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.