Friday, September 19, 2014

Blooming in Brugge

Boy, oh, boy was Brugge beautiful. This past Tuesday, I went for the day with my classmates to Brugge and it was a wonderful day trip. Our morning started early, 7:30 to be exact, and I rode with two classmates to get coffee before we rode the train to Brugge. Since I am not a coffee drinker, I tried Belgian hot chocolate and the barista created it by putting a chocolate medallion into a cup of hot milk and stirring it until it melted into one. The train from Leuven to Brugge is an hour and a half, so before we knew it we  arrived.

Our time in Brugge began in the Begijnhof. According to our professors, a Begijnhof is a community where women lived together, taking a vow of chastity. The women that lived in the Begijnhofs were similar to nuns, yet they did not take any type of religious oath. All women, pure or not, were accepted into these communities, living simple lives, Women could bring what they had and could leave when they pleased. While the women of the Begijnhof  no longer exist today, this community in Brugge is now inhabited by nuns. Prior to going to Brugge, I never heard of the Begijnhof communities before and I found the idea behind them to be very inspiring. These women supported and accepted each other, which is incredible considering the time they lived in. While at the Begijnhof, we saw how traditional lace is made in Brugge and it is an incredible skill. Thread is laced onto pins with small wooden rods and the pins are moved to create the pattern of the lace. Seeing this skill, I am forever going to be impressed with anything lace.

Inside the Begijnhof

A woman demonstrating the traditional lace making of Brugge.

After touring the Begijnhof, we visited the Church of Our Lady, or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk. The highlight of the church, without a doubt, is the Michelangelo marble sculpture. After studying art history my freshman year, I have been anticipating seeing a Michelangelo for some time and it did not disappoint. In the sculpture, it looked as though the Madonna and child could have come to life at any moment. The fluidity of their garments, coupled with the realness of their flash, makes the bodies look like people covered in a smooth coat of paint. On the other sides of the Michelangelo and two other sculptures, and in comparing the three, I could tell the superior quality of the Michelangelo.

The Michelangelo inside the Church of Our Lady in the center

Our next stop was the Groeningmuseum, a museum of Flemish and Dutch artists. In the museum I truly enjoyed a few pieces by  Francois Joseph Kinsoen, Frits van den Berghe, Gustave van de Woestyne, Rik Wouters, and Henri Victor Wolvens. It was a small museum, my perfect size, so it was easy to do in an hour and a half and see everything more or less.

Francois Joseph Kinsoen
The death of Belisarius' wife

Frits van den Berghe
Lovers in the Village

Gustave van den Woestyne
The Last Supper

Rik Wouters
Portrait of Mrs. Giroux

Henri Victor Wolvens
Beach at Koksijde

After gaining some culture at the museum, I set out on my own experiment: to find the best chocolate in Brugge. By the Bell Tower, I wandered down one of the streets, stopping inside every chocolate shop I found. In each shop, I peered into the glass cases, mesmerized by the scent wafting out of the shops. the chocolates, like little brown jewels, sat waiting to be selected.  I finally settled on purchasing candy from a shop called Chocoholic, where I selected quite e few pieces to sample- sea salt caramel, speculoos, truffle, dark chocolate mousse, chili pepper, almond, and chocolate covered orange peels, My favorite, by far, was the chocolate covered orange peel. While eating my candies, I stopped into a few stores like Zara, C &A, and a home goods store.

Town Square

The Bell Tower

Chocolate "Research"

No trip to Brugge would be complete without a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This Basilica, which is tiny, claims to have a vial of the blood of Christ. The Basilica can best be described as a jewel, with colored light streaming in through stained glass that then beams off the gold gilding. While at the Basilica, we even got to venerate the blood, which is a rare treat.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Interior Of Basilica of the Holy Blood

Finally, the group went on a short canal ride through Brugge, where we saw St. John's Hospital and the swans that inhabit Brugge, In my opinion, everyone should see Brugge from the canals. It allowed us to get a new perspective of the city, plus it was a relaxing way to end a day full of walking. After our boat tour, we rode the train back to our home base, Leuven.

Riding through the canals 

Brugge was a beautiful city that can certainly be conquered in just one day, which is perfect for a busy student like me! I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about Brugge.

 Some stunning blooms in Bruuge

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