very painful tensing muscles to hold still for this long. Mental note to self and those who wish to embark on night photography, remember to take your tripod with you!

Wobble wobble, a handheld light trail in the Markt just as the rain came

Wobble wobble, a handheld light trail in the Markt just as the rain came

Well, that is the lot for this trip around Bruges. I am finding it quite hard to condense all the gorgeous building and sights into 5 or 6 images and a few posts, so apologies for that but bear with me. as I say, a few more of my (more stable) night shots, Brussels and the trip out to the Flanders war graves to come, so keep tuned and thanks to the recent new followers. Much appreciated.

See you all soon.

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The holiday wandering begins

Hello you lot,

Yes, I know. Where have I been? Well, I have been on hols in Devon for the last couple of weeks, but now I am back, full of a cold or something similar so every word I type is accompanied by a sniffle. Very annoying.

The weather whilst I was down was pretty good. There was more opportunities to be out than there were days stuck indoors. However, whilst I was there, we did get the tail end of a hurricane from The Colonies. The weather forecast told us to nail everything down and prepared to be drowned in ridiculous amounts of rain but, in the end, the malevolent weather was more a damp squib. I remember the extent of my clean up was kicking a few small branches across a car park on the way to my motor and then moving a plastic box in the road to save from running it over! Zombie apocalypse avoided. However, I don’t mean to belittle anyone else who may have had it worse, so please don’t misunderstand my jovial banter.

Anyway, to the matter in hand. Bruges and one of my first wanders around the city centre. Now, a good rule to follow when doing wanders such as mine is look where everyone is going, then walk the opposite direction. I don’t want the touristy attractions or prices, thank you. However, I can’t help that some of these first views are very touristy so apologies but the building were so pretty, shame about the weather 😦

Pretty sweet to be a government building eh? Beats mine hands down.

Pretty sweet to be a government building eh? Beats mine hands down.

Believe it or not, this building was the back of the local police station. Classy! I’d work there if I could speak Flemish. However, I can’t. In both images you can see the beginnings of the vastly reduced canal system as well with one of the expertly driven boats just coming into view in the image below….

Aview of the canal basin with a flypast from one tour boat and a view of one in the foreground

A view of the canal basin with a flypast from one tour boat and a view of one in the foreground

This is the kind of stuff I mean about wandering off the beaten track. I had more of a sense of smell than I have now and caught the distinct whiff of…sniff, sniff…fish. I’m a seafood lover me. Put prawns on it, I will eat it. Apart from avocado, as they are grim. I’m sure I went all around the houses to get here, but I eventually arrived at this local fish market. You could tell it was local as no-one spoke English. There appeared was a big pot of seafood broth boiling away whilst the fisherman/women (I guess) served the catch of the day. I missed out as I would have happily had a serving of the broth but couldn’t muster the linguistic skills to ask whether it was indeed for sale or whether it was even a broth! Hey ho, never mind.

Mmmmm, shellfish. I regret not trying to ask about the contents of the big silver pot now

Mmmmm, shellfish. I regret not trying to ask about the contents of the big silver pot now

Just behind me as I turned to go, there was a very swanky looking restaurant. It seems this square was well established for the selling of fish and I can only imagine that the market and the restaurant go hand in hand. I did go and look at the menu, but the prices were very high, so I decided to cut my cloth and look elsewhere!

Ways to spot a fancy eatery number 6...it has its own statue above the door.

Ways to spot a fancy eatery number 1…it has its own statue above the door.

Further round the corner I stumbled upon a small museum (you find small collections of art and the like all over) where there were a number of artifacts that hand been dredged from the canals. Pretty impressive stuff that showed where the traders who plied the waters all those years ago came from, or indeed where they had been before.

Hopefully the multilingual placard explains this enough :)

Hopefully the multilingual placard explains this enough 🙂

I have just popped a couple of images on here in this instance so as not to bore you to tears…

A small display showing quite a range of stuff beneath our feet

A small display showing quite a range of stuff beneath our feet

Onwards, forever onwards. One thing I did learn as I walked around is that the human ankle hates cobbles and the centre of Bruges is cobbled to death. Oh my god. After a day of walking, I found it necessary to sit and/or lie on my bed to wait for the throbbing to die down. I then realised why I saw so many bikes around. However, life of a bike wouldn’t be any more pleasant as I know from riding myself, as it tends to wobble bits you didn’t think were wobbly.

However, the payback for this was to see lovely buildings like this; this being the rear of one of the large churches in the city….

The rear courtyard for one of the large working cathedrals in Bruges

The rear courtyard for one of the large working cathedrals in Bruges

Lastly, a lovely wooden building right on the canal I found in the gardens that occupy the old city walls. I took many pictures of places like this and was hard to remember that pretty much all of these building are still occupied. Placing my nerdy DIY hat on, the maintenance is a World Heritage site must be quite difficult, so whilst it looks pretty, think of the cost and logistics of replacing those windows!

Confession to be made here, adjust the contrast on this to bring out the timber more. Lovely though isn't it?

Confession to be made here, adjust the contrast on this to bring out the timber more. Lovely though isn’t it?

More wanderings to come in the next week or so. I am deffo at home now so will have the opportunity to write an entry in the evening when things are dark and dingy. Seems the weather is on the turn here, we have rain moving in overnight that is going to drown us all or something.

On that note, I find it a bit pathetic that the Met Office feels the need to warn us of rain with a specific yellow/amber/red symbol on a weather map when giving a forecast; surely the forecast of said rain is enough?! Maybe they are worried about being sued when someone gets their hair do ruined as it’s heavier than expected?

Anyway, rant over, see you next time for more images of Bruges, will be posting some taken at night too. Exciting! Ta-ta for now.

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Commanding views of Bruges

Hello there!

Hanging on with me here? Good good. Been a bit of a stifling couple of weeks weather wise here. On a couple of occasions my father and I have remarked this has been the hottest period we have experienced since moving here. No wind either. I don’t mind a breeze when it’s warm. Last week, sailing was painful. There was no wind. I jest not…in some instances we were moving backwards with the tide. In sailing overalls, no wind and 20 odd degrees with no shade life is not funny. Hopefully the next session will be kinder, looks as such at this moment in time anyhow.

Anyway, on to the pics. Well, at this stage, I had just arrived at my central Bruges hotel, in the pouring rain, so I felt right at home. I can’t swear to the name of the hotel at this point in time but it was very central and a good choice by me as it was walking distance to…..everything. So, welcome to Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

As is tradition when I am on hols, the first day is pretty much a write off as I’m wandering, getting my bearings. However, as it was still chucking it down in the morning after my very pleasant continental breakfast (people watching trying to guess the nationality of those who enter the breakfast bar is a free bonus) I didn’t venture far and decided to take cover by visiting “The Belfry” or “Belfort” which was just over from my lodgings.

The Belfry or Belfort in the Markt, Bruges

The Belfry or Belfort in the Markt, Bruges

Not just a bell tower anymore, there is a large cobbled courtyard which plays host to amateur dramatics and the like…when it’s dry! In the past, the building held records and even treasure in the old days, hence to massive chests in the museum which I failed to get a decent image of. Pffft. In total The Belfry is 83 m (about 250 ft) tall and it is said that, due to its 13th century age and depending on conditions, it can lean as much as 1 m (3 ft) to the east. I didn’t know this at the time of climbing, I might add.

The cobbled courtyard below the Belfry, as I sheltered from the rain

The cobbled courtyard below the Belfry, as I sheltered from the rain

The most notable feature, save the view, of this massive building is that, at the top, there is a 47 bell carillon (or glockenspiel, if you understand German) which is a percussion instrument that is played via a keyboard connected to the bells by, in Bruges, a full-time paid carilloneur. Apparently, this gent gives free concerts quite regularly but I must have missed them, although there was the odd peal now and again. Maybe he was on holidays. In the days gone past, the bells were fewer in number and used for all sorts of things, such as fire alarms, marking working hours and notable religious occasions. Now they are mainly for entertainment.

The bells, the bells! Well, a few of the older worn ones.

The bells, the bells! Well, a few of the older worn ones.

It’s quite climb, I can tell you. All I could think as I went up was “this camera bag is big” and “man alive, these guys back then were tiny”. I’m quite slim and I had to duck and breathe in quite regularly. In total there are 366 of these type of steps to get to the top. Once I was three-quarters up, I realised why there was a sign at the bottom dissuading those of a weak constitution from going up!

I paid my 5 Euros so I was going to get there....puff puff

I paid my 5 Euros so I was going to get there….puff puff

Once at the top, I found out what a carillon looked like. You will excuse the reflection and such, I didn’t have my tripod so had to bounce the flash off this darn screen at an angle and space was pretty limited. Here you can see the drums attached to the keyboard mechanisms and that play automatic tunes on occasions. Apparently, the 47 bells atop the Belfry weigh a sobering 27 tonnes. Sobering because you look right up into them after the climb! That’d be a headache if copped one of those on the noggin!

Don't know what a carillon is? This is a carillon. Pretty impressive huh?

Don’t know what a carillon is? This is a carillon. Pretty impressive huh?

But, that aside, what a view! The rain had cleared but the visibility was still a bit rubbish. Apologies also for not noting which direction I am looking for those nerdy types, but I will point out some features in the pictures instead.

In this view, you can see Saint Salvators Cathedral, apparently one of the very few buildings in Bruges not to be damaged in fires and such; all renovations and changes were carried out as planned work. In the distance just past the cathedral, there are a few modern buildings and nearer the camera, a straight north/south cobbled street with old buildings, now mainly shops and small museums.

Got to the top! The view was pretty spectacular....

Got to the top! The view was pretty spectacular….

This next picture is centred mainly on the City Hall, in the Burg square. Hidden from view is a Basilica that I took more detailed pictures of later on in the holiday. To the right of the square, you can see the canal that lends Bruges the nickname “Venice of the North”. Yes, I did have a ride in a barge. Man, those guys got skills…you should have seen the gaps they got through!

Of course, many years ago, this route wasn’t a tourist trip in a barge, it was a serious port connected to the North Sea and the canals were buzzing with spice traders and such in the 12th to 15th centuries, known here as “The Golden Age”. However, this still exists today of sorts, in the form of the port of Zeebrugge some miles away (literally, in Flemish, Bruges on the sea) which is a major route in shipping since being revived by the German Navy in World War One. The canals are still there but too small for anything but tourist cruises.

A view down towards City Hall and the canals

A view down towards City Hall and the canals

Now a view of The Church of Our Lady, dating back to the 13th century. It’s a record breaker, this one, as it’s 122 m (400 ft) tall and made entirely of brick, making it the second tallest brick building in the world. I know that some aspects of medieval life were a bit grim but you have got to hand to them, they knew how to build an imposing structure! Respect.

In retrospect, Bruges is very lucky never to had earthquakes with all this brick around

In retrospect, Bruges is very lucky never to had earthquakes with all this brick around

Lastly, a view of the stones set on top of the octagon at the top of the Belfry showing distance to major cities around. Alas, the one where London was marked was hidden behind some screening, so Paris was as close as I could get. I can only presume the measurement is in kilometres like those weird foreigners seem to do everything. However, I don’t know if this takes into account the few feet of lean in the tower!!

Ah, gay Paris, 270 km...the other stop that trains on the line I came over on stop at

Ah, gay Paris, 270 km…the other stop that trains on the line I came over on stop at

Well, there’s the first instalment. More to come and more in-depth photos from the ground this time! There is much to be said for Europe in the way of history…who needs these all inclusive beach holidays in hot, sticky destinations where some urchin pinches your cash when you venture out of the resort? Culture, that’s what you want. And Flemish farmers stew with beer made by monks, which is gorgeous.

Well, it’ll be a couple of weeks until the next update, but keep tuned for more Flemish history, sights and landscapes. See you soon.

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