Brugge 1

Picture of beguinage 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.
Picture of towers
Picture of canal 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.
Picture of canal2 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.
Picture of markt 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.
Picture of market_stalls
Picture of statue 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).
Picture of windmill 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.
Picture of windmill2 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.
Picture of windmill_us
Picture of well 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 with us.)
Picture of tx_lace

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