Ashamedly, Amy and I admitted to each other that we’d never heard of Bruges until we saw the 2008 Martin McDonagh film, In Bruges. Surprisingly a lot of other people hadn’t, and tourism in Bruges has boomed since the release of the film. Our hostel even did a tour of the city based around the film. The film certainly wasn’t made by the local tourist board, as Colin Farrels character ponders the towns merits: “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t”.
Apparently, this is the second time Bruges tourism has had a helping hand from popular culture. In 1892 Bruges la Morte (The dead city of Bruges) was published by Belgian Author Georges Rodenbach, describing the city as ‘dark, poor, and ugly’. Locals weren’t to happy, but some people saw romance in it, and tourism boomed.
Anyway, back to our trip. We are aware that some people might have picked up on the small fact that by going from Amsterdam to Bruges, we are actually heading in the wrong direction to get to Oz. We had originally intended to do a bit of a wiggley journey through europe in order to sight-see, but we never intended to actually go back on ourselves. We were going to go via Brussels or Antwerp rather than Bruges, but we had trouble booking hostels, so that’s how we landed up in Bruges (Also, as we have bought the inter-rail passes, the route we take makes no odds really as we can get on pretty much any train in Europe without extra charge).
It is a decision we have absolutely no reason to regret, as Bruges is a pretty amazing place. The photos we’ve taken can’t even come close to doing it justice. Some of the worlds best beer, waffles and chocloate combined in the one of the worlds best preserved medieval cities, what’s not to like?… Yes, we have come off season, so our opinion might be different if we had come in the Summer, and it does feel like a bit of toy town, but after a couple of days you realise that in some aspects it is still a thriving, working town, with a genuine priest school, nunneries, and big bi-weekly markets.
As you might imagine, we don’t have as many tales of drama, drugs, and debauchery as we did in Amsterdam. We’ve had a lovely time eating delicious chips, chocolate and waffles and drinking top notch beer, and just mooching around the city marveling at the streets and buildings, but it doesn’t make for particularly interesting blog material, so we’ll just mention a few things that have made our stay here ace:
One thing that helped us really engage with the town is a Belgian scheme called USE IT by Tourist Info For Young People. TIFYP produce illustrated fold out map/guides for Belgian cities that are free to pick up at hostels. They are made by local young people, for young people, so the information inside is priceless, mentioning local people their establishments by name and noting things you would simply never find without it. It’s a scheme they are trying to spread across Europe and seems like a top idea.
The hostel set up was pretty decent too. It’s called the Bahaus, but has been taken over by the hostel chain St Christophers. Even though it’s a chain, St Christophers do the hostel thing very well: Large, comfy, clean, rooms, helpful staff and reception. Wi-Fi, common room and Laundry. Free breakfast, and reasonably priced, cosy wood and brick bar and restaurant two doors down.
We saw loads of interesting stuff, churches and general history and the like. I won’t bore by going on about it, but I’ll just say that we saw plenty of class stuff, and we were well unlucky with the amount of things we wen’t to see that were shut for renovation or closed because of unforeseen circumstances. For example, Jesus’ blood (seriously, they have a vial of it they reckon) was unavailable to see as the church was shut Wednesday afternoons…
Things we have learned about Bruges:
– Still no public toilets anywhere, and they have the highest weeing on the street fine in Flanders, 152 Euros!
– Bruges is fairly expensive, waffles with choclate and cream cost between 5-10 euros, but a pint is about 3.80euros, so cheaper than Manchester at least. Bottled beers in the shop are well cheap though.
– Monks are piss heads. All the Trappist beers (brewed by monks at monasteries) are ludicrously strong. Some are proper nice, but they’re a bit hit and miss. I reckon once you take a beer past 10%, it’s impossible to make it very enjoyable, it’s just rocket fuel. (Bruges Zot was the nicest and cheapest local beer, actually brewed within the walls of Bruges. It’s not a Trappist though)
– Loads of stuff shuts on Wednesdays, we missed a few things we wanted to see cos of this…
– Everyone should go up the Belfry. It’s good fun, the view is amazing, and if you have seen the film In Bruges, you can act out the chase scene with Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, like we did…
We are now in Berlin, so these blogs have a bit of a time delay on them. We intend to do a mini interim blog just to mention what the actual journeys are like, and how we are living for cheap on the road etc, just cos we thought some people might like to know…
We hope people are enjoying the blog, I realise I can waffle shit a bit (Amy is going to start writing soon, some might be relieved to know). We do really appreciate hearing what’s going on back home, so we’re very glad of comments on here (and whatsapp etc). As we are on a shoestring budget, we can’t be out galavanting all the time, so it’s nice to keep in touch during our downtime.