Interrail day two – Brussels to Bruges

29 Apr

Well it was not a great night. Hotel Barry won’t be getting a complimentary review for its lumpy pillows and pokey bathroom, although it wasn’t their fault that a man (who was presumably either mentally ill or extremely drunk) yowled outside the window at 2am. A late night rummage in my logically-packed bag for ear plugs solved that problem, but I have booked somewhere else for the way back.

They have a totally different idea in Europe or what constitute standard jam flavours.

Brussels Midi unhelpfully does not see fit to display the other calling points or final destination of trains on their boards, only the first stop, so I had to seek help to confirm that the train to Ghent St Peters is also the train to Bruges – a train that happened to have a couple of school trips getting on. My heart sank a bit, but these Belgian teenagers were quiet and well behaved, and all got off at the first stop. I don’t know what they were going to see in Ghent. I’m sure it has lovely things, but the only thing I know about Ghent is that there’s a hotel there or thereabouts that is a human trafficking hub. Not the most appealing tidbit of information.

My impressions of Belgium from the train:

  1. Yes, it is very flat.
  2. It makes up for the flatness of its land in the extreme steepness of its roofs.

I arrive at my host’s house in Bruges, which is as tall and narrow inside as you would expect from a Dutch house, and I have to take my rucksack off to get into the attic where I will be staying. Unfortunately my host, Heidi, is not well with some kind of cold, but she invites me to stay anyway and just keep my distance. As I was hoping to spend the whole day in the centre anyway, that works out fine.

So, the centre of Bruges. It is just as pretty as you could imagine, and lives up to its name, which literally means “bridges”. I took a boat tour along some of the canals and under some seriously low bridges and saw many churches and old houses, all in the centuries-old faded brick and yellowish render that gives Bruges its distinctive colours. It was once a very important city, back when Glasgow was still smaller than Ayr, and it knows it.

But Bruges is also quirky. I stopped for coffee at a postcard themed coffee shop, where they sell stamps and even post the cards for you (well, I hope they do!), so I sent a birthday postcard to my friend Paul per his request. I also saw a hairdresser themed cafe (pop in for a coffee and have your hair cut at the same time) and an espresso and ice cream bar, which made more sense to me.

I was being shamelessly touristy today, so I went to the Chocolate Story, which was only OK and mostly aimed at kids, and I also climbed the Belfort – yes, that really tall tower. And here is a photo to prove it.

And this is what you see when you have been climbing so long that you think you must be nearly at the top 🤣

But the view is pretty good when you finally make it.

Bruges seems to have something for everyone. I kept thinking “so-and-so would love this”, whether it was a wall of beer, the musical ‘drum’ that plays the chimes in the Belfort, or a bike-themed shop.

Perhaps that’s why it’s so helplessly touristy. Everywhere you take a photo, there are people taking photos back at you. The touristy thing means it’s a bit expensive, too, but not eye-wateringly so. All in all, after a packed day, I don’t feel that I have anywhere near exhausted Bruges, and I would definitely come back. But Bruges has certainly exhausted me, so I think it’s time for bed.


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