Bruges is a picturesque little city of breweries, swans and chocolates. The city tells of a people who have continuously fought for independence and for a right to identity from various global powers over time. Once an important city for cloth trading, it is now a romantic city for tourists.
The Markt is the central square of Bruges, with the Belfort on one side, the West Flanders Provincial Court on another and various restaurants on the other two sides.
At the center of the square, there is a statue of Pieter de Coninck and Jan Breydel. This statue is meant to represent northern Belgium's insistence on their Flemish identity. In 1302, Coninck, a weaver, and Breydel, a butcher, organized a revolt against the occupying Kingdom of France. The County of Flanders were the obvious winners, incurring only about 300 deaths, while the French suffered a loss of 1,500 men. This battle came to be known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs. The statue was put up in 1887 and is a reminder of what Flemish ancestors have done to preserve the Flemish identity.
Back in the Middle Ages, the market place was actually a rather large harbor. As a result, in 1294, a Waterhalle was built. Later, in 1787, the building was demolished and replaced with the neoclassicist building, housing the local government. Another hundred years later, that building was demolished and replaced with a neogothical building, intended to house the post office and the local government. That is the building that currently stands before us. However, instead of a post office, there is now Historium (on the left). Additionally, the central part of the building is no longer used for government meetings but instead only for ceremonial events.
The Belfort (Dutch for Belfry) of Bruges was the city watchtower. Now it is simply a bell tower containing 47 bells that can play any song.
The Belfort was first built in 1240 out of wood. Forty years later, it caught fire and had to be rebuilt. Thankfully, it was rebuilt out of stone, almost to the top. Yet, because the architect wanted to make the building even taller and more imposing, a wooden spire was added to the top. Being the tallest building in Bruges, the spire fell victim to a lightning strike. The spire along with the bells were destroyed. The spire was rebuilt once more before being hit by lightning again, at which point, the spire was no longer rebuilt.
The rectangular building at the base of the Belfort was historically used as a marketplace. With the harbor right in front of the Belfort, it is logical that this is where the merchants came to sell their wares. During the medieval period, Bruges was a well-known city for textiles.
This triumphal arch was placed in 1930 in memory of those who died during the First World War. The flag of Burges is depicted next to the left pillar while the flag of Flanders is depicted next to the right pillar. At the top, on both sides, urns have been placed to symbolize the fallen. Finally, the arch is crowned by Belgium's coat of arms.
Belgian chocolatiers are among the most respected in the world. In order to determine whether a chocolate store is authentic, look for the oval chocolate bean plaque next to the entrance.
The mathematician who invented the decimal system for fractions, Simon Stevin, was born in Bruges in 1548 and now has a square named after him.
This cute little square was named after him: Simon Stevinplein. It also features a statue of him (behind the trees).
In Belgium, the way that people would show off their wealth was by building a facade with the most amount of steps at the top. In this picture, the owners of the twin houses were wealthier than the owners of the house to the right. The house to the right though also shows a symbol of wealth by declaring that renovated the house in 1669.
Saint John’s Hospital treated patients from the twelfth to the mid-nineteenth century. It is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. The hospital was run by nuns, who unfortunately did not have much of a medical background and tended mostly to spiritual health instead.
In 2015, the oldest brewery in Bruges--De Halve Maan--started to work on its beer pipeline project. Because the company's bottling plant is located outside of the city, De Halve Maan (i.e. The Half Moon) wanted to find a way to transport the beer from the brewery to the bottling plant without relying on tankers. Their solution was going underground.
The project was completed in September 2016 and is officially the first beer pipeline in the world. The three kilometer pipeline cost 4 million euros, 300 thousand of which were raised through crowd-sourcing. The largest contribution level in this crowd-sourcing program was 7,500 euros, the gold level. Those who subscribed to this gold membership were given 18 personalized glasses as well as a beer a day for the rest of their life. A great marketing scheme, if you ask me!
Bruges is known for its hand-lacing industry. This is the machine used in the process.
Court yard of the Begijnhof, a religious community started in the 17th century for celibate women. Around eight such religious women currently live in the community while the rest of the buildings are rented out to female travelers.
Legend has it that a pretty girl named Minna fell in love with a warrior from the neighboring tribe. When Minna announced to her father that she was in love with the warrior Stromberg, he did not approve and set up an arranged marriage for her. Instead of going through with the arranged marriage, Minna ran away to the woods. Stromberg found her and she died in his arms from exhaustion. The story goes that he dug a grave so deep water started coming out. The lake is thus called Minnewater in her honor.
This building used to regulate how much water goes in and out of the canals to the lake. It hasn't been functioning since the 1970s and is now simply a nice piece of architecture.
In the southern part of the city, you will notice the abundance of swans. As legend has it, during the 15th century, the people of Bruges imprisoned their oppressive ruler, King Maximilian, and a close adviser, Pieter Lanckhals. The people of Bruges executed Lanckhals and made King Maximilian watch. Once the King got free, he took revenge on the city by letting 100 swans loose in the city and vowing to make the lives of the citizens hell if even one swan is missing from within the city. There are two theories that attempt to explain why the King chose swans: (1) swans have long necks and in Dutch long neck translates to "lange hals", which is rather close to the last name of his adviser; or (2) swans were the adviser's favorite animal. As of 2006, the official city chocolate is a chocolate swan.
Cute little sculpture entitled "Zeus, Leda, Prometheus and Pegasus"
Slightly distorted panorama of the Church of Our Lady and a large city mansion attached to the church. During the medieval period, the closer one's house was to the main church, the more important that family was said to be. This mansion belonged to the Gruuthuse at that time. In old Dutch, "gruut" meant barley and wheat. Because this family had a monopoly on barley and wheat, they were named the House of the Wheat/Barley. Due to this monopoly on the main ingredient for beer, the Gruuthuse family became very rich. The most famous individual of this house is Lodewijk van Gruuthuse. Today, the house has been renovated and is a museum for items from the Middle Ages.
Right next to the church is the Bonifacius Bridge. Legend has it that if you make it from one side of the bridge to the other in under seven seconds, you will get married in a year. Good luck trying to do that with all the tourists posing for pictures on the bridge!
The character Ray (i.e. Colin Farrell) in "In Bruges" jumps from the terrace right above the boat in this picture.
The gold pictograph above the entrance here signaled the beginning of fish market square.
This head is located on the corner of the building that served the tanners guild. Because treating animal skin to turn it into leather in the Middle Ages often involved using excrement, the square had a tendency to smell very bad. That coupled with the fact that the fish market was right next door, this area had the tendency to make you make that face.
This ornate building is an eighteenth century court house decorated in a baroque style. What's more interesting though is the tunnel that it forms with the Town Hall building to the right. This street underneath the tunnel is called Blind Donkey Alley. The legend goes (last legend I promise!) that during a battle with Ghent, the soldiers from Ghent wanted to take a souvenir from Bruges to congratulate themselves on their win. So, because a city's bell tower is the most prestigious thing, they struggled to steal the dragon on top of the bell tower. After having it taken down and loaded on a donkey, they proceeded to exit the city. In this alley however, the donkey, born and raised in Bruges, realized what was going on and refused to move. In order to get it to move, the soldiers either blindfolded the donkey or stab its eyes out to disorient it and get it to move. (It's a legend so of course no one agrees on the actual turn of events.) The dragon can to this day be seen on top of the bell tower in
Walk into any candy shop in Bruges and you will simply be overwhelmed by the assortment of chocolates and other candies!
This jelly nose is a local specialty of Bruges
Just a typical picturesque street in Bruges in early morning