As a full-time student, money is not something that is easy to come by but traveling is even harder to go without! As a compromise, my boyfriend and 2 of our best friends, decided to go cheap & chique. We were headed to our southern neighbor, Belgium.
As the friends, Marjolein and Kevin, are moving in together soon, and Tristan and I had a rather extraordinary trip last year, meant that we had to come up with a low-budget itinerary that still meant that we could indulge during our holiday. As Dutchies, we are naturally used to riding our bikes which became the main mode of transport for our trip, not a dime involved. But then accommodation was brought to the table, are we staying in hostels (sharing dorm with a dozen noisy others) or are we taking up our gear and do we go camping? It was quickly discovered that hostels do not come very cheap in Belgium whereas camping turned out to be both cheap and practical. We ‘simply’ (word to be taken lightly ;-]) chucked our stuff onto our bikes and on the backs of our 2 strong men and off we were, first stop: Brugges.
Brugges has been my favorite Belgian city since I first visited it in my 2nd year of high school, for a multi-course project about the Middle Ages. Belgium still embodies a rich history of the culture and architecture of the Middle Ages, especially Brugges. The city ‘breathes’ the time of counts and cattle markets as if it were yesterday. Where many cities welcome modern buildings, Brugges embraced its history which to me seemed very popular with the crowds of tourists. I myself really enjoy the fact that Brugges still looks mostly like it did in the 1400s.
Our campsite which, was really nearby the city gates, only 5 minutes bike ride away, was a good base to explore this city. We stayed at an unpowered tent field which saved us a lot of money. For that reason we decided to go out for dinner a couple of times which we did the 1st night as well. Unfortunately, restaurant managers don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore and charge ridiculous prices at major tourist spots such as the Markt. If you like to eat out, and get good food at decent prices, my suggestion is to walk a few streets away from the Markt.
That Brugges embodies it’s culture is clear when you walk through the streets. Old ladies are bobbin lace into table cloths or blouse colars, chocolatiers are found at every corner offering the finest Belgian chocolate, and beer … What is Belgium without beer? Most of the restaurants offer a wide selection of beers, including its own brewing called “Brugse Zot”, a fine beer that comes both in Blonde and Tripple.
Besides the cultural heritage that can be tasted and worn, Brugges also has an overwhelming amount of beautiful medieval buildings. Ranging from crooked houses, to the city hall, from the famous Belfry to “Onze Lieve Vrouwe” cathedral. The Belfry of Brugges is probably the most famous one and dominates the ‘skyline’ of the city. When you pay a small fee, you can climb the tower almost to the top. The staircase is really narrow with low ceilings here and there. But once you’re in, your taken on a journey through time. You’re learning the purpose of a Belfry, the uses of the massive bells and the protecional value it had when Brugges was one of the most important cities worlwide. Once on top, you have a stunning view overlooking the city.
Brugges in Dutch (the official language) means Bridges. When you’re in the city, you immediately notice why. As most cities in the Middle Ages such as Venice and Amsterdam, Brugges was built around water, still criss crossing the city. Actually the best way to explore the city before you start wandering yourself, is to hop on one of the small boats that will guide you through in several languages when prefered. Most of the canals (‘grachten’ in Dutch) are closed nowadays, so no public water traffic can enter the city. As a real boat lover, I had to take a little tour and was happy to have done so, it provides you that different perspective. For €7,50 p.p you can take a 30 min tour. Next to exploring from the waterfront, it is also possible to go by horse and carriage, really popular amongst tourists, which I imagine, gives that extra touch to your trip. We thought that the horse and cariage was a bit too romatic for the 4 of us so we skipped.
Brugges is a perfect weekend getaway, it has some nice restaurants, beautiful architecture, rich culture and tasty chocolate. For photographers, Brugges has a lot of perspectives to offer.
If you have ever been to Brugges, please feel free to share your experiences and tips! My blog about our trip to the city of Ghent will follow next week. In the mean time, keep your eye out on D. G. Travel Photography on Facebook for updates in my photography portfolio. Once you’re there, don’t forget to ‘Like’ :).
See you next week! Happy travels!