On Wednesday, my conference finally started. Wednesday morning I got up early and
went off to the opening speeches, including (but not limited to) eating
eel in green sauce (ick). Melanie meanwhile, caught up on her sleep.
In daylight, Brugge turned out to be absolutely the cutest, quaintest,
most picturesque city possible, starting with the Beguinage shown
here. The Beguinage was a sort of semi-nunnery during the middle
ages; mainly it was a group of women living together with loose-ish vows
that allowed them to leave whenever they wanted (basically a somewhat religious
dormitory). Now Benedictine nuns run it and buildings looking
just like these form a square surrounding this nice grassy field filled
with flowers. At night though, they lock the gates, probably so no
one catches them having wild Benedictine parties.
Brugge, which incidentally is the Dutch spelling, and is known as Bruges to
the French speaking folk in Belgium, is called "The Venice of the North" according
to their tourism bureau. This is mainly due to the vast network of
canals that run throughout the city. In the middle ages Bruges was
one of the most important cities in all of Europe. Unfortunately
for them, the river they were on started to silt over and it became too shallow
to be a major shipping route. Instead they seem to have spent
the next few centuries making their city really cute.
Here is yet another canal near our hotel. On day seven we take a boat cruise
through all the canals and there'll be a lot more pictures of them.
You can skip ahead to Day 7 now if you really just can't wait. Just
to make it even more unbearably picturesque, Brugge has a local population
of swans swimming about the canals. Off in the distance is one of
the three very tall things in Brugge. You'll notice at least one
of them sticking up in the background of practically every picture.
We'll visit them later.
Brugge has two central squares: The Markt and the Burg. This picture is of the
Markt. The colorful little buildings on the opposite side are guild
houses from the middle ages. In the center of the Markt at this point
was a market, featuring fresh produce and more types of cheese than you
could possibly imagine. This picture was taken from our table at
lunch. Not really noticeable here is that all of the cute little
buildings ringing the Markt also have little open air restaurants out front.
We had ham sandwiches and french fries (frites) and really good beer.
If you're wondering what the Burg looks like, you'll just have to go to
Belgium. But the background of this page is a detail from one of
the buildings there.
Here is a cute little square where we didn't eat lunch. I believe the statue
is of Simon Stevin, but I can't really recall why he merits a statue.
After lunch we mostly wandered around taking pictures until I had to go
back to the conference. Melanie spent some of the afternoon wandering
through lace stores. Brugge's most famous export is lace and probably
25% of all the stores are lace shops (really).
Yes, just when you thought we had run out of quaint things to photograph,
we come to northern edge of town which features a line of four windmills.
The city is roughly circular, surrounded by old walls and a river that
might as well be a moat. The inside of the moat is a nice green ring
with lots of dog walking and such going on. This particular point
was about as far from our hotel as you could get in the city. It
was probably only a 15 minute walk though.
This is David standing next to a windmill (for scale of course). This windmill
was not on at the time so there was no danger of being dragged across the
hill and thrown off the side by the arms of the windmill. We went
off to dinner after this, and Melanie had the local Flemish specialty,
'waterzooi'. For those of you who didn't grow up eating waterzooi,
it's a sort of delicate creamy chicken stew.
Here's David sitting on a well on our way back to the hotel to prepare for
dinner. And of course, we had beer with dinner. Beer is sort of the official
drink of Belgium, and it's much more involved than in the U.S. For
one thing, there are a lot more varieties. Over 600 different beers
are brewed in Belgium and they all have their own glassware. This
requires bars to have a tremendous array of glasses but they seem to cope
with that fairly well. After dinner, we went back towards the hotel
stopping to have another beer at another little bar where we had the illustrious
Brugge Tripel (which we liked so much we brought a liter or so back to Florida