Our cruise ship docked in Zeebrugge in Belgium at about 7am this morning. Zeebrugge is a container and industrial port about 26km from Bruges. We caught a shuttle bus to Blankenberge and then caught the train to Bruges.
Bruges is the capital of West Flanders in the flemish region of Belgium. Bruges gives new meaning to Old World beauty, a “Venice of the North” known for it’s palette of colourful homes and shops framed by cobblestone streets, tiled roofs and those lovely storybook canals.
Being a Sunday the town seemed deserted when we got in there about 9.30am. I decided I wanted to climb the 360 stairs to the top of the Belfry as did quite a few others so I queued for about half an hour. Due to the narrow stairwell the tower’s capacity is 70 people so once capacity is reached they let you in as another person comes out. You get to see the mechanics of the chimes and bells as you climb up. You then get a 360 degree view over Bruges.
The Belfry has graced the horizon of Bruges for over seven centuries. In it’s present form, the 83 metre high Belfry is made up of three building layers. The bottom two square sections in brick were built during the thirteenth century. The top, octagonal lantern tower in Brabant limestone was built between 1482 and 1486. Until 1741 the tower had a graceful 19 metre wooden spire.
Belfries are typically found in Flanders, Northern France and in parts of Wallonia, in the south of Belgium. In 1999 UNESCO included these city towers on its world heritage list, as stone witnesses of the prosperous and autonomous late medieval cities in this region. The general definition of a Belfry is a structure enclosing bells.
Meanwhile, Steve had been exploring the town down below so when I met up with him he had checked out all the chocolate shops for me. The town had come to life – there were people everywhere. The shops that open on a Sunday do so at 10am. Every second shop was a chocolate shop : ) I couldn’t resist buying these chocolate sheep – so cute.
We then checked out the canals where you can explore the city by boat. There are also many high end designer stores of which most were closed. We only had half a day here so we headed back to the train station about 12pm – Steve was in charge of the map and after finding the street we had been told to turn right into he decided to wing it. We ended up heading in the opposite direction to the train station until we stopped a friendly local who pointed us in the right direction.
Safely back on board now and heading to Germany. The sea is a rocking and a rolling out there. I went to the gym this afternoon and ran on the treadmill as we were pulling out of port. I had a natural incline and decline as the boat rolled gently from side to side.