Bruges, Belgium has one of the best reputations in all of Europe. Despite having visited Belgium a number of times in the past, I’d never visited Bruges. A visit there was one of this trip’s priorities, and after a great day and a half in Brussles, I caught an early morning train to Bruges.
My first stop was the Brussles historic Béguinage. The courtyards from the middle ages when a community of religious women used these spaces to care for the homeless and ill. Amsterdam’s Begijnhof is one of my favorite of places in the city, and Bruges’ was a much more wide open space. The spring daffodils that were in bloom added to the courtyard’s ambiance.
The weather wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but I did enjoy strolling along Bruges’ scenic streets and canals.
Bruges’ main square is the Markt, and it’s signature building is the Belfy, which dates from the mid-12th Century and features the ringing of the cantillion’s bells throughout the day.
As the rain began to increase in intensity, I knew I needed to spend some time at one of the city’s indoor sights, and I chose one of the quirkiest museums I’d ever visited, The Frites Museum.
Most people assume that since they are called ‘French Fries’ that they must have originated in France. As the museum went through lengths to prove, Frites ‘fries’ as we know them originated in Belgium. The museum also covered the history of the potato from it’s earliest cultivation to it’s current commercial uses. It was incredibly easy to look around, with signs in French, Flemish (Dutch) and English.
The museum was a really fun and interesting way to spend an hour. I made sure to try an order frites immediately after the visit, solely for experiments sake…
After visiting The Frites Museum , I raced across the city for my tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery. The brewery has been family owned since the mid 1850s, and has survived two wars and the economic depressions that followed, and has even been distributing overseas for more than 10 years.
The brewery tour was fascinating and very well-done, and differed from many of the brewery tours that I’ve taken in the US in that it focused much more on the historical aspects of the brewery and not as much about the brewing process. One of the highlights of the tour was the sweeping views of the city from the brewery’s roof.
On my way to Poperinge for the evening, I had a 45 minute train connection that turned into 2 hours, which allowed me to explore the town of Kortrijk, and it’s attractive cathedral, Sint-Maartenskerk.
The Gothic Church was completed in 1466, and is cavernous and ornate.
After exploring the church and main square, I retreated from the pouring rain to an acceptable bar where I enjoyed yet another Belgian beer while waiting for my train.
I arrived in Poperinge, in the Eastern part of the country near the French border and in the heart of hops country late in the evening. After a visit to a few of the town’s finest establishments, I was treated to a glorious sunset over the main square. I’d intended to head to bed early to ready myself for next days bucket list excursion, but I ended up drinking in late into the evening with a number of fascinating local hop farmers until the wee hours of the morning.