A few weeks ago, in the middle of July, I travelled to Bruges with my mum for a few days break. We jumped on the Eurostar from Ebbsfleet and arrived a few hours later in the beautiful, fairy-tale town of Bruges – sometimes known as the ‘Venice of the North’. I don’t think I have ever seen a more perfect city so far in my short, travelling life. Though, not only was it a picturesque destination to visit, it was also packed full of things to do. Not one for relaxing and taking it easy (especially when time is of the essence), I pestered my mum with numerous museum and exhibition visits.
One of the first things I was eager to see, since discovering a blossoming love for Michelangelo’s sculptures in Florence, was his Madonna and Child – one of the only Michelangelo sculptures to leave Italy in his lifetime. Aside from the fact that it was sculpted by the one and only Michelangelo, the Madonna and Child also has an interesting history. Twice since its instalment in the Church of Our Lady, Bruges, it has been removed. Once by French revolutionaries in 1794 and again during the Second World War, in 1944, when it was smuggled out of the country by retreating German soldiers. Luckily, both times, it was found and returned safely in one piece.
Keeping with the theme of art I picked out one museum I really wanted to visit. I am not an expert in Flemish painting but from my research I found that the Groeninge Museum was the best gallery to visit. Housing over six centuries of art in Belgium, from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers, this small, spacious museum was the perfect choice to gain a taster of all things artistic that Belgium has to offer. I was also thrilled to find exhibitions (however random) of Picasso, Warhol and Salvador Dali dotted around the city centre and I made sure to visit the Old St. John’s Hospital (Sint Jans Hospitaal) which houses a few Hans Memling paintings.
In terms of literature I wanted to see the home of Guido Gazelle, a Bruges-born poet famous for writing in his West Flemish dialect. As the Poetry International website states, ‘Gezelle is generally considered as one of the masters of 19th-century European lyric poetry. At the end of his life and in the first two decades of the 20th century, Gezelle was hailed by the avant-garde as the founder of modern Flemish poetry, and his unique voice was also belatedly recognised in the Netherlands and often compared with his English contemporary Gerard Manley Hopkins’. I admit this was another revelation I found as I was researching what to see and do in Bruges but it was a lovely find. Gazelle’s home, on the outskirts of the city – near the four remaining windmills that line the east of the canal-ring – has been turned into a small, quirky museum. Although everything was written in Flemish, there were English booklets with some of his translated poetry in it. The gardens were also beautiful!
So, aside from gallivanting around endless exhibitions and museums and trying out some of the best fruit beers, chocolates and Belgian waffles on offer, I drove my mum crazy with the amount of pictures I took! It truly is a beautiful little city, here are just a few from my camera: