Mmm Chocolate. Mmm Beer

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Nov 22, 2005

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mmm beer. Mmm chocolate

Up early for our journey from Trier, Germany to Bruges, Belgium. It involved a few trains first Trier to Luxembourg, then Luxembourg to Brussels and finally Brussels to Bruges. A bit of an effort at five hours, but for me far more relaxing than driving as I could catch up on my typing. What made getting on an off the trains ever harder was the fact that we were now carrying more luggage than a cargo plane. At least our arms and chest were getting a solid workout.

Bruges is a charming little city. Often termed "Venice of the North" (at least in tourist pamphlets) it has a small city centre interspersed with canals. To me it looked like a mini Amsterdam sans the prostitutes and drugs. Its medieval streets and winding canals create a relaxed atmosphere and the fact that there are few cars makes it quite peaceful. Almost everyone gets around on bicycles, from little children to businessmen to grandmothers- I have never been to a city with such a high proportion of cyclists. This means there is no tooting or honking and no traffic jams. And more importantly - no road works! With its narrow and winding streets the city is perfect for cycling or walking around. The city centre is rather small and you could cover it all in around half and hour. The charming city centre has been placed on the UNESCO list and is geared for tourists. For those too lazy to cycle or walk there were lots of horse led carts ready to take them around the city. The clomping off the horse hooves on the cobblestones was a nice sound. Already I was thinking that our two nights would not be long enough.

Free of our cumbersome bags we set straight out to see the city. It was a nice sunny day, which a local informed us, was not usual for October when the temperature is usually in single digits and it is raining. There are many museums and monuments to look at but we were happy just to have a look around. One reason for this is that we were staying on Chocolate Street. When Fee found this out I thought she would buckle over in excitement. Within a few hundred metres there are sixteen different chocolate stores all specialising in hand made Belgian chocolate. Fee wanted to visit every one of them, lured in by the tantalising wafts of fresh made chocolate. Inside were hundreds of varieties of chocolate. There were some great creations, from female busts made to Halloween decorations to traditional Bruges houses all made of chocolate. Fee was disappointed that there were no free tastings, which is probably for the best, as she would have gorged herself to death.

To keep me happy, every other store was a Belgian Beer store. There are over 350 different types of Belgian beers, enough for a different one each day. In Australia Belgian beer cafes are becoming very popular and there are several opening up, just as Irish bars seemed to be opening up everywhere a decade ago. The most popular beers are those made by the Trappish Monks. They have their breweries in remote abbeys make the better ones. I guess if they are silent and chaste they have to do something with their time. Just as Fee was determined to have a lot of chocolate I was determined to try as many beers as possible. The cool thing about all the beers is that they all come with special glasses. It is very important that each beer is poured into their own glass for reasons, which I found out the next day, unfortunately twenty four hours too late.

Drawing ourselves away from beer and chocolate we decided to take a boat tour along the canal. This gave us a good overview of the city centre and a close up look at some of the buildings and monuments. The canals are all man made and were done so that ships and barges could deliver goods from the ports in the north to Bruges. As a result of the canals and the trade it brought Bruges became a wealthy town. In the afternoon sun it was a nice time lying in the back of the boat and admiring the city.

Once off the boat we headed into the town square. It was quite large and there were plenty of cafes lining its edges. Due to the rare warm weather they were all filled with people creating a good ambience. Wanting to join in the fun we sat down in one to have a beer. Our first beer was a Hoegarden (a wheat beer) and when the waiter brought our beers out in massive steins I thought to myself this could get messy. We had a couple of other different beers and before you could say, "we really should eat dinner" we were both on our way. As we were drinking in a café overlooking the central square the beer price was very high. So we decided to go to the bottle shop and buy some beers there to take back to our room. We chose a wide selection and went to our room.

There were two problems with our plan. One - Belgian beer is stronger than normal beer (in fact some of the beers I had chosen were 9.5%). Two- we had no food in our room so were drinking on an empty stomach. It wasn't too long before I was singing (quite loudly) the praises of Bruges and Belgium. Apparently by eight thirty I was passed out on the couch snoring and Fee put me to bed a couple of hours later.

I do like Bruges.
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