Bruges—you may not have heard of it, but it’s a fairly well-known city in northern Belgium. It’s called “Venice of the North” for all the canals that pass through the city, but it’s not surrounded by water like that Italian city-island. Although in Belgium, I didn’t get to practice my French there, since it is in the half of Belgium called Flanders, where they speak a variety of Dutch called Flemish.
I was very struck by the distinctive architecture of Bruges. I suppose it’s characteristic of the low countries, and I’m sure there’s a term for it, but my specialty is not architecture. I also have a fond memory of eating a sack lunch by the canal, a lunch consisting of a ham and cheese sandwich made from a baguette and gouda cheese, and ketchup-flavoured chips. The weather was nice, and we visited the “Church of Our Lady” while there. As I mentioned in another post, the cathedral was filled with tombs, and with fascination I tried to decipher Latin and French inscriptions.
Bruges is not a seaport, but it is located a short distance from the North Sea, and after walking around a good while we proceeded to Ostend, which is a seaside town. My sister loves the ocean, so we went and walked around on the beach. When dinner time rolled around, we spotted a Subway (yes, the sandwich shop!), and decided to go there to eat. The people there spoke sufficient English, but we were taken aback when we saw the sandwich lengths represented in centimetres! Now, for an American I’m a big fan of metric, but I wasn’t accustomed to measuring sandwiches thus, and after guessing we had to tell the kind Belgian sandwich artist “Could we have the longer one, please?”
We had a very pleasant experience in Flanders, and it made us realize how small Belgium really is: we traversed the whole country for this trip, and made it there and back the same day! So if you go to Belgium, be sure and hop on the train to Bruges and Ostend–it will make for a very nice outing!