Sorry about that ridiculously clunky title; I was having a hard time describing our day trip to Bruges, Belgium!
Any trip to a new European city typically starts in the city center, and Bruges is no exception. Here, that primarily means the Markt (“Market” in the local language, Flemish) Square!
The square is home to plenty of shops and restaurants, as the name suggests, but it’s also the site of the medieval Belfry…
This fierce statue is in the middle of the square. We honestly don’t know enough Belgian history to know who this guy is outer what he did, but at least he seems pretty awesome based on his statue!
Just a little bit around the corner is the second most important square called the Burg. This houses, amongst other things, the beautiful City Hall…
and this very tiny but very fancy church. Called the Basilica of the Holy Blood, it’s only two rooms, but it has (arguably) one of the most important relics in the world.
As you may have been able to guess from the name of the church, they have a glass vial here that is said to contain some of Jesus’ actual blood! Yes, you can see it for yourself if you want to – it goes on display for veneration nearly every day. But it is only out at specific times, so you’d better come early and check the day’s schedule if you’re interested!
But Bruges is perhaps most famous for its wonderfully picturesque views! Built on a series of canals, it is often compared to Venice and is nicknamed “the Venice of the North”. Hmmm, does that sound familiar to you? It should… (hint: we also visited the Venice of the Alps not too long ago…)
Who can blame them when their city looks like this?
I mean, come on.
Though to be fair, you don’t have to be looking at the canals to be thoroughly enjoying the views in Bruges.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit this church, Saint Salvator, but it would have been a great one to see. Not only is the church itself beautiful, of course, but they actually own a real Michelangelo sculpture that’s on display inside!
We did, however, get to visit part of this convent. We stopped by here while on yet another horse-drawn carriage ride (I really like horse-drawn carriages, so sure me!) and our driver told us an interesting story about it. Apparently, it used to be a regular church that was at the center of a very unusual agreement – rich families in town would buy houses for poor families so they had a nice place to live, and in return the poor families were required to come to the church three times a day to pray for the rich families in hopes of getting the rich people into heaven! However, that arrangement had long since been stopped and the buildings have been a Benedictine convent for several centuries now.
Another cool thing our guide pointed out to us was these faces on a large number of doors and windows. She said you can always tell which buildings used to be houses in the medieval time because they had these faces installed above the doors and sometimes the windows too. The belief was that they would protect the family living inside by tricking any evil spirits into thinking they were being watched, at which point they would run away instead of bothering the home (apparently they’re only allowed to do evil things if no one sees them?)
Another cool place she pointed out to us was this tiny street, the smallest street in Bruges! We honestly had seen it earlier in the day and thought it was just an odd alleyway. But no, it is an official street of Bruges and home to two different restaurants, despite being so narrow I could completely block it off just by putting my hands on my hips!
Finally it was time to start heading back to the train station for the return trip to Brussels. A wrong turn, however, brought us to this cool fountain! It was not only big, but each quadrant had wildly different sculptures depicting all sorts of various things. It felt like there was always something new to look at!
Our favorite were these fishermen and their amazing catch, a sawfish! Sawfish are a very rare fish these days, though we don’t know how old these sculptures are – they may have been more common when it was made, or maybe the sculptor just wanted to give them a really neat catch.
Our comments winner for today is…Lauren H! Congrats Lauren! Tomorrow is supposed to be a travel day, but our train leaves very late in the afternoon so it’ll mostly be a Brussels day. But you should get at least one good look at Rouen before I turn in tomorrow night!