1. Belgian chocolate
All I’ve had are a couple of samples, and they were nice, but I hate to tell you I don’t actually really like chocolate. I know it’s shocking to admit, but I prefer the fruit fillings and other ingredient to the chocolate that surrounds them. However, for those who like chocolate, there is every possible product, many packaged like the attractive rows of Bruges houses. A novelty favorite are the chocolates made to look like rusty tools, bolts and locks. Although I haven’t indulged in a chocolate , I have eaten marzipan that was supposed to taste like lemon and nougat studded with ginger and apricot.
Another Belgian favorite, but again I’m not really qualified to advise on the many types or their taste. I had my first beer in Belgiam tonight at a Pizza Hut and it was cherry flavored. I’m sure all serious beer aficionados are shuddering right at this moment.
If you visit Bruges and you want to climb the Belfort tower to the very top of the belfry, get there as early as you can. They only let 70 people up at a time (which is a mercy considering the necessity of passing people on the increasingly narrow winding stairs). I was lucky enough to only have to wait for one person to exit. The relentless 366 stairs climb is nicely broken up by mini floors with information displays and samples of bells. After the long climb the breeze at the top and the view were much appreciated. However ear plugs are probably recommended for when the carillon starts playing while you are up there as the sound of 47 large bells is somewhat deafening!
4. Breeds of dogs
I don’t think I’ve seen any dog breed more than once, apart from the fact they are often in pairs of the same breed, but I have seen a lot of dogs, including sharing my visit to an art gallery with some sort of Afghan hound and his owners. Large dogs don’t tend to be very light on their feet on wooden floors. This may be the only time I get to appreciate Picasso in the company of a canine. Perhaps Picasso would have approved: he was certainly unconventional. The only cats I’ve seen in Bruges are the ones on the plentiful tapestry products in the shops. If cats inhabit the city, they must be safely tucked away in their residences.
5. Break-neck speed
This is the speed of the many cars that hurtle around Bruges’ cobbled streets with seemingly little regard for the many cyclists and absent-minded tourists meandering the streets where ‘foot path’ is a matter of opinion.
6. Boats and birds
The open boat canal cruise is a popular option and even in the rain they seemed to get a good turnout. People also happily queued in the rain for the boats. The main on-water competition for the boats is the iconic white swans. They are beautiful to watch floating along in formation in a swan flotilla. Swans, ducks and other birds all enjoy the canals.
Bike hirers seem to be doing a roaring trade and many tourists and locals traverse the flat streets. There are ample bike racks in a number of squares and many bikes can be photographed leaning against walls in picturesque locations. I’ve done on all my wandering on foot, but a few blisters later the bikes are looking like a good option.
As Bruges is a city encircled and criss-crossed by canals, there are many small stone bridges that enable canal crossing. Some have a single inverted half circle opening, while others have three. These openings allow the burgeoning canal boat ride business to prosper. Many of the bridges also seem to be home to various plant life. One bridge is even overlooked by the patron saint of bridges.
9. Bewildering streets
It seems to be quite easy to get quite lost in the meandering streets of Bruges – or maybeIm just directionally challenged. There are certain landmarks, like Markt and the Burg or the various churches, but because all the streets are constrained within a large oval shape, most streets don’t just run north-south or east-west. However this is all part of the charm, as you never know what new experience you’ll come across, but try finding your way back to the same place twice, when you never saw the street name, and it can be a challenge.
Bilingual was handy because it begins with the desired letter, however the truth seems to be that many who work locally are quad- or quin- lingual (is that a word?). I presume most locals speak Flemish, and they can also be heard conversing pretty fluently in Dutch, French, German and English. Most menus are also printed in 4 or 5 languages, making it a very easy place to travel. The range of visitors seem quite broad and I’ve interacted on a minor or more sizable level with people from USA, Spain, Poland, Japan, France and overheard people speaking English, German, Mandarin, Dutch and Eastern European languages.