Caution - Belgium Will Sneak-up On You - Bruges

Belgium is frequently overlooked (except for Bruges and Brussels), and is worth so much more than a brief visit. I will do Journals on each or the Flemish cities: Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent starting with Bruges. Most of the photographs include locations.


Caution - Belgium Will Sneak-up On You - Bruges

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on January 7, 2008

Belgium may be a small country, but it is a very wealthy economic powerhouse that is all to often neglected by the tourism merchants. About the size of Maryland in the US, the country has two distinct sections: Flanders in the North and Wallonia in the South. Flanders is Flemish-speaking (very close to Dutch) while the language of Wallonia is French. Much of Belgium is also quite fluent in English as well as German and French, depending on the region. As part of the "Low Countries," (The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Northwest of France), much of the Flanders part of Belgium is just above sea level. The Wallonia area of Belgium is hilly in spots and mountainous in others, with some flat areas as well. The name "Netherlands" means "Low Countries by the Sea." Five different languages plus English are spoken.

I traveled to Belgium twice for a couple of days each during the early 60's, but my interests then were largely based on Belgian beer (some of the best in the world), and Belgian girls (even better than the beer). My interests have matured; I no longer drink alcohol and unfortunately, the girls look at me as a grandfather figure, which does seem a bit unfair.

I was last in Belgium in 2011. My memory had failed me and I consequently had allocated only four days for this small country. That's what some friends and some guide books suggested was adequate time. In those four days I visited, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels. My next trip there will be for at least two weeks during which I will spend at least 2-3 days in each of those cities, as well as some time in French-speaking Wallonia, especially Liege, and the Ardennes.

Belgium is a prime example of a country which seems to be overlooked by tours and guide books, and while I can somewhat understand the omission, I have a difficult time justifying it. The Netherlands is much more than Amsterdam, and Belgium, like the Netherlands and Luxembourg, falls victim to the "great" cities of Europe. The two main tourist cities in Belgium, Brussels (headquarters of the European Union) and Bruges have become overrun with tourists while the rest of the country receives a much smaller portion of the tourist dollar. Belgian cities do not have the jaw-dropping sights of a Paris, London, or Rome, but they provide a much more comfortable and welcoming atmosphere than any of the above-mentioned metropolises. Even the European capital of Brussels is much slower-paced than many of the major cities of Europe.

I will be doing Journals on each of the four cities. I still have all of my pretty extensive notes from 2005 and I just visited Bruges and Ghent this spring (2011). The cities are all very photogenic so expect a lot of photographs. As usual, I have some strong opinions. I will start with Bruges.

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Like much of Europe, the Euro is the currency of Belgium. It is always a good idea to bring some Euros with you when you enter any of the countries on the Euro standard (50-100€). After that, use an ATM card. Traveler's checks may be good in an emergency (I carry two 50's and two 100's that I have had since the early 90's and have lost my a-- on), but the ATM card gives the best rate of exchange and you will find them everywhere. WARNING: If you see exposed wires running from the ATM to someplace else, it's a smart idea to avoid that machine. While improbable, the machine may have been hacked and the wires may lead to an identity thief. They are safe if they are built into a wall. Also, avoid currency exchanges! They may say, "No commission," but rates are low and there are service charges that will amount to close to 20% of your currency or traveler's check.

Like many European cities, the old baroque or medieval parts of the Belgian cities are wonderful for wandering. The small streets and alleys often lead to scenes of great beauty and wonderful shops which are frequently MUCH less expensive than those in the main shopping areas. I found this to be true especially in Ghent and Antwerp. This is also true of restaurants.

As mentioned, like the Netherlands, many Belgians are fluent in English. This is especially true in Flanders where travelers will find English menus and English-speaking servers, clerks, bank personnel, travel specialists, and cashiers. The Tourist Information (TI or just "i") are great sources of information in English as are local travel agents who can frequently offer special discounts on different things in the area.

Small towns in Europe can be wonderfully picturesque. They are different than towns in the US because the farmers live in the town, and not on the farms. In agrarian Europe, the town was protection and the farm population lived inside the town walls. That is why one sees so few farm houses on the land. Cattle, goats, and sheep were were "put out to pasture" every day which meant that they were moved or driven back and forth to the town on a daily basis. The towns were the entire community 400 years ago and they still are. They also have train stations, so they are very accessible. ${BestWay} Belgium has a great rail system. It also has a wonderful benefit for senior citizens. For men over 65 and women over 62 years of age, a senior can travel anywhere in the country and return in one day for only €5.20. These tickets have some limitations (see http://www.b-rail.be for more details). The website will also give more details on other money saving methods of travel for all ages.

The cities all have very efficient tram, bus, and metro systems and it is possible to combine different rail tickets with local transportation tickets, a further savings.

Belgium, as part of the "Low Countries," is quite flat in the Flanders area. Bicycles, therefore, are very popular and there are free bikes and rental bikes available.

I generally prefer not to rent a car, but in the area of the Ardennes and Waloonia, it might be a good idea. There are places in the mountains to stop and enjoy the scenery which one can't do on a train or bus. One of the reasons that I don't like tour bus travel is that while the guides point out all the wonderfully scenic places and lovely towns, the buses don't stop to let the passengers enjoy the environment. To me, the tour bus is my last option.

Lastly, there is walking which is the best transportation of all. Whether in cities, towns, or rural ares, it is by far the best way to enjoy just about anyplace.

European cities are alive and wonderful. Where our cities in the US have lost to "urban sprawl," the cities of Europe have maintained and indeed continue to increase in vibrancy and popularity. But the small, picturesque towns, along with the warmth of their people will always paint a better picture of a country, and the truth of that statement absolutely applies to Belgium.

Next stop - Bruges.



Bruges - Getting There

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 19, 2011

Bruges - Getting there and St. Christopher's Bauhaus

Bruges is a favorite city of mine. It is a photographer’s paradise and a wanderer’s paradise in just about any kind of weather. I fell in love with Belgium in general, and Bruges in particular in the early 1960's. Even with the millions of demanding and spoiled tourists, the citizens of this city have so much patience with all of us, tourists and travelers alike, it defies logic. At least it defies my logic. People that I meet in hostels talk about Bruges almost as much as they do about Amsterdam, which is always a huge favorite. The comments I hear most often are how beautiful Bruges is, and how friendly the people are. Both are true. Also true is the really good behavior of tourists in this tourist-filled city. I don’t know why.

Bruges has a population of about 120,000 with about 25,000 living in the city center. Many hundreds more commute daily to the city center for their employment. To that, add three million tourists each year, hence the Bruges motto. The motto for Belgium is, "Unity Makes Strength." The Bruges motto is, "Don’t Drive In the City," or it should be.

I have visited Bruges three different times and always wish that I had planned better and allotted more time to this lovely city. Just wandering in the small side streets would take me at least a full day, if not two. I was in the city for two days and one night. I should have scheduled four days and three nights and I am planning that trip for next year. Also, Bruges was my tenth location in three weeks and I was pretty tired by the time. Definitely too many moves.

I stayed at St. Christopher’s Bauhaus which is located within a couple of blocks of a bus stop (the driver will told me when to get off and pointed me in the right direction). The right direction turned out to be through one of the city gates - Kruispoort. Before going through the gate, I noticed a lovely windmill 100 meters to my right and I returned early the next morning for pictures on both sides of the gate and the windmill. Anyway, I walked for a couple of blocks down Langstraat to the hostel which is well-managed and check-in was easy. There is a bar and restaurant that is part of the hostel and does a good business. I did not eat in the restaurant but others told me that it was quite good and far more reasonable than the downtown eateries. The included breakfast is served in the restaurant. Any Belgian beer is good.

I had a couple of very minor complaints about St. Christopher’s. One was that the staircase up to the third floor is narrow and it was difficult for me to manage with a suitcase. The dorms are quite small, but I spent very little time in the room. I was in a dorm that consisted of two rooms with three bunks in each room. Both the toilet and shower were close-by.

I do recommend St. Christopher’s Bauhaus. Its location is very good being close to a bus stop. I passed quite a few hostels walking into to city (10 minutes) and they would take longer to reach. My roller-bag and I were arguing constantly by that time. I think that I will return to St. Christopher’s in the future.


Bruges - In Photographs

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 19, 2011

First, Bruges is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason. Also, the entire old city of Bruges has been awarded the honor, not just a few buildings, and there are a multitude of reasons for that. To say that it is picturesque is an understatement. In Bruges you can look in any direction and find a postcard waiting for your camera. It is difficult to find a spot that is not photogenic. I kid you not. Bruges is so photogenic that I seldom know when to quit taking pictures. In two days and one night I took 800 photographs! Early mornings evenings are wonderful with long shadows, while the middle of the day is also good for amateurs and professionals alike.

Many years ago my parents said that you should "always keep the sun over your left shoulder." I heard that said until the mid-fifties when I was about 15 years old. There was solid reasoning in that statement. Most cameras used by amateurs at that time were Kodak Brownies and if you needed a flash it meant flash bulbs. The camera had a fixed lens which meant that it was set at one size lens opening and one set shutter speed. There were no controls; you took the pictures, took the camera to the drug store (so that they would take the film out because you forgot how) for developing, and a week or so later you found out what you had.

In any case, today, unless you have manual controls on your camera and can adjust your exposure for backlit subjects, the rule is still valid because it usually will give you properly exposed images. Even though today's cameras (even the cheap ones) measure the light and, for the most part, sets the camera properly. What the rule is saying is to keep the sun behind you or to each rear side of you. That is as valid today as it was many years ago. Most people don't care about creativity, they want good, clear pictures, and even the least expensive digital cameras will accomplish that. People take travel pictures to remember where they went, and to show others the same thing.

The best way to guarantee that you have some good photos of your trip to anywhere is to take lots of pictures. Use different angles and camera heights. Take a picture from close with a wide-angle lens setting and then walk a good distance away from the same subject and use your telephoto setting to take the same photograph. You will be surprised at the difference.

This trip was made difficult because I had not brought a tripod with me. I had planned on purchasing a cheap one when I got to Poland, but that didn't work out when I found out how much a cheap tripod costs there. In Germany and Belgium they were even more expensive. So I did without and tried to brace the camera as best as I could deleting images as I toddled along. I won't make that mistake again. I'll just leave out extra shirts and pants, toiletries, and a bunch of chargers and electronic devices that I seem to think I need. I may stink and not know where I am, but the pictures of where I don't know I was will be great.

Parenthetically, please be kind to other photographers. Be careful and try to not walk into someone's photograph. You know how you feel when someone walks into yours. And even worse, when someone walks into your photograph and stops. That is absolutely maddening. It's bad enough that they walked into your picture, and it gets worse when they stand there and want to have a conversation about it while you're waiting (patiently, right?). OK, wrong. Here's one that really frosts me. One of the night images illustrates this little peeve of mine. A couple is taking a picture on the far left of my photograph. I didn't have a problem with that because I was somewhat hidden down on my knees in gravel trying to balance my camera on a stone bench. What did cause my Scottish temper to almost get the best of me was that the guy held his camera up for two solid minutes for one damn picture. I wanted to point out to him forcefully something like: "Hey buddy. That building is not going to smile and it is not going to move, so take the picture,already. And I'm kneeling in gravel." This problem is a particular nuisance in really pretty cities like Bruges. End of sermon..

There are certain things that will make your picture story more personal. These are frequently images that have nothing to do with the city or place you visited. No one will look at them and say that they know where the photograph was taken. Things like window boxes with flowers, open windows with a child or pet sitting there, colorful laundry on the line, a pair of jeans drying on a window ledge, decorative light posts and lamps, interesting window displays. Very few people have the same photograph because they would have to have been there when you were there, so there is something new that they haven't seen before. I will frequently take a photograph of my feet standing on a manhole cover that shows the city or town I am visiting.

There is no secret to taking pictures in Bruges. The entire central city is just thousands ot pictures waiting to be taken. So I'll finish with a couple of other pointers. Idiot-proof point and shoot cameras are a blessing. Just remember to charge or carry extra batteries Try to avoid photographs with the sun in front of you if you have no adjustment for it on sunny days. Cloudy days have very soft light, but light coming from the northern sky is the softest. When possible, try to take pictures of people with your back facing North to take advantage of the North light. In bright or hazy sunlight, try to take people pictures in shade. To photograph a building, use your telephoto setting, walk a distance away to take the picture. The walls will not bend inward as much.

If you are in Bruges consider yourself lucky. There are not many places as photogenic.

I have a journal on photography on this website. I hope that you will find it interesting.

Bruges - At Night

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 20, 2011

Bruges is a wonderful city at night. It is beautiful, romantic, stunning, tranquil, moody in the rain. It is an old city that will lower high blood pressure. It will make you sing and dance and even cry. Bruges will move you emotionally and will affect you in the most wonderful way. At least that was my experience. You don't need romantic restaurants or pubs. Those comforts are certainly there in abundance, but for those who cannot afford such luxuries, it doesn't matter.

The city fathers of Bruges and local businesses have spent millions of euros in the design of the lighting of the city. It is very close to perfect and adds to the mood created by the lights of the shops and pubs. The canals and bridges have or create stunning reflections that one can watch for hours as ducks or swans or the wind or a tourist tossing a pebble disturb the reflections, changing the mood in an instant. Slowly the serenity returns, and all is well. A tourist can't ask for more than that, and it's free. All one has to do is to meander along the canal. It is so inviting.

I spent a few hours doing what I just described. Because I didn't have a tripod I had to look for places that I could use to brace both me and the camera. While I was looking for such objects to use, I was distracted by a swan swimming. I watched that swan and the canal for over two hours. I sat on the side of one of the bridges and let Bruges take me wherever she wanted. I had absolutely no idea that I had been sitting on that bridge for so long, but I had a wonderful journey. I don't remember a time when I was so completely at peace.

Lacking a tripod, I was quite limited in the photographs that I was able to make. I needed a steady surface to set my camera on. Fortunately, I did find some stone benches and was able to get some photographs with minimal camera or photographer movement and I include the best ones here. In total, I spent more time sitting by the canal than I did taking pictures, but I am still satisfied with the results of both.

The photographs are labeled with the identity of the building. Some of the labels may be incorrect. I may have misidentified them on my voice recorder, or since it is almost 3:00 AM, I just screwed up. I apologize for any errors and will gladly make corrections as they become known to me.





A Tale of Churches - Basilica of the Holy Blood

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 21, 2011

Europe is blessed with the most amazing cathedrals, churches, and chapels, and nowhere in the world are there more beautiful churches than in Belgium. There are cities that have marvelous churches and abbeys, and while they may be close, for me, it's Belgium.

Belgium has been a very wealthy country for hundreds of years and that financial wherewithal has allowed the construction and reconstruction of her religious institutions. The amazing art found in the houses of worship is due in part to the "deep pockets" of wealthy parishioners and church leaders. The Church, quite corrupt at times, was given art treasures and other valuables as well as plain, old, everyday cash for "Indulgences." In effect, nobility and the wealthy bought their way into Heaven - or at least they tried. It would be interesting to know how many made it.

The wealth of Bruges, a city founded in the 9th century, came from trade and fabric manufacturing. By the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries money poured into Bruges and she became a financial center as well. The city was a cloth and fabric market for her own marvelous fabrics as well as a warehouse for cloth made all over the known world. All of Europe, the middle east, and the orient came to Bruges' doorstep, both through her port and also in overland trade into the Rhineland. Things declined in the !5th century as other larger ports were opened and eventually Bruges became the poorest of all Flemish cities. In the 19th century tourists discovered Bruges and the rest is history. Today, in the summer months, if you wait around one of the squares, you will probably meet half of your friends and all your enemies.

Bruges is said to be a Medieval city, but some dispute that because of all of the remodeling and renovations throughout the centuries. If that was true, they need to look at Germany and all of the cities that were rebuilt following WW II. But in the 13th century and forward for a few hundred years, Bruges was rich. Due to the wealth of the city during and after the Medieval era, Bruges was loaded with capital. Many made fortunes in the commercial trade and shipping; the nobility from land ownership and marriages had enormous wealth, bankers were very flush indeed, and the merchants of Bruges led very comfortable lives. Bruges had a 300+ year building spree. Great buildings were built including churches.

For the purposes of this story, I am concentrating on just two of the most important churches: the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Church of Our Lady. They are famous for different reasons.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood is renown for one of the world's most famous relics - a vial containing a piece of cloth used to clean the blood from Christ after His crucifixion, and holding a drop of His blood. The relic is kept in a beautiful silver reliquary in the church and is available for personal veneration by the public. The relic is in a sealed vial which is, in turn, housed in a sealed rock crystal tube capped on both ends with crowns of gold and precious gems. For the veneration, the relic and a priest passing out blessings are on a raised dais specifically for the purpose. The faithful pause to touch or kiss the relic and receive a printed blessing from the Priest. The scene is touching.

The upper chapel itself is rather small. The background is very colorful with a vies of the Crucifixion uppermost and centered. A smaller chapel on the right has the reliquary and the veneration dais. The lower chapel of St Basil's is very plain, but has some interesting statues, which are also meaningful. The chapel is a 12th century stone construction and Romanesque in style. The Basilica is definitely on the "Do Not Miss" list.

The "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk " (Church of Our Lady) is on the canal and a short walk for the "Grote Markt" and the "Burg." There is a small bridge over the canal that leads to the back of the church. Built from the 13th to 15th century, the spire is 396 feet tall and is visible from miles away.

Unlike the "Basilica of the Holy Blood," the "Church of Our Lady (which I have misidentified as the "Cathedral of Our Lady" in places) is anything but plain. The church is stunning in every way and is famous for a Carrara marble sculpture by Michelangelo. Known world-wide as the only piece of his work that left Italy during the artist's lifetime, the "Madonna and Child" is a marvelous example of the great artist's work.

The sculpture's setting is no less impressive with two sculptures on each side and a Painting above. I saw people who were moved to tears by the sculpture and its presence almost close enough to touch. Others just stand in awe.

The church is large, it's huge, but it has such majesty and splendor that I don't think that it can be experienced in any other way but in person. The "Madonna and Child" are certainly part of that emotion, but the rest of the church has no understated opulence. The splendor almost knocks the viewer over as one scene is more beautiful than the next. Tour group leaders seem to have difficulty keeping their groups together. Visitors just seem to wander off, in many ways oblivious to everything but where their eves are looking. The best story that I can tell is about the leader of a tour group who walked in the entrance with her group following. She got quite a distance away from the group because two guests had just barely passed through the entrance when they stopped - dead. For a few seconds no one else could get in. That would be my definition of "awestruck."

The included photographs of each church are identified by name and location.




A Tale of Churches - Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 24, 2011

The "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk " (Church of Our Lady) is on the canal and a short walk from the "Grote Markt" and the "Burg." There is a small bridge over the canal that leads to the back of the church. Built from the 13th to 15th century, the spire is 396 feet tall and is visible from miles away.

Reaching the church via the above-mentioned bridge and coming in from the rear gives one the mistaken impression that the church is relatively new. While it has been renovated throughout its' history, and has a number of different styles, basically it is a Gothic building.

Unlike the "Basilica of the Holy Blood," the "Church of Our Lady (which I have misidentified as the "Cathedral of Our Lady" in places) is anything but plain. The church is stunning in every way and is famous for a Carrara marble sculpture by Michelangelo. Known world-wide as the only piece of his work that left Italy during the artist's lifetime, the "Madonna and Child" is a marvelous example of the great artist's work.

The sculpture's setting is no less impressive with two sculptures on each side and a Painting above. I saw people who were moved to tears by the sculpture and its presence almost close enough to touch. Others just stand in awe.

The church is large, it's huge, but it has such majesty and splendor that I don't think that it can be experienced in any other way but in person. The "Madonna and Child" are certainly part of that emotion, but the rest of the church has no understated opulence. The splendor almost knocks the viewer over as one scene is more beautiful than the next. Tour group leaders seem to have difficulty keeping their groups together. Visitors just seem to wander off, in many ways oblivious to everything but where their eves are looking. The best story that I can tell is about the leader of a tour group who walked in the entrance with her group following. She got quite a distance away from the group because two guests had just barely passed through the entrance when they stopped - dead. For a few seconds no one else could get in. That would be my definition of "awestruck."

Behind the High Alter is the church's Museum which is filled with centuries old vestments, chalices and other church pieces. There are two excavated crypts from priests who were buried in the 13th and 14th centuries Also in the museum are two bronze tomb sculptures of George the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Mary of Burgundy. Between the tombs is another marvelous painting by Anthony van Dyke: The Crucifixion (see photograph).

Entrance to the church is free, however there is a charge for the museum, which is well-worth the price. The Church of Our Lady is also on the "Do Not Miss" list for Bruges.
Church of our Lady
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerkhof Zuid
Bruges, Belgium
050/34-53-14

A Tale of Churches - Sint-Walburgakerk

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 25, 2011

Sint-Walburgakerk (St Walburga's Church) was kind of an accidental discovery for me. My Hostel is located on Langstraat and I was going to to the Main Market with the Belforte tower as my guide. I was told to keep turning right and I would run right into the market. I thought that I knew where I was going, but obviously, I didn't. I guess that I turned right once too often. To be honest, I am lost a good bit of the time when I travel. I am good at getting lost and indeed, thrive on the things that I find by accident. People who sometimes accompany me on trips (more and more infrequently, it seems) complain that I spend so much time trying to figure out where I am that I miss a lot of the things that they came to see. As far as I am concerned, where's the problem? I am probably seeing things that are very interesting that others don't see. I start out in the morning and just wander. I just think of what I have seen and not what I missed. I'll be back. Sounds like a cop-out, but it's true. That's my story and I'm... By the way, I'm seem to be pretty good at getting found too, since I made my flight home. If I walk far enough, the only question is how soon I will be found.

Located in Sint-Maartensplein, the church was built in the early to middle or the 17th century. It is a Baroque church surrounded by Gothic churches in the rest of the city, which for some, is a welcome change. Originally a Jesuit church, it was given to the the parish when the original monastery was abandoned.

Like many Baroque churches, St Walburgha is very bright with light coming in through unblocked clear windows. As with all of the churches in Bruges, the church is rich with art and has a very famous and splendid communion rail carved from Carrara marble from Italy by Frans Hendrik Verbruggen. Both the high altar and the placement of the organ are striking and the vaulted ceiling, while plain, is beautiful. I think that this church should also be on the "Do Not Miss" list for visitors to Bruges.

Unusually, the church is open to visitors on Wednesday evenings. The church is fully lighted and music is played. Unfortunately, I was there on Thursday and Friday, which just means that I will have to go back. Works for me.

St. Walburga's Church (Sint-Walburgakerk)

Sint-Maartensplein, Brugge

A Letter to Bruges

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flyingscot4 on May 21, 2011

To: The City of Bruges and Her Citizens,

Thank you for your city, and for your willingness to share Bruges with the world. You somehow cause a phenomenon which I have personally not seen in many places, and I feel compelled to tell you about it. Quite simply, it is that I have never seen more well-behaved tourists than I have encountered in your city. The tourists in Bruges are more polite than I have seen in any other country in Europe. Everyone seems to be on their best behavior. Visitors to Bruges really seem to appreciate the beauty of your city, but more than that, they appreciate the tranquility and the leisurely pace of living. They move slowly from one lovely setting to another. The lines for the tourist boat tours are very orderly and quiet. For those who are in a hurry and weigh everything by the number of ticks on a clock, Bruges will be culture shock.

At night, everything in area of the "Old City" slows down - even the tourists. They enjoy quiet and relaxed dinners at restaurants that don't expect fast table turn-over times. I don't see people checking their wristwatches or texting on their mobile phones often (except for the young, and who can explain them). All is quiet. Blood pressure is lowered.

After 9:00 PM is the time that I enjoy the most. The city is alive with light and the romantic spots are everywhere. The streets are friendly and I see couples of every age walking and holding hands, and they stop on the bridges or walk along the canal with seemingly no particular destination. They may be eating ice cream or some other dessert while meandering. I have seldom seen people who have had too much to drink. Even my countrymen who are known to be very loud and boisterous and demanding seem to be quiet. I never worry about walking the streets after midnight looking for good photographs.

But it is during the day at the churches that I see the most intense reactions among the tourist population. I see people standing in one place in absolute awe of the indescribable beauty. I see most men take off their caps, and women have covered shoulders. Everyone slows down. I watch tourist groups standing in one place for some minutes just taking it all in. Many don't believe how close they can get to priceless works of art. Visitors wander and the most common reactions are shaking heads in amazement. Many visitors just sit in the pews or chairs and just meditate. When the leave, they leave awe-struck. And the same reaction will occur in the next church.

So thank you Bruges, from this traveler, for what you give to others, a sense of peace or serenity, a few moments of calm in a world that moves too quickly. Thank you for taking us to an emotional place where we can reflect quietly on the truly important things in life. Thank you for sharing you priceless art and architecture. Most of all, thank you for giving so much of yourself and making us want to return to experience your serenity again and again. I know that we are welcome.

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j69788-Belgium-Caution_-_Belgium_Will_Sneak-up_On_You_-_Bruges.html

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