31 July 2013: Today was my day to cycle very little and saunter a lot. I was curious to decide for myself how Brugge compared to Gent, since a few people and even my favorite tour guide say that Brugge is too touristy and that Gent is more a ‘real’ old-world city.
My favorite tour guide is Rick Steves, who does a lot of work with public television in the US and who has a great philosophy of ‘seeing Europe through the back door.’ He emphasizes quality over quantity and low-cost over luxury. According to Rick, luxury when traveling insulates you from the real people and places. My interest in cycle-camping was definitely influenced by Rick, since my tent doesn’t have a back door. I have his tour book for Belgium. When he describes Brugge, he says get over the crowds of slow-moving tourists by becoming one of them. I like that idea since this was my day to relax.
His tour book said that street markets should occur on Wednesdays, and I quickly found it. It’s a pity I wasn’t hungry and can’t carry much, since there were many great treats on sale. I don’t eat much meat these days, mostly for health reasons, but a guy adding meat to a stand caught my attention, which is shown below. It’s not easy to see in the picture, but he’s moving roasted something-or-another from some roasting irons to the display case. I hadn’t seen those kinds of roasting irons before, and it was good to see that not all the meat was simply fried on a stove or in a deep-fryer.
After that, Rick’s guide book said to climb the tower that overlooks the square, where the street market was at. Half-way up, you could see the bells of the tower and the bits that make them play a few songs. It was interesting to see how the huge bells use a ‘music playing’ gadget that is just a bigger version of any small music box, notice the cylinder in the picture with the blocks sticking out. It’s doing the same thing as the small cylinder in regular music box.
The view from the top was good fun. The top one shows the square that you can see at ground-level in other pictures.
After that, it was back to the city square, off to a smaller square, and inside some historic government buildings.
toured the building on the right, since it used to be an important part of Belgium’s government. Here’s one of the more impressive rooms inside.
My little walking tour also took me by a great view of the canals. Many low-lying European cities have canals, which is one way they’re different than American cities. My guess is that American cities were built after canals had been replaced by rail or trucks.
I decided to finish the day with one last Belgian beer, at a café that has a view of the tower I climbed. I didn’t know what kind to order, so I just asked the waiter to give me one that he liked. I sincerely hoped it would be a small one, since drinking does affect my ability to cycle the next day. This beer wasn’t what I had in mind, but I couldn’t resist finishing it–very tasty.
I enjoyed the day in Brugge. It does have more tourists than Gent, but once you just decide to be a slow-moving tourist, the crowds aren’t a problem. It was good to slow down for a day. I would have a tough time giving an opinion about Brugge or Gent being better than the other. I would enjoy returning to either, hopefully both.