In Brugge (Day Thirteen)
Trip Start Aug 16, 2012
32Trip End Oct 01, 2012
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I got to Brugge at around 3pm and have been wandering around the narrow cobblestone lanes and canals. The buildings are old, quaint, and colourful with distinctive Dutch roofs. Brugge is located in Flanders, the predominately Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. The whole town is very picturesque and postcard pretty. There are lots of tourists here - most do Brugge as a daytrip since it's only about an hour away from Brussels or Antwerp.
I had a bit of a hard time trying to get to Brugge from Brussels, however the Thalys train from Paris to Brussels was fairly straightforward. I got to Gare du Nord early, and sat near the platform waiting for the train. The station looks and feels very nostalgic and you feel like you've travelled back in time to the 1930's. It took about an hour and a half to get to Brussels Midi/Zuid (South) Station. The train was nearly empty and the ride was quick and smooth.
When I got off the train in Brussels, I looked up at the Departures timetable to see when the next train would leave for Brugge. I saw that the next train was leaving in 10 minutes from Platform 14 at 1:05pm. The Eurail pass I have lets me hop onto trains without needing to have a ticket, so I dash over to the crowded platform. I should have checked the screen that hangs over the platform to see where the incoming train was going, but instead, I got on the first train that arrived.
It took almost two stops to realize that the train wasn't going to Brugge, but to Leuven. I remembered seeing on the timetable that the train to Leuven was leaving from the same platform, but was running late. That train arrived when mine was supposed to leave and I followed everyone on when I should have stayed on the platform. I quickly figured out I was on the wrong train and jumped off at the second stop. Luckily, I was still in Brussels as the city has three main train stations. I was now at Brussels Nord/Noord (North) Station. I didn't want to take any more chances so I waited at the ticket counter to ask the agent which train to take to Brugge. The man at the counter said there was one leaving at 1:56pm from Platform 9. Although I wasted almost an hour, I was relieved to know that I was going to be on the right train to Brugge!
It took 15 minutes to walk to the hostel from the train station. The guy at the front desk was very nice and helpful and even lived in Coquitlam for a while! The hostel is under renovation, but I would be staying on the new top floor. Best thing was that it was a private room! It was 25€ and costed the same as a shared room, but I was only able to book it for one night.
I walked up the steep and creaky staircase three floors to the top and opened the door to my room. I was pleasantly surprised - it was nice, clean, and looked new. There was a small twin bed and lots of shelving. The sink wasn't working yet, but the room had a good view over Brugge. The shared bathrooms were new as well, but in a strange configuration. Nevertheless, I wish I could stay longer!
The hostel is not far from the Grote Markt (Great Market) where the famous Belfry (belltower) rises high above the town below. A canal that connected Brugge to the sea once led up to this square so that merchants could gather to trade and sell their goods. Brugge was a prominent port of trade during the Middle Ages and its past wealth led to the construction of beautiful churches, canals, and buildings. Eventually, the canal silted up, trade moved to Antwerp, and Brugge declined.
Today, modern designer stores, chocolate shops, and waffles and frites stands are popular with tourists as are horse-drawn carriage rides and canal boat cruises. I enjoyed walking around the medieval old town and coming across a different church, statue, or canal at each turn. However, I think one afternoon is enough time to see Brugge as it is quite compact and walkable. Tomorrow, I'll head back to Brussels and stay there for a couple of days.