Tuesday, November 27, 2012
There are a few things Belgium is known for. Mostly paedophiles and little pissing boy statues.
And broken diets.
Because while it's not known to be the most exciting country on the planet, if you like beer and carbohydrates, it's not a terrible place to be.
Belgians do carbs very well. Fresh, crispy, sweet waffles, drizzled in chocolate. Belgian 'frieten' or fries that come with a gigantic dollop of homemade mayonnaise. A dizzying array of chocolate. And then thousands and thousands of beers, each with their own unique beer glass.
Stodge, beer, and weather like England's. It's like the UK, but with Flemish and French people, and cute houses. And a few of the world's most heinous paedophiles, (and England has done extraordinarily well in this department lately too.)
("Did you enjoy Bruges?" Yeah, it was nice. "Really? Did you really like it though?" [scrunched up nose, disbelieving face]. This was the most common reaction in the office yesterday.
Anyway, it is nice. If you like startlingly beautiful places, bordering on cutesy and twee, then I definitely recommend a weekend in Bruges. You don't need more than that. The place is only 8 kilometres in radius; walking across it a few times is really easy.
It's a fucking popular place on the the Western Europe backpacker route. I went there once in the summer of 2005, and there were more than 20 000 tourists, larger than the population of Bruges itself. Now, it's completely quiet. You can hear a pin drop on the streets beyond the main square and Christmas Market.
Given I love places that are a little more raw, ugly and post-war, one weekend was just about right for me. You jump on the Eurostar, head under the tunnel, and in a metter of hours you're there. It's so easy. Train travel beats flying ANY DAY.
You feel like you're in a museum as you walk around, taking in the Flemish architecture (gabled roofs, very Dutchy), and realise that, it's literally perfect. Clean, cobbled, gorgeous, nothing is ugly. Nothing. It's a little unsettling after a while. There is such a thing as too perfect.
But, the fact is, Bruges' was established in the year 800 AD. Not 1800, 800. So all the quaint, cute, beautifulness isn't fake. It's real as fuck, and this is what makes it all bearable and amazing - the place has been so carefully preserved over thousands and thousands of years, it's really quite a marvel.
The film made it slightly more famous, but that's neither here or there.
We walked, drank 12.5% beers (can't say your name after just two - and almost fell down a flight of stairs in my clonky wedges), and as we had our own little apartment above a hostel, it was a perfectly lovely little weekend away.
And my last. For a long time.