Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Brussels, Belgium—Brugge, Belgium—Brussels—Day 213

A day off from hippos, today I ventured to the Musees Royauz des Beaux-Arts in Brussels which surprisingly has a large collection of—you guessed it—Belgian art. The museum itself was really sort of hard to follow—there were these different colored routes that you could take depending on which era of paintings you wanted to look at, but I found it a bit frustrating. The museum also seemed to be combining two buildings into one museum so to get from one colored route to the next took a bit of work.

Anyways, after that I headed back to the Grand-Place (the place where the beer garden was) to find it almost deserted (well, compared with what I had seen before) and with hardly any stalls set up. This made the whole atmosphere much different and a little bit more pleasant. I then walked up to the Cathedrale St. Michel which was really a gorgeous cathedral near the central train station in Brussels.

Then I boarded a train to Brugge, which is back in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium in the northwest. The train ride was only about an hour and I got off and hopped on a bus to the “Markt” which I could only assume took me to the center of town. The people across from me on the bus were from Canada so I said hello to them (they had huge Canadian flags on their bags which usually means that that person is actually an American, trying to pretend they are Canadian, or a Canadian not really knowing that they look like Americans. If they only knew, they would probably chill out on the flag usage).

I got off the bus a little bit earlier than the Market Square and started walking along different shops before coming upon the square which was just beautiful—not quite as impressive as Brussels but surely less crowded. I then decided to climb up the Belfort, which is a medieval bell tower with 366 steps (a lot!) but once I made it to the top it was worth it because it had a wonderful view over Brugge. I took plenty of pictures up at the top and had to wait while a small child went back down the stairs slooooowwwlly because he was scared. Finally they let me (and some other people) pass—at the rate they were going I bet they are still trying to make it down!

Anyways, back on ground level, I continued to walk around for a bit and then saw some people watching this street performer who was all dressed in green spandex and had green leaves all around his face. People would put in money and he would then beckon you to come close to him and he would whisper something in your ear and then gesture for you not to tell anyone. I think he was trying to be the tree of knowledge or something. It was fun watching him—although it seemed like people where nervous about having to come up to hear what he had to whisper to them but wanted to do it just to see what he would say. Anyways, while I was watching him I noticed that there were canal boat rides being offered, so I decided that that would be fun. Brugge has all these little canals which are just gorgeous (sort of like Amsterdam on a smaller scale) and so I bought a ticket and got on a little water tour of the canals which was great. The sun was shining and the scenery was beautiful and all in all I was feeling much better that I did yesterday at this time.

After the tour (which was about 30 minutes) I then got off and walked over to the Church of Our Lady which has a statue by Michelangelo called Madonna and Child. I then found the city park called Minnewater (the Lake of Love) and sat down to read my book for a bit amongst several cooing couples. Brugge is, as they say, one of the most romantic cities in Europe and I had to settle with my book.

After a while it started to get slightly chilly and more importantly my stomach was growling so I went in search of dinner—more specifically mussels which are a specialty in Belgium. I found them at a restaurant near where I got the little boat tour and almost devoured an entire bucket full of them. Mussels are kind of gross things really—although I really like eating them, I just can’t actually LOOK at them when I do.

I then walked for a while until I found the train station and caught the next train back to Brussels, where I am now writing this. Tomorrow I’m heading back to the Monde Sauvage (the zoo with the free roaming hippos and unsympathetic ticket woman) and will be driving around Belgium in a rental car.

Wish me luck.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.