24 June 2008

Bruges, Part Two (Better Late Than Never!)

On Sunday morning, we got up to a nice breakfast at the hotel before heading out for more sightseeing. First on the list was the Belfort, the town hall in Bruges with its imposing bell tower.

The Markt on a sunny day!

The Belfort

It's huge!

I decided to make the climb to the top up hundreds of twisting stairs, and was rewarded at the top with a gorgeous panoramic view of Bruges. On the way up, I passed the mechanism for the tower’s clock and bells, the latter which looks like a huge music box.

I finally reached the top just as the bells began tolling noon while the chilly wind made my hair and scarf flap around wildly. From narrow walkway around the bells, I had a complete panoramic view of Bruges and could see all the way to the ocean!
Panoramic view of Bruges from the top.

Later, we walked around the grounds of the Old St. John Hospital which now houses the Hans Memling museum.

St. John's Hospital

Parts of the building have been around since the twelfth century and it was expanded in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Near the hospital is a Beguinage, a religious retreat for women. The Beguinages were founded in the Middle Ages and allowed women to lead a contemplative life without taking religious vows. The one in Bruges was established in the middle of the thirteenth century.

The courtyard of the beguinage and the church.

Interior of the church at the beguinage.

By now, it was about noon, so we headed back to the Burg to visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a twelfth-century chapel which supposedly possesses a vial of Christ's blood. The chapel is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture with some Baroque decorations.
Basilica of the Holy Blood.

That evening, we tried fries at the fry stands in the Markt then had pints at a pub, hidden down an alleyway, which has been brewing and serving beer in Bruges since the 1100s.

The next morning, our last day in Bruges, we visited the Church of Our Lady which houses a Pieta by Michelangelo, his only sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime. All too soon, it was time to head to the train station and go back to Maastricht.

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