Undoubtedly the most well-maintained city I have seen until now!
On an icy-cold misty night, we (me and a friend) landed at the Bruges railway station. Contemplating whether to take a bus or walk, we decided on the latter, a) to see Bruges at night and b) to save a few euros, being perpetually on a budget. First impressions are forgotten – it being colder than Strasbourg, and the hostel a very long walk away with not a single soul on the road to ask directions for.
Eventually we reached, only to find that the hostel cafeteria had closed and no restaurants around were open after 8pm (being a public holiday). Now that can definitely mar the impression of 2 hungry travellers. We walked more with some hope and lucked out in finding a small store with a “who-else-but-an-Indian owner” (or so I thought, but later read about Hindoestanen) and bought some gauffres/waffles (one of Belgium ‘s specialties) and juice.
Next morning, a quick breakfast over, we took a walk to the centre-ville. The scene was stunning, to say the least. A combination of the cold air, mist and sunlight, horse carriages and cobbled streets, ancient but pretty castle-like buildings, autumn leaves and water bodies, friteries of course and people aimlessly walking. I swear I could have been transported to the medieval ages, except I’m not sure that they had the much-loved Andalousie sauce for the frites (fries) then!
Everyone says this and it is true – Bruges is a city best seen by foot. Or a cycle, if you dont have too much time. Having had more than a normal proportion of fries and beer, we decided that walking was the best option and did an entire circle of the city during the day. Moreover, I must add that we were lucky that the rain gods had spared us, especially with the city having a reputation for lousy weather.
Bruges is a must-visit for any traveller coming to Belgium. We spent a night at Brussels as well, charming in its own way but like any other big european city. Ghent, somewhere between the above two cities is another little university town not as beautiful as Bruges but definitely with more life and a character of its own.
Overall, the interesting graffiti and comic strips – bande-dessinée as they are popularly known – on walls makes one realise how ‘seriously’ the Belgians take their animation industry! This is afterall, the land of Tintin & Asterix.
Belgium: RECOMMENDED 🙂
And unlike France, you can find your way with English especially in the northern dutch-speaking Flemish region