By Linda Carter
As Published in The Wakulla News
Chartered in 1128, the city dates back to the time of Julius Caesar. Strategically located at the intersection of the north south trade routes, Bruges achieved prominence quickly, along with Antwerp and Flanders.
Trade guilds flourished here, and the city prospered. Originally connected to the sea by the Zwin Canal, by the 1500’s the channel began silting in. In spite of numerous attempts to reestablish connections with the sea, eventually the canal failed. A decline in a population from 200,000 to 50,000 by 1900 resulted in an untouched historic city center.
Wander along the winding avenues and placid canals. Stop for a few minutes and relax at one of the many cafés. Savor steaming hot chocolate and crispy waffles smothered in clouds of whipped cream, a city specialty. Serving cocoa since the 17th century, the drink has been perfected here. Learn more about Belgium chocolate’s history at The Chocolate Museum. Nearby, housed in one of Bruges best preserved buildings is the Freitmuseum, which is dedicated to the story of the potato. After your tour sample delicious Belgian fries with an assortment of sauces.
Shoppers enjoy browsing among the numerous gift shops. Famous for Belgian lace, most of what you see displayed is now machine made. But you can still see lace made the original way at The Lace Museum. It is hand-woven, just as it has been since the 17th century. For the same entry fee, explore the Jerusalem Church, next door. Modeled after the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the dark interior seems macabre by today’s standards.
Market Square is A UNESCO world heritage site; much of the medieval architecture is still intact, including the Belfry of Bruges, and the fish market. More picture perfect buildings including Stadhuis Town Hall, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood surround the Burg; these charming squares are a perfect stopping point.
Horse hoofs echo on the streets, boat motors hum as they slip quietly past, swans glide serenely on, and crowds of tourists amble by following their guides. Whether on foot, by boat, in a carriage, or by mini-bus, take the time to discover the simple pleasures of Bruges.