When writing a blog about a city you decided to visit based on a movie that drops an “F bomb” every two seconds, it’s hard to curtail the droppings of “F bombs.” But I shall endeavor to try my hardest. (I almost succeeded.)
Some time in 2010, someone recommended that I watch In Bruges. In Bruges is the story of two hitmen, Ray and Ken, who are ordered by their boss to go hide out in Bruges after a hit goes wrong. While Ken appreciates the medieval architecture and the quaintness of the city, Bruges is the absolute last place that Ray wants to be.
Going into my Belgium trip, I knew that a trip to Bruges would be necessary, despite the fact that there were larger (and arguably, more famous) locations to consider (Antwerp…Ghent…). After all, I plan my vacations around filming locations. We all know this, yes? Okay, moving on!
I hopped onto my train to Bruges (I’d learned from my trip to Segovia. I arrived VERY early for my train…) and made it to the city without hassle. The city itself is incredibly small, so though I arrived on the outskirts, it only took me about 30 minutes to find the heart of the city.
Wandering through the streets was idyllic. The general atmosphere was relaxed and quiet. You could literally hear a car coming for a good-long while before you saw physical evidence of the car; that’s how quiet it was.
The night prior, I’d spoken to some guys at the hostel I was staying at in Brussels and they had casually reminded me that Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child was in Brussels. For those of you living under rocks, it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.
Additionally, it was smuggled out of Bruges by German soldiers during World War II. It was discovered a year later in Austria and returned. It now sits in the Church of Our Lady. This story is told in the book/film, The Monuments Men.
From here, I wandered the edge of the canal heading closer to the center of the city.
I made my way into the Markt where, imagine my surprise, I found a Christmas Market.
Right smack dab in the middle of the Markt was the infamous 13th-century Belfry, for which Bruges is known.
For those of you who have seen In Bruges, you’ll recall that a critical scene in the film is when Ray confronts some overweight tourists to impolitely inform them that there are too many stairs to get up to the top of the belfry and that the stairs are too narrow. When the tourists are offended, they make the attempt anyway, only to result in one of them having a heart attack and getting the belfry closed for several days as a result.
Well, let’s just say…I get it now.
At about step 200, I started cheering on everyone that I saw. It was necessary. I continued this on my way down as well.
As previously stated, on the way down, I played typical American tourist and became personal cheerleader to anyone heading up.
P.S. Going DOWN the steps was 100% harder than going up. When walking up stairs, you use your toes to guide you. When heading downstairs, it’s more natural to use the entirety of your foot…but LOL! There’s no room for that. I ended up walking down in an awkward sideways grapevine manner, especially at the points where I was walking past people going up.
Oy. Glad I did it. Wouldn’t do it again.
From here, I wandered around the Christmas Market and Markt a bit (because why not…)
And then I decided to meander aimlessly a bit.
I wandered East for 40 minutes to find the bridge over the canal.
And then I turned around and wandered right back to the center of the city, stopping to take in some of the sights on the way.
After this, I caught an hour of a tour and re-walked the entire city I’d already explored. I left halfway through and made my way back to the train station to head back to Brussels.
OH! But before I got back to the train, I did, in fact, find “the fucking swans,” and they were, in fact, “my fucking thing.”
Four or five hours in Bruges was just the right amount of time. I’d imagine if it were warmer, I could have spent longer wandering around…but when you are having a hard time operating your fingers, it’s time to call it quits.
Bruges was lovely. Like a fairy tale.
I’d love to go back once it’s even a smidge warmer.