If Brussels was not what I was expecting, Brugge was everything that I was in the best way possible. Our second stop in Belgium, we arrived on a Saturday morning, the sun just peeking through the clouds as we made our way to the Air Bnb. Once we had our things settled in,
we took off on the town to explore.
A walk through the town boasted canals and corridors, cathedrals and cobblestones lining every side of the street. The many city squares we saw displayed classic architecture and colorful flowers, doors and windows giving each building its own individual personality. Every corner smelt like freshly baked waffles or dark, rich chocolate. The main square was mixed with tourists and locals, people of all nations staring in awe at the clock tower. After some time of admiration, we moved on.
We met with an old friend of mine from Germany and her roommate for lunch. Nestled just outside of the center of town, the small French bakery served us warm tartines, soups, and coffees while we sat in the slowly emerging sun. Afterwards, we decided to stroll through the city on our way to the Chocolate Museum. Once there, we tried authentic Belgian chocolate and learned about its history in religion and society. After taking this sweet trip through time, we went to a castle just outside of town. The grounds were a vibrant and manicured green, a small pond decorated with trees settled just before the castle’s entrance. We languidly explored the grounds, finding a hedge maze that occupied our time for well over an hour. We all may be in our twenties, but show us a good maze and we will behave like elated seven year old!
To finish the day off, we grabbed some fries and sat in the main square, listening to an orchestra that had set up a stage in the center to perform for the crowds, and each tried a Belgian beer. The range in flavors was surprising, and I finally began to understand the saying, “There’s a (Belgian) beer for everyone.” The next morning, we checked out and went on the hunt for the quintessential Belgian waffle, which, thankfully, we found. Mine had hot dark chocolate and strawberries on it, and I was almost sure that I had died and gone to Heaven.
The last thing that we did in Brugge was visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This building fulfilled everything that I had imagined of Dutch inspired cathedrals. Saturated with red, yellow, blue and green stained glass windows on all sides, ornate golden candle holders perched on the walls, and the sun shining through the windows illuminated paintings and pews, Sunday morning mass just waiting to begin. We felt wholly adopted into the Belgian culture, and as we made our exit, it felt like we were saying goodbye to an old friend. We took a different route to walk back to the train station to leave, and though everything we saw was different, it all felt familiar and welcoming, like it could be home.
Brussels and Brugge were polar opposites of each other, yet they act as two cities that I consider closely related. Each of them appeals to different sides of your personality, each providing you with something you didn’t know you needed. You’ll find it equal parts metropolitan and rural, beauty and simplicity. So, if you ever hear Belgium calling, think of it less as a calling to travel, and more of a calling to come home.