Wednesday, October 7, 1987

1987 Low Countries: Bruges (10/7/1987)

Wednesday, October 7, 1987
Sunrise in Brussels
Up about 7:00 for a breakfast of toast and fruit, coffee and tomato juice. We left before 8:00 to catch the bus (using the Ls’ 10-ride tickets), then Metro to the central train station. No trains to Bruges, so we hopped on the 8:31 train to the South station. We had quite a time figuring out the schedule because there were so many trains with restricted times. Decided on the 8:50 train to Oostende.
Saw a guy writing in a journal. In the tunnel between tracks, there was a duo playing electric guitar and saxophone. Kent bought a chocolate bar from a vending machine. The train came in on a different track, as we ran to board. Took off on time. A mini-bar cart went through the train. Saw flat farmland, houses with red tile roofs, cows needing to be milked; there are lots of dairy and cattle farms. Brussel sprouts. Bicycle park ‘n’ ride at the train stations. The train stopped in Ghent, then on to Bruges, arriving at 9:52 and we had lost the sun.
We headed off across the ring highway to the park-like area around the canal. Bruges was once a major seaport on an inlet of the North Sea, which has since silted in. Bruges, or Brugge, means bridges, and is considered the Venice of the North. It is one of the purest medieval towns in Europe with narrow cobblestoned streets and gabled houses. It was big in the wool and cloth trade, and now is known for lacemaking.
Geese by a canal
Broken glass topped wall
Broken glass
We passed an old hospital, and came upon the Begijnhof, crossing over a narrow channel to get to the main cloister. The Royal Béguinage of the Vine was founded in 1245. Went around the square with tall poplars that was losing leaves that turned yellow; we have found autumn! The Begijnhof is still occupied by Benedictine nuns who wear blue habits with white headdresses, supposedly original 15th century vestments. Often a subject of artists, including Sit Winston Churchill.
Prinselyk Begijnhof de Wijngaarde/Royal Béguinage of the Vine
There was a museum in a converted motherhouse, a different more stylized house of the Grand Dame,
and a 16th century reconstruction of a burned 12th century chapel of St Elizabeth (inside a couple nuns were sweeping the floor).
Chapel of St Elizabeth
Begijnhof #4 façade
A newer gate dated 1776
We left through an old gate, originating in 1245. Outside was a three-arched bridge with a building over it.
Kent passing Sashuis/Sluice House (1519)
Lots of ducks, geese, and some swans, and weeping willows on the Minnewater, or Lake of Love.
Virgin Mary niche at Wijngaardestraat 8
Walked along window-shopping in lace shops. There were also pastry shops and we bought a couple chocolate pastries. Arrived at the former Hospital of St John, dating from the Middle Ages, begun in 1188 with unspoiled architecture. Now the chapel is the Memling Museum, and there is a dispensary/pharmacy in the chapter house. Across the street was ov Onze Lievre Vrouwkerk/Notre Dame church with a 1230 nave, 1465 Paradise porch, and a 375-foot tower, making it one of the largest churches in Belgium and the Netherlands. Full of paintings, and a side chapel with a mausoleum of Mary of Burgundy and her father, Charles the Old. In the chapel to the right of the altar was the Michelangelo sculpture of the Virgin and Child (1501-1504) in a black marble niche. The sculpture was commissioned by Mouscron merchants of Bruges, and it was delivered in 1514. There were some paintings on display behind the altar, but you had to pay to see them.
ov Onze Lievre Vrouwkerk/
Church of Our Lady
Passed the impressive Gruuthuse Museum with at least a fore-courtyard in the former 16th century palace of an aristocratic family, a sage advisor of Charles the Bold.
Gruuthuse Museum entrance
Gruuthuse Museum fore-courtyard
Next door was the Brangwyn Museum in the Arenthuis, which appeared to be a very Gothic building. We found a boat tour and purchased the 110 BEF/$2.90 each tickets.
Canal boat near Dijver at Nieuwstraat
Virgin Mary niche above boat landing
Had a bit of a wait until the 11:00 tour, when it started raining. The boats provide umbrellas to the passengers. The narration was in French and Flemish. We understood words here and there, and it helped that I was already familiar with some of the sights. The boat went in one direction, retraced its path, and went off in the other direction and returned.
De Dijver
Bridge to the newer Begijnhof entrance
Canal house
Modernized canal house at 11 Sint-Annarei
Step-gabled canal houses
Some ivy was turning bright red on the typical medieval buildings, some with wooden walls. After the boat tour, we went to a bank to change our German money and cash a couple travelers’ cheques. Made our way to the Groeninge Museum, which had just closed at noon for a couple hours! Went to the Grote Markt to stand next to the Belfry, the huge octagonal tower with the famous carillon that rings every quarter of an hour.

Belfry (circa 1280 with later additions)
Perpendicular is the Halles, creating a courtyard from the 13th century. There were more typically medieval buildings around the square with a huge statue in the center, of the heroes of 1302, Jan Breidel and Pieter de Coninck, with allegorical figures of Belgian cities, and a bas relief of victorious Bruges battles.

Grote Markt and Jan Breidel and Pieter de Coninck statue
The Town Hall dated from 1376, the oldest commemorative town hall in Belgium. The façade had statues and bas reliefs of biblical and historical scenes; many of the statues are replacements of ones destroyed by the French.
Stadhuis/Town Hall (1376-1421)
in late Gothic monumental style
More façades
Elderly lady with bicycle
We went to the neighboring Burg Markt, which was busy with a fruit and vegetable market in a square surrounded by 14th century buildings, including the refurbished Burg.
In the corner we saw an intricate porch that belonged to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The façade of 1530 had an Italian Renaissance influence. There was an 11th century crypt chapel to St Basil in Norman style, also the Relic of the Holy Blood in the upper chapel, which was closed on Wednesday afternoons! By now it was raining in earnest.
Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed/
Basilica of the Holy Blood
We found sandwiches for lunch, one was salami, and one an omelet with mushrooms on a brown grainy bread, which we ate in the shadow of the Town Hall. We wandered over to St Jakob’s Church, which was closed. On to van Eyck Square and saw the Porter’s Loge, a 15th century house of “inside Burghers.”
Poortersloge/Porter's Lodge
In one corner was a niche for a white bear, “Beertje van der Loge” (1477) holding the shield of Bruges.
Beertje van der Loge
He also supposedly has costumes like the Mannekin Pis. In the square was a statue of Jan van Eyck, from the 19th century.
Jan van Eyck statue
Saw a canal house with modern windows.
"Modern windows" in Jan van Eyck square
We followed a canal to try to find the fish market.
Back to Burg square with another van Eyck statue, also church remains, and a market that had packed up and left.
Found a small restaurant, die Grael, to sit and take off the chill. Kent ordered a Hoegaarden Grand Cru beer, one of the best on the trip, very creamy. I had hot chocolate. We also had a couple appetizers, tomate aux crevettes/tiny shrimp in 1000 Island type dressing over tomato halves, with a pickled fennel (tasted terrible!), lettuce and cucumber. Plus croquettes aux cervettes/creamy fried croquets with these tiny shrimp. Tasty, but the shrimp looked like maggots! My hot chocolate came with tiny rolled wafers with chocolate in them, called piroulines.
Pirouline package
We left 630 BEF/$16.60 for the 530 BEF/$13.95 bill.
die Grael receipt
We walked over the bridge by Rosary Quay, with a huge saintly-looking statue (Johannes Nepomuk), to the Groeninge Museum. Paid 80 BEF/$2.10 each admission, and Kent got an English translation of the titles for 5 BEF/13 cents.
Groeninge Museum ticket
We followed the numbers through the well-organized museum, beginning with old Flemish masters and working chronologically to Impressionism and modern arts. The museum was built in 1930 on the site of the former Eeckhout Abbey. Diffuse lighting. Saw a couple van Eycks, including a portrait of his wife, Margaret, and the “Virgin and the Canon van der Paele,” who removed his eyeglasses to pose for the painting. The glasses were held in his hand. Saw a copy of van Eyck’s “Jesus Christ.” There was a Gerard David triptych of the “Baptism of Jesus” (1508), and two panels of the “Judgment of Cambyses,” which illustrates the Herodotus story of skinning a judge to cover his son’s judge’s bench. The painting was ordered by the Bench of Magistrates to atone the wrongful death in 1488 of Magistrate Pieter Langhals. David was a pupil of Hugo van der Goes, the last master of the Bruges School, who is represented by a realistic “Death of the Virgin.” Hans Memling has a triptych of St Christopher, or the Moreel triptych, showing Moreel with his five sons in one panel, and his wife and 11 daughters in the other. There was a copy of Rogier van der Weyden of Tournai’s “Virgin of Sorrow.” Also the “Last Judgment” by Hieronymus Bosch. Lots of Jan Provoost and excellent portraits by Pieter Pourbus, and on and on.
We walked back around Minnewater with turreted houses. We stopped at a lace shop across from the Begijnhof to buy about $50 worth of lace souvenirs. Lace is popular because the women of Bruges hemmed their dresses with lace to protect the edges from wear. By then we were pretty well soaked and hurried to the train station. We had 10 minutes until the next train, so Kent got a Stella Artois beer and a couple chocolate bars. We took the 16:50 train to Brussels, and arrived in less than an hour. It was dark already. We got on the Metro by 16:00, had a long wait for the bus, but arrived at the Liens’ by 18:30. Dot prepared a great dinner of T-bone steak with mushrooms, baked potato with butter and sour cream, and a wondrous salad with Boston lettuce and nüssli, red cabbage, red onion, yellow pepper, radishes, and an oil and vinegar dressing. And bread. We washed the dishes, as the TV showed a French version of Wheel of Fortune. Kent checked out the relative gamut of TV channels. We looked through photo albums and waited for Tom to come home from work at 11:15. Had a herring and cracker snack.

Next: Brussels.

No comments: