We woke to cloudy skies and had decided to head to Brugge this morning and leave Brussels for this afternoon and evening. We headed off to the railway station and on to our train hoping that we wouldn’t have too many ticket issues – we were using our Eurail ticket for the first time – we had been to information yesterday and they had stamped it so we knew that was ok, it was going to be getting through the first ticket inspection. As we hurled along on this incredible trains, we passed ticket inspection without a problem except the inspector thought we were quite strange sitting in 2nd class with 1st class tickets (we weren’t sure if there were supplements to pay or not) so we moved into the spacious 1st class cabin!
We arrived in Brugge with the sun shining, purchased our city map from information (what a rort), went past the biggest bike rack on the planet we reckon jumped aboard the bus and headed into the town square.
Bruges or Brugge to the locals, was once a leading trading centre until the silting of its canals, leading to its demise. Now a tourist’s window into medieval times of the 14th century long since gone. Belgium’s most famous belfry, in the historic Markt, is located in the city’s medieval core with 366 steps to the top which we decided to pass on.
We wandered the Markt for a little while lapping up the sun shine and then headed to the nearby Burg which features Belgium’s oldest stadhuis (city hall), along with the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood) where a few coagulated drops of Christ’s blood are kept and cherished. The buildings are so ornate and so well kept it quite hard to believe they can have survived in such good condition.
From the burg we followed the very pretty canals, where you could take a canal ride around the city, up to the Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk (Church of our Lady) with the remarkable art treasure: Michelangelo’s Madonna and child, inside this very old style church. The small marble statue (made in 1504) was the only of his work to leave Italy in his lifetime.
From here we wandered back towards the Markt past some more pretty canals and churches, into the Tin Tin shop which was very cool and then back on the bus and and to Brussels.
We arrived back in Brussels mid afternoon with blue sky, so we set off to see the sights. We started at Gare Centrale and well tried to head in the direction we wanted however our map was well not that great so we ended just walking by sight i.e.. See a spire head that way. So we saw Grand Place (central square), with the gothic Hôtel de ville – the only one to escape bombardment by the French in 1695, quite ironic as apparently it was the target!
We saw one of the National symbols – Manneken Pis fountain (a little boy peeing), which was located in chocolate shop capital – yum yum, and we couldn’t refuse any longer and bought a yummy box of mixed Belgium chocolate. We saw the Grand Palace and surrounding gardens, some churches the market place. Brussels was nice but not overloaded with sights.