Day 15: Bruges, Part 1 (Tuesday, April 2, 2013)



We did so many little things today I am not even going to attempt to write about each one. The reader can go to Trip Advisor if interested in more detail ­čÖé I am going to treat this instead as a photo diary, with a simple list, maybe some description, and photos to support. Dan sent me 72 pics to consider out of the 100+ he started with. I am including 25 here.

I will start with a brief history for context. Bruges was a major center for finance, trade and art in its prime, during the centuries between 1200-1500. It fell out of favor when it didn’t keep up with mercantile progress, and lost its shipping capabilities when the canal to the North Sea silted. Antwerp became a bigger economic center after that, and remains so today (especially in diamonds). Bruges was considered a dead city by 1850, but tourists became interested later that century. For much of the next hundred years it focused on building tourism and restoring its medieval roots. This paid off big when UNESCO (covered yesterday) added it to its list of World Heritage Sites in 2000. It now gets about 2 million visitors a year.

The purpose of most of the attractions is to give the visitor a sense of the city’s history, a sense of what it was like to live there 600 years ago, enjoy really beautiful things, and various combinations of those objectives.

All that said, here’s what we did today:

Church of our Lady

 

The Madonna and Child in the middle is by Michelangelo, the only known piece of his work outside of Italy.
Gruunthuse Museum – centers around a manuscript of poems, secular songs, and prayers from the 1300 and 1400’s. This was probably our favorite because it felt very personal. Between the music, poems, jewelry, etc., you got a real sense of life at the time. It was in an amazing house built next to the church, with its own chapel on the second floor whose windows looked into the church itself; they were connected. Dan got a picture of one of the books, where each page is itself a work of art.
The Diamond Museum was next, interesting history of diamond trading in Bruges as far back as 1370, with a cutting demonstration included.
This guy did the demo in 3 languages: English, Dutch, French. It was pretty impressive. He had a slight cough and would even say “excuse me” in whatever language he was speaking at the time when he coughed! He easily switched to whatever language the audience used during the Q&A session.
Next was lunch in a tiny sandwich shop, then a canal ride.

 

 

Then Groeninge Musem, focusing on local painters from 1400 to 2000. This was my favorite; I love Impressionism, and I love that the kid is looking at you.
Next, another two-fer museum, focusing on local artists, displayed in what had been a hospital for 400 years. This one is so bizarre.
It also had a huge empty room upstairs with a lone gothic sculpture at one end.

 

┬áCity Hall was after that. It’s meeting room on the second floor had Dan declare it was ┬áprobably the most ornate room he’s seen in Europe.

Salvador Dali exhibit was last. Here are a couple of Dan’s favorites from there.

And finally, some night pictures, and me after a very satisfying warm apple pie, excellent vanilla ice cream, and fresh whipped cream. At a Morrocan place! (See photo at the end.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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