Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is beautiful, but bordering on fairy tale and very touristy.

Medieval buildings of brick and stone rise straight up from green canals of water lilies and vines.  Cobbled streets traverse canals over stone bridges.  Narrow laneways lead to small squares lined with trees and churches.  Chimes from the carillons in the UNESCO listed belfries chorus through the streets, playing “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and “Danny Boy,” and the sound of horses hooves as they pull buggies full of tourists mix with the clatter and bells of locals on bicycles.

It is possible to avoid the tourist kitsch altogether and see authentic Bruges in quarters like St Anna, a quiet, mostly residential district nicknamed Verloren Hoek – the Forgotten Corner – where I found the Jerusalemkerk, a 15th-century church purportedly based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (though the two don't appear to share a great resemblance) and still owned by the same family.

The Groeningen Museum houses a permanent exhibition of the Flemish Primitives, a school of painters in the 15th & 16th centuries who were emulated all over Europe for their modern, realistic style.  They include Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling (known for his exceptional detail), and Hieronymus Bosch, whose triptych "The Last Judgement" is included in the collection and which I specifically planned to see.  Imagine my disappointment when discovering the museum is closed for reinstallation!

Fortunately, the Musem St Janshospitaal is temporarily hosting Bosch's triptych (which is surprisingly small—the central panel is only about 100cm x 70cm).  While I did also see some of Memling's works at the museum, I missed out on the Groeningen collection of the Flemish Primitives.

I drank beer every day through Germany and Belgium – and why wouldn’t you?  My last night in Bruges was spent in a little beer-specialist pub called De Garre, hidden down a tight lane between the town's two tourist-packed main squares, Markt and Burg. I started with the 11% strength house beer and moved onto Satan Gold.  It was Heaven.


Unknown said...

Satan Gold? Is that brewed by Hell's Satans?

G. Wayne Meaney said...

Perhaps it's brewed by the Trappist monks?