Brugge is one small but elegant city in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is famous for its gothic architecture in the medieval time and the outstanding Flemish arts. Its historic center completely preserves the original physiognomy hundred years ago. Its quiet swan lake, tortuous canal, and idyllic park attract the touristes all around the world. I still remember when I checked in in the evening of 11 September 2020, the hotel manager told proudly to me that he was lucky to live in this beautiful city.
The historic Centre of Brugge is listed as the UNESCO world heritage in 2000. The city’s landmark is this square called ‘Market Square’. When I arrived at the hotel, it was a deep night so I only took some minutes to walk around nearby. It was a serene night with a slight biting coldness of autumn. At this moment, only a few visitors were still scattered on the square. Under the dim and shadowy lights along the streets, the darkness of night could not conceal the glamour of this medieval city.
Next morning, I started my memorable trip from the south of th city. The Minnewater park is located in this area, just a stone’s throw away from the train station. ‘Minnewater’ is the name of this tranquil and crystal lake which means the lake of love. In the chill morning of automn, the green willows on the bankside are shrouded in the light smog like water mist . The surface of the lake is flat like a smooth and shiny copper mirror.
第二天早上，我从这座城市的南部出发开始了这段难忘的旅行。 Minnewater公园就位于该区域，距火车站仅一步之遥。 “ Minnewater”是这个静谧清澈的湖的名字，意为爱之湖。寂静清秋，绿杨烟外晓寒轻。爱情湖畔，潭面无风镜未磨。
It is a perfect place for lovers to date. There was an old story of a pretty girl named Minna who was in love with Stromberg, a warrior of a neighbouring tribe. However, her father did not agree with her love. Not willing to accept the arrangement of fate, Minna escaped sadly from her family and ran into the forest of Brugge. When Stromberg finally found her, she died in his arms. The lake was named after Minna and the bridge straddling the lake was considered as the bridge of love. It was said that if you walk over the bridge and kiss your loved one, it will become eternal love.
This lake was once the mooring place for barges that sailed the inland waterways between Brugge and Ghent. Nowadays, it is a reservoir and joined to the city’s canal system. We can see many wild animals here for example swan, the symbol of the city. In 1488, the people of Brugge executed one of the town administrators of Maximilian of Austria whose family coat of arms featured a white swan. It was said that Maximilian punished the local people by forcing them to keep white swans on their lakes and canals.
Following the steps of swan, next I arrived at one place called Begijnhof. It is an enclosed area on one peaceful island with a small garden, twisted trees and a row of low white houses. It is the only preserved beguinage in Brugge. This area could be accessed through the three arche bridge in the picture.
The beguinage is an architectural complex which was created to house beguines who are the religious women living in community without taking vows or retiring from the world. This kind of building has a characteristic white-painted gable. In the first decades of the thirteenth century, beguinages were formed as the houses for beguines and they were built around a central chapel or church where their religious activities took place. Some beguinages in Belgium are listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998.
Nowadays there are no more Beguines living here but since 1927 it has functioned as a convent for Benedictines. In this early morning, a ray of slanting sunlight shined on this religious land where some devoted benedictine nuns could be observed in this area. I just lingered a while here because the racket of tourists might disrupt the halcyon atmosphere.
There is another bridge in the north to connect this isolated land of idyllic beauty with the outside mundane world. The canal of Brugge flows towards north of the city. Its bank is overgrown with a lavish profusion of vegetations.
The life style in Brugge is admirable. This is one photo taken on the bridge of Zonnekemeers. Its bridge is decorated with sun flowers of multiple colors. The carefree local people at the waterfront were having breakfast cozily and enjoyed the sunlight of early morning. What a beautiful day!
Following the babbling stream, next I arrived at this old building at the riverside. The Saint John’s hospital used to be a place where travellers could find shelter. It was also one hospital in the medieval ages and nowadays it was expanded to be a monastery and convent.
The hospital was founded in the 12th century, called Sint-Janshospitaal in Dutch. This was the entrance of the museum. Its façade was designed with a mixed romanesque and gothic style. The museum exhibits the works of one of Flanders’ most famous artists, Hans Memling.
The Shrine of St. Ursula is a carved and gilded wooden reliquary containing oil paintings completed by Hans Memling in 1489. The shrine is in the shape of a Gothic chapel. It depicted the scenes of St. Ursula like the Coronation of the Virgin with the Holy Trinity and St. Ursula Protecting the Holy Virguns and his arrival in Cologne, Basel, Rome.
There is a courtyard in front of the museum. I really enjoyed the quiet environment here. People could sit on the benches and bask in the sun leisurely. The architecture was extraodinary as well. All the brick walls eroded by ages are brown-red colored in nature with a classic style. The houses with low chimneys and gabled roof were totally different with what I have seen in Italy and France.
Through this old archway, I was at the foot of another landmark of Brugge – the Church of Our Lady. This church was famous for its 122-metre brick steeple, which could be seen in every corner of the city. It took totally two centuries (from 13th century to 15th century) to build the church. What a miracle!
This church is called ‘Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk’ in the local language. It is behind the Saint John’s hospital. This catholic church is in Gothic style with many typical flying buttresses on its exterior. Its tower is the second tallest brick tower in the world.
该教堂在荷兰语被称为“ Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk”。它在圣约翰医院的后面。这座天主教教堂为哥特式风格，外部有许多典型的飞拱。它的尖塔是世界上第二高的砖塔。
The most spectacular art treasure of the church is the white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child completed by Michelangelo in 1504. It is located in the altarpiece of the large chapel and depicted the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus. This is an invaluable treasure because it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo which was outside Italy during his lifetime.
Behind the Our Lady’s church, there is a museum to memorize the richest families of this city in the medieval time, the Gruuthuse family. This house was the palace of the lords of Gruuthuse in 15th century. Nowadays it is a museum with collections of tapestries, furniture, silverware, and musical instruments. The flag with eight white-red stripes with a blue lion in the center fluttering on the top of tower. This is the city flag of Bruges.
This is the entrance of the museum. At the gate, we could see clearly the coat arm of the Gruuthuse family. In the old Flemish word ‘gruut’ means barley or wheat and huse means house. In the medieval age, Bruges was an important harbour and had a strategic location at the crossroads of the Hanseatic League and the southern trade routes. Wheat or barley was the main ingredient for beer-brewing. The lords of Bruges had full control of the trade at sea of these products. Because of the monopoly they became very wealthy and they were thus called Lord of Gruuthuse (wheat house).
The museum of Gruuthuse is at the riverside and connected to the other side by the Bonifacius bridge. This is a relatively young brick bridge that could be dated back to 1910. There is legend that once you cross the bridge the first person you see on the other side is the one you will marry.
This is one of the most beautiful places of Brugge. Many touristes will flock to the bridge to take the photo of the Our Lady’s church but for me I prefered the scenes of these old houses at the other side of the bank which was similar to the water town in southeast China.
After I crossed the bridge and continued to walked along the river, I arrived at this picturesque view point. This is the most well known landmark of Brugge – the Quay of the Rosary, Rozenhoedkaai in Dutch. All the touristes will frame this fairytale like landscape into their cameras.
From the quay, touristes could take the small boat and cruise in the canal together with the swans. The charming scenery here is like a post card. All the 15th-century buildings with medieval façades along the river, the old bridge and the wooden docks are well preserved despite their age. The white tower in the background is the belfry of Brugge.
Nextm，I would head towards the north coast of the river across this bridge. Now I was standing near the Huidenvettersplein (Tanners Square) to take this photo. This stone bridge is called Blinde-Ezelbrug in Dutch which means blind donkey.
A column of two lions and the emblem of the tanners is erected in the center of the Tanner square. It was a little square. In the Medieval Times, this was the location where the tanners worked their leather, but today it’s a place for local people to take a break on the cafe terraces.
The Blinde-Ezelstraat (Blind Donkey Street) is one alley connecting with the bridge that I mentioned above. It was called with such a funny name because there was an inn here during the 15th century called Den Blinden Ezel (the blind donkey). This old brick paved road leads to the city hall of Brugge. I liked the vault of the arch decorated with three sculptures of saints.
Blinde-Ezelstraat（盲驴小道）是一条与我上面提到的桥梁相连的小巷。之所以这么称呼它是因为15世纪在这里有一个叫做Den Blinden Ezel（盲驴）的旅馆。这条由旧式砖石铺成的道路通向布鲁日的市政厅。我特别欣赏装饰有三圣徒雕塑的拱顶。
Exitting from the archway, I was arriving at an open space, the Burg square. In the ninth century, the count of Flanders chose the Burg square as his base of operation. It was so named due to the fortress built at this location by the first Count of Flanders in the 9th century. Nowadays, there is no more fortress but there are some major buildings instead like the city hall, the Palace of the Liberty, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
从拱门出来后，我到了一个宽敞的场所，即伯格广场。在九世纪，佛兰德伯爵选择伯格（Burg）广场作为他的经营基地。这里之所以如此命名(Burg意思是有城堡的城)，是因为9世纪法兰德斯伯爵（Count of Flanders）在此建造了一座堡垒。如今，堡垒已然不复存在，但取而代之的是一些主要建筑物，例如市政厅，自由宫和圣血大教堂。
This building with 6 long windows, statues in the niche and 3 octagonal turrets was the city hall of Brugge built in 14 century. Its facade is in gothic style with the coat of arms of subordinate towns and flags of European unions, Belgium, and Brugge. The name Brugge is probably from the old-Scandinavian word ‘Brygga’, which means ‘harbor’. In 1277, the first merchant fleet from the Republic of Genoa arrived in Brugge to start the trade at sea. Its gothic hall which walls are painted with scenes depicts the historic events of this city.
这座带有6个长窗，小雕像和3个八角形塔楼的建筑是14世纪建造的布鲁日市政厅。它的立面是哥特式风格，带有附属城镇的徽章以及欧盟，比利时和布鲁日城的旗帜。布鲁日这个名字可能来自斯堪的纳维亚半岛的古老单词“ Brygga”，意思是“港口”。 1277年，第一批来自热那亚共和国的商船抵达布鲁日，开始海上贸易。市政厅中哥特式大厅的墙壁上是描绘了这座城市的历史事件的油画。
In the corner of the square, we could find the Basilica of the holy blood. It is a double layer church which consists of a lower church Saint-Basilius chapel that has maintained its Romanesque character and a neo-Gothic upper church Holy Bloodchapel, in which the relic of the Holy Blood is preserved. The two chapels are connected by a brick staircase which is behind the facade facing the square.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood was originally built in the 12th century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders houseing a venerated relic of the Holy Blood. The religious ceremony ‘Procession of the Holy Blood’ is held on each year’s Ascension Day in the spring. The bishop of Bruges carries the relic through the streets, accompanied by costumed residents. The tradition of the procession started from 1291 and is still followed today. It was included in the UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.
At noon, I arrived at the symbol of the city – the market square. In the center of the market, it is the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck who led the uprising against Philip the Fair in the Franco-Flemish War between 1297 and 1305. This square was used as a marketplace since 958 and nowadays it became the meeting place for the local people. The square is occupied by restaurants and bustles with touristes from all over the world.
中午，我到达了布鲁日的标志-市场广场。在广场中心，是扬·布雷德尔（Jan Breydel）和彼得·德·科宁克（Pieter de Coninck）的雕像，他们在1297年至1305年的法兰西佛兰德战争中领导了反对菲利普国王的起义。这个广场自958年以来就一直被用作集市，如今已成为当地人的聚会场所。该广场到处都是餐馆和熙熙攘攘来自世界各地的游客。
I had a rich lunch at the restaurant in the market square. It was a wonderful place to satiate my hunger on one side and enjoy the scenery around the square on the other side. The Moules-frites is a main dish of mussels and fries ordered by me. It can be found in nearly every restaurant in Belgium and is considered the national dish of Belgium. Mussels are cooked in a sauce containing beer together with tomato, onion, and parsley in a pan. The mussels and fries are served separately. It was definitely a nice experience to taste foods all around the world.
In the east side of the square, this neogothic building with 4 turrets and many small chimneys is the former meeting place for the provincial government of West Flanders. It was built in 1887 and used as the government meeting hall until 1999, and is now mainly a ceremonial building for exhibitions.
In the west of the square, there is a historic building called Cranenburg House that nowadays became a café or restaurant. In 1488 the Emperor Maximilian was incarcerated here and witnessed the execution of severel of his most loyal liegemen through one of the windows. Maximilian I was the Holy Roman Emperor, from the famous House of Habsburg. The flemish rebels openly rebelled against his reign twice in the period 1482–1492 and even caught him.
在广场的西侧，有一栋历史悠久的建筑，名为克兰堡屋（Cranenburg House），如今已成为咖啡馆或饭店。 1488年，马克西米利安皇帝（Emperor Maximilian）被囚禁在这里，并透过一扇窗户目睹了他最忠实的下属在广场被残忍处决。马克西米利安一世是著名的哈布斯堡王朝的神圣罗马帝国皇帝。佛兰芒叛军在1482–1492年间两次公开反对他的统治，甚至将他活捉。
This square is the assembly point of horse drawn carriages as well. Touristes could enjoy a wonderful city tour on the carriages following the rhythm of the horse’s trot on the slate. This would definitely be a unique and romantic experience for everyone who has never tried carriage ride.
In the south of the square, it is the most prominent landmqrk of this city – the belfy. This bell tower of 83m height was the place where the important documents of the city were preserved. It was built in 1283 and its completion took two centuries’ time. This tower dominating the square became the symbol of city since its completion in 1483. When I sat at the square’s center, I really marvelled at this impressive architecture masterpiece.
Touristes could climb this tower from this courtyard. There are totally 366 steps up to the top of the tower. There is a carillon with 47 melodious bells in 16 century in the tower. Nowadays, the bells still ring to indicate the time or announce fire alarm to the residents of this city.
Near the market place, there are some old houses with crow-stepped gables. They are orderly aligned along the roads. These are the traditional Belgium houses. The top of the parapet wall projects above the roofline and the top of the brick or stone wall is stacked in a step pattern above the roof as a decoration and as a convenient way to finish the brick courses.
Belgium has the long tradition making chocolate. Its history could be traced back as far as 1635. The praline is an invention of the Belgian chocolate industry. It’s a form of confection containing culinary nuts, usually almonds and hazelnuts, and sugar. There are many shops of chocolate in this area but the price is not cheap. The price of this large royal box is 70 euros.
Another interesting place near the market place is the Beer museum, opened in 2014. Here you could know more about the raw ingredients of beer, the brewing process, different kinds of beer in Brugge. The Flanders region was famous for its special beers since the Medieval Times.
There are more than 600 beers brewed in Belgium varies from pale lager to amber ales, lambic beers, Flemish red ales, sour brown ales, strong ales and stouts. This is the picture taken at one beer store. The Chimay beer is one kind of the famous Trappist beer made by the Chimay brewery. It consists of three ales: Chimay Rouge, Chimay Bleue, and Chimay Blanche. Another beer in the window is the Tripel. It is a strong pale ale made from the brewery Westmalle. Drinking beer is one culture for Belgians. In 2016, UNESCO inscribed Belgian beer culture on their list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
比利时酿造的啤酒有600多种，从淡啤酒到琥珀啤酒，兰比啤酒，佛兰德红啤酒，酸棕啤酒，和烈性黑啤酒。这是在一家啤酒店拍摄的照片。 奇美啤酒 (Chimay)是Chimay啤酒厂生产的一种著名的Trappist啤酒。它有三种麦芽酒：红奇美，蓝奇美和白奇美。橱窗里另一种啤酒是Tripel。它是由啤酒厂Westmalle生产的淡啤酒。喝啤酒是比利时人的一种文化。 2016年，联合国教科文组织将比利时啤酒文化列入了人类非物质文化遗产名录中。
In the afternoon, I headed towards the north of the city. This was the Jan van Eyck Square, the so called Manhattan of Brugge. In the Medieval Times, it was a lively port where merchants assembled from all over Europe. There was a statue of the Northern Renaissance painter Jan van Eyck on the square.
下午，我前往城市北部。这里就是扬·范·埃克广场（Jan van Eyck Square），号称布鲁日的曼哈顿。在中世纪时期，这是一个热闹的港口，来自欧洲各地的商人聚集在此。广场上有北方文艺复兴时期画家扬·范·埃克的雕像。
Jan van Eyck was a famous Netherlandish painter active in Brugge in 15 century who was one of the early innovators of Early Netherlandish painting, and one of the most significant representatives of Early Northern Renaissance art. His masterpiece ‘Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele‘ was conserved in the Groeningemuseum in Brugge. It depicts the scene of The Virgin Mary being enthroned at the centre of the semicircular space, with the Christ Child on her lap.
扬·范·埃克（Jan van Eyck）是15世纪活跃于布鲁日的著名荷兰画家，他是早期荷兰绘画的创新者之一，也是早期北方文艺复兴时期艺术的最重要代表之一。他的代表作《圣母与圣婴》在布鲁日的格罗宁根博物馆中保存。它描绘了圣母玛利亚抱着圣婴加冕的场景。
In the north of the square, there is a new canal called Langerei. It was a part of the canal connecting Ostend and Bruges. Most view points are distributed in the south and center of the city. There is nothing special to visit in the north and east of this canal except some town gates.
The ramparts of Bruges are a six-kilometer park which almost completely surrounds the old town. Walking along this park, 4 remaining town gates could be found. This gate called Kruispoort dates back to the start of the 15th century. During its lifespan the gate has incurred some alterations. It was originally much bigger.
Around the town gates, there are four ancient windmills. They stand on the remains of the earthwork bastions of the inner fortification line. The mill Bonne-Chièremolen in the picture was built in 1844 and nowadays it could not be used. It just stood silently at the river side and witnessed the vicissitude of time.
This is another town gate called The Ezelpoort (Donkey Gate). It was built during the construction of the second ring of ramparts at the end of the 13th century. It also incurred many structural changes. The original appearance of the gate was significantly altered in the 17th century. This castle like gate on the riverside was a good place to take beautiful pictures as well.
When I left the town gates in the north, I was on my way back to the train station with endless memory and exclamations. The essence of Brugge had been visited by me in one day. Its beautiful canals, soaring towers, peaceful ambiance, brilliant culture, and old history had vividly left deep marks in my brain. I had to exclaim with amazement that this fairytale like city could only exist in the paradise and I have never heard or seen a similar one like it in the world!