So where are we, Brugge or Bruges? The locals all use Brugge although I believe that English speaking countries have standardized more on Bruges. Actually both are correct, even here in Belgium. Bruges is the French spelling and Brugge is the Flemish spelling. Brugge is located in the Flanders region, which is the Flemish speaking part of Belgium. Flemish is a Dutch dialect which makes Mike feel right at home here. Belgium is a trilingual country with French, Flemish, and German speaking regions. This article will use Brugge because if that is what the locals want then that is good enough for me. Either way, the name comes from the Dutch word for bridges. With its lovely canals and bridges Brugge is known as the “Venice of the North”.
Much of the information here about Brugge came from my research on the internet. This city became one of the world’s first tourist destinations, attracting wealthy British and French tourists from the mid 1800s.
In World War I, German forces occupied Brugge. Brugge suffered virtually no damage throughout the war. Brugge was again occupied by the Germans during World War II and was once more spared destruction. In 1944 Brugge was liberated by the 12th Manitoba Dragoons’ Canadian troops. The liberation of the city was facilitated by the bridge, now known as the Canada Bridge, that connected the outer municipalities with the city centre.
After 1965, the original medieval city experienced a “renaissance”. Restorations of residential and commercial structures, historic monuments, and churches generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the downtown area. International tourism boomed and Brugge now attracts some eight million tourists annually. Brugge has a small historic centre that can become very crowded in high season. When tourists in Brussels want to explore more of Belgium the two cities most often recommended and compared are Brugge and Ghent. Both cities have canals that add to the atmosphere. We know that Brugge is small and lovely. To many people, the larger Ghent has advantages outside of just having a charming historic centre. We will let you know our thoughts in the next article. Even though it is only an hour from Brugge, we have decided to stay at a campground right in Ghent when we leave here.
People keep asking us if we have a lot of problems finding campsites that will take us because of our large size. Sometimes our camper looks really large when compared with others but when you think that it is smaller than our bathroom in our last house and that two of our campers would have fit in our living room you know that it can’t be too big. I will admit that we did build large rooms in our house. Finding a campsite has never really been much of a problem. Occasionally there have been campgrounds that we couldn’t get into, but it didn’t happen often and there were always other choices. That is, until our first foray into Belgium. We couldn’t stay close to Brugge like we wanted because all the campgrounds said that we were too big. We went 12 km north to the English Channel coastline where there were lots of campgrounds and even there we had to try a few before we found one that worked. Ghent has already told us that we can stay in a campground close to town but we will be paying for that privilege. I hope that rest of Belgium isn’t a problem like the north has been.
This picture was taken from the app we use for all our cycling. I didn’t specifically ask for it to show us anything but all those crosses are churches in Brugge. Who knew that the churches would fill our screen. We visited a few of the churches and the cathedral. Some had phenomenal statues and wood carvings while others had huge paintings. The Cathedral that had very big tapestries hung along the walls at the front which was unusual. I think it was also the cathedral that had a large number of huge paintings that could put the Reubens room in the Louvre to shame. I must admit that I get mixed up about what we saw where, the churches do start to blur a little.
We saw an interesting sight while we were riding that I don’t have a picture of. There was a woman riding a bike that had an extremely extended front end with regular seats for 3 children. I thought a bike for four was pretty unique and then I saw the child seat behind her with a young one in it. Although two of the children did have pedals, the mother (I assume) was the only one actually pedalling. She was controlling a bicycle with five people on it, each with their own proper seat. While she was moving everything looked fine. When she had to start from a stop it looked a little trickier and less stable. We were behind her and never had time to stop our bikes and get our cameras detached from our handlebars to take a picture but it was certainly an interesting sight.
Something else that I don’t think many people have seen before was the game above that Mike and I saw cyling through a tourist town along the seashore. It is mini-golf played with a cue stick and all the holes raised to the height of a pool table. The game was called Snookergolf but if you look that up on the web you find a game that is the exact opposite. On the internet, “Snooker Golf” is played on the top of a full-size snooker table flat on the floor using a golf club. The six pockets of the snooker table represent the six holes of a “Mini Golf Course”. We watched the three girls playing for a while. They seemed to be having a lot of fun.
While we are talking about interesting sights, here is a camper that stayed next to us for one night. The owners shipped their camper to Singapore 9 years ago and in that 9 years have spent about 36 months touring around the world. You can see that their map makes our journey look very small. They originally shipped their camper from Australia to Singapore, travelled through Southeast Asia and then north through China and Mongolia into Russia. We only talked to them for a few minutes and I would love to have heard more. It looks like they travelled a long ways through Russia, over to Europe and the UK. From England they shipped their camper to South Africa and travelled north across the entire continent including through a few unsafe countries. Their plan was to travel east from Egypt and go around the east end of the Mediterranean into Europe but that plan was stopped because their camper had four wheel drive. Apparently four-wheel drive vehicles are the vehicle of choice for hijackers and terrorists and are therefore forbidden in some countries. In the end they had to ship their camper across the Mediterranean Sea.
The Australians stayed in our campground for one last night before they took their camper to the docks to have it shipped back to Australia. I would have been very interested in visiting with them but their last night was extremely busy getting their camper ready for shipping home.
Here are a couple of more pictures of Brugge which we found to be a lovely place to visit. Wandering around the town one day we indulged in great waffles with Belgium chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream, how decadent. Waffles with hot Belgium chocolate are promoted all over Belgium. Next week I will tell you how Mike and I think Brugge compares to Ghent which is also supposed to be lovely. By then I should know if I want to use Ghent or Gent. Why different languages have to keep changing the spelling of places I don’t understand.