A Day in Bruges

PictureWhile I was in Amsterdam back in April, I decided to take a day trip to Bruges, Belgium. Belgium seemed like one of those countries that one would just pass through on the way to another country – not really worth an overnight visit, but good enough for a quick view.  The tour company that I booked the trip with was Tours and Tickets, and the purchase came with a one-hour canal tour in Amsterdam through the Lovers company. I took the canal tour on my first day in Amsterdam and fell asleep by the way. The time change had me taking naps everywhere.

We departed on one of those two-level buses, and it was crowded with people from all ages and all nationalities. I think Tours and Tickets is the company that is used for the tours on Viator, so it was quite popular. The bus ride was about three hours, and there wasn’t much scenery. Again, I took a nap because it was 3 am in the U.S. and my body had not adjusted to the time difference yet. The Netherlands is pretty flat with lots of modern windmills, and I didn’t notice much difference when we crossed into Belgium.

When were arrived in Bruges, our tour guide took us on a walking tour of the city before we all separated for lunch. The walking tour was difficult because there was a busload of us, our tour guide was hard to see because she was short, and there were just a lot of people in Bruges in general.

Not to many people made it through to the end of the tour – especially the older people who had to walk a bit slower.

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Listen. Bruges is dealing with overtourism. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tourists outnumbered the residents. The city is beautiful and very walkable. There was a boat tour, but I didn’t have the time to take one, and was too fearful of being left behind. I spent most of the day eating, walking around, taking a peak inside local shops, stumbling upon an art gallery, and watching street performers. It made for a good day. I purchased Belgium chocolates for friends and family at Leonidas, but there are several chocolate shops around the city.

For lunch I had a traditional flemish beef stew at a restaurant away from the madness around the main square. It wasn’t very appetizing so I hit up Oyya for a Belgian waffle and a vanilla milkshake for dessert. That was the best thing about Bruges, and a pleasant surprise because I did not know that traditional Belgian waffles tasted nothing like the crap we have in the U.S. for breakfast. I like that crap by the way.

In the main square of Bruges was the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is supposed to hold the blood of Jesus that was obtained after he was crucified. Well my curiosity struck me, so I had to see it. The entrance was free, but there was a museum or something similar that has a fee. I still had the empty cup that previously contained that vanilla milkshake that touched my spirit because I didn’t see a trash can. So I walked into the sanctuary with the cup in hand and took a seat in the back of the church to admire the design. I watched as people to the right side of the church walk up to the vial of blood and observe, and I decided to finally hop in the line. I took my purse and empty cup in my hand and started to get up. Well, out of habit, I took a sip out of the cup through the straw. Since nothing was left, it made that loud and obnoxious slurping sound. I was so embarrassed, and I didn’t mean to do it! It was an unconscious action that occurred in a serious atmosphere.

Out of nowhere, I woman grabbed my forearm forcefully, yanked the cup out of my hand, and said something indistinguishable. She wasn’t speaking any language; it sounded like she had correctly assumed I didn’t speak Dutch, and resorted to making sounds as if she was a deaf person. Her body language told me all I needed to know: she was furious. Now, I didn’t want to act a fool in the Lord’s house. I knew I was wrong for my actions in the church, but you don’t grab on people as if they just stole your last two dollars. I let it go, and she walked away to throw the cup in the trash while I proceeded to stand in the line to view the vial of blood.

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I waited patiently as other visitors ahead of me walked up the few steps, stared deeply at the vial, established whatever personal connection with it, and strolled away. When it was almost my turn, I got fussed at again – this time by a man – for assuming that I was about to walk up and disturb the visitor in front of me while he was viewing the blood. Nothing said I was going to do that, I understood personal space unlike my Europeans, and I was nowhere near the steps to walk up to the viewing area. Why was I being pestered so much? I know it had been a while since I visited church, but damn. Can I breathe?

I rolled my eyes at the man, waited for the couple in front of me to walk away, placed a few euros in the collection plate at the front of the steps, and walked up to the viewing area to take a look. There was a priest sitting in front of it watching so that no one takes pictures or disturbs it in any way. I look at it intensely. It was in an intricately designed vial that is behind a glass case, so I couldn’t get too close. Do I think the cloth inside actually contains the blood of Jesus? I don’t know, but I didn’t feel any connection with it. The priest handed me a small booklet with a prayer in, smiled at me, and allowed me to walk away.

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We headed back to the bus to make our journey back to Amsterdam, and I fell asleep again on the way back. Bruges was a nice preview of Belgium, and I would only go again for the waffles to be quite honest. It was a good experience, and I’m glad I had an opportunity to go, but it definitely lacked the flavor that would convince me to return.

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