We left the Amsterdam apartment about 7:30 this morning, and got to our Bruges hotel around 2:30. We were scheduled to leave at 7:55 but that train was cancelled. The reroute would get us here 1.5 hours later than planned. The good news: just two transfers instead of three, with time enough in between the last one for a sandwich at the Antwerp train station.
I had never heard of Bruges until a party we had last May. Instead of name tags, Dan asked people to share a place they really enjoyed visiting. Through that process, our friends Greg & Robert from Sacramento had a lively conversation with our Davis neighbors, Jo and Kay, because they had all been to Bruges before. (Later, I met people who knew of the town only because of a Colin Farrell movie called “In Bruges” which we saw a few months ago; it’s worth seeing.)
Greg was also who I learned about UNESCO from: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. They certify places to be on their World Heritage list based on their outstanding value to humanity. On this trip so far we have visited four World Heritage Sites (if you count Anne Frank museum):
- Upper Middle Rhine Valley
- Cologne Cathedral
- The Canal District of Amsterdam
- At the Anne Frank house, we learned her diaries are listed in UNESCO’S Memory of the World Register
And today makes 5: the Historic Center of Bruges makes the list “as an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement”. Today we just walked around to get oriented, and will have two full days here. A few pictures below from our walk. More about what’s what as we actually visit places.
Some observations about similarities and differences of the three countries so far, in no particular order:
- OMG the smokers! All three. At least they can’t smoke indoors, but seems like you see many times the number of smokers than we’re used to in the US – on the streets, in doorways, and at outside eating areas.
- Bicycles everywhere, especially Netherlands, and Amsterdam was off the hook: 40% of all traffic is on 2 wheels. In the Centrum (European equivalent-ish to downtown, or central area) many streets are bikes only, no cars. And bikers in Amsterdam are aggressive, they definitely rule there.
- Germans were all about bakeries, especially sweets. Amsterdam was all about “coffeeshops” and Argentinean restaurants (we never did figure out that connection). So far, Belgium is all about chocolate, waffles, and french fries. Although waffles are a dessert or snack item, not breakfast.
- Trains: In Germany, getting asked for the ticket was the exception. In Netherlands, we were asked more than half the time. Today, in a 4.5 hour ride between Amsterdam and Bruges, we were asked 4x, twice on the same Belgian train.
- Only the American hotel, the Hilton in Mainz, provided little soaps, shampoos, lotions. All the European hotels provided “wash” type products (which I like) in hand dispensers at the sink and shower. No lotion. And all of the showers are the hand-held kind, even the Hilton.