Thursday, 22nd May, 2014

Country: Belgium
Distance travelled:
Weather: clear and sunny changing to overcast, ending with a storm

When I woke this morning I could see a glimpse of absolutely beautiful sky belying the drizzle of yesterday afternoon. I jumped out of bed and decided this morning was the time to trial my new single serve expresso pot with the coffee we had bought. Lesson one: don’t put too much coffee grounds in the machine, lesson two: low heat is satisfactory with such a small amount of water. I’ll try again tomorrow, maybe we will have found some milk by then. All we could find in the few shops we have visited so far is UHT milk and I find that it has a funny aftertaste.

With no palatable milk, it was toast and Vegemite for breakfast. We have plenty of charge in the new leisure batteries supplied by our new solar panels all thanks to several days of sunshine in Manchester. Typical, I’d have sworn it does nothing but rain there but the weather really pulled out all the stops for us, just as we left….

We took a few photos of our first morning in Belgium and tried to find a home for a few more of our belongings in the restricted space we have. Hopefully everything with settle in as we go along. At about 10am we set off for Bruges where we planned to stop in the Aire. The fee is per day starting from 11am so we didn’t want to get there before then and risk having to pay for two days unnecessarily. As it was, we were there about 10 minutes early so had to circle a few times. After scoffing a quick sandwich, we grabbed the cameras and set off into the old part of town.

Bruges is another town with canals although in the new parts of the city they are remarkably wide. On the drive in, we had seen several boats at least twice as wide as the one we travelled in on the Oxford canal. One had table and chairs enough to seat six on the deck. Another, obviously working boat, was loaded to the hilt with shipping containers. Once we were in the old town though, they were much narrower although still not generally as narrow as the English canals we had travelled.

Cobbled streets and cathedrals, canals and horse-drawn carriages, we wandered about admiring the sights and getting lost.

Horses and Cobblestones

Lost in Bruges

A spell of rain sent us into the Basilica of the Holy Blood which has an incredible set of murals and wall paintings and where I got to indulge my fascination with holy relics. This one was a cloth with some of Christ’s blood. I couldn’t take any photos or have a really close look since there was a priest on guard and I didn’t want to give offense by not showing respect to their relic. Besides, there was a queue of people waiting for their own glimpse.

Wikipedia tells me:
Popular legend asserts that the phial was taken to Bruges during the Second Crusade of CE 1147–1149, by Thierry of Alsace, who returned from Jerusalem with the relic of the Holy Blood presented to him by his brother-in-law Baldwin III of Jerusalem, as the reward of his great services. However, recent research found no evidences of the presence of the relic in Bruges before the 1250s. In all likelihood, the relic originated from the 1204 sack of Constantinople by the army of the Count of Flanders, Baldwin IX during the Fourth Crusade.
Recent investigations have showed that the phial, made of rock crystal and dating back to the 11th or 12th century, was a Byzantine perfume bottle made in the area of Constantinople. It was never opened since its arrival in Bruges. Its neck is wound with gold thread and its stopper is sealed with red wax. The phial is encased in a glass-fronted gold cylinder closed at each end by coronets decorated with angels. The date “MCCCLXXXVIII die III maii” (May 3, 1388) is engraved on the frame.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Eventually we made it to the Markt, the main square of Bruges, where we paused to try the frieten (Dutch) or frites (French) or potato chips to us. Belgium claims to be the home of chips, or fries, and they certainly have cooking them under control. We did not, however, visit the chip museum.

Belgium chocolate shops were everywhere and eventually succumbing, we bought a variety box. It appears to contain mostly liquors so far but I will soldier on in my investigations. With the amount of Belgium lace shops almost outnumbering the chocolate shops, I was hoping to find some lace bobbins to take home as souvenirs as well but no luck. For some reason I expected to see some with ‘I visited Brugges’ or something equally touristy painted on but apparently I am the only visiting lacemaker.

While we sat waiting for dusk and the blue hour, I managed to sneak onto a free wifi connection and check for geocaches in Bruges. There was one not fifty meters from where we sat so I tracked it down. Now I am only a beginner geocacher, but I would never in all my years have imagined someone disguising a geocache as a bicycle in the middle of a busy market square. Unfortunately, to get to the log book, one had to work out a puzzle. I’m no good at that sort of thing so I didn’t get to log my first Belgium geocache in the Markt. I found another later though somewhere else.

After fortifying ourselves with another serve of frites, we set off for several locations we had noted as possibilities for night-time shots. First the bell tower in the Markt, then to Jon Van Eyck square where an impressive building and a long canal offered possibilities. Unfortunately, in a town full of spotlights, this area appeared to be short of lighting. We started heading in the general direction of the van, stopping to take a photo at various illuminated buildings.

Bell Tower, Markt

Bruges at Night

As we walked, it became apparent that a storm was just over the horizon. By the time we made it home, at just before 12am, it was bucketing down, so heavily as to render the umbrella superfluous. It was, however, surprisingly warm and humid. Since our water supply would be topped up in the morning, we both indulged in a quick shower, and settled down to exhausted sleep.

2 thoughts on “Thursday, 22nd May, 2014

  1. Allister Coots

    The heading in your most recent entry needs a small fix, from “22rd” to “22nd”. Apart from that, I found it to be an interesting read, and am looking forward to reading more about your European adventures.

    1. thoraf

      Thanks Allister, we’ll update the post with the correction and glad you are finding the posts interesting. We have a lot of posts written/photo’s to post but just trying to find time to get it all together (I think we have like 25 posts in draft form at the moment waiting some final touches).

      Hope Marion’s bonfire was fun!



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