We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten to twelve month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, hopping on over to Ireland and then onto the USA for a few months. Central America may (hopefully) make its way onto our itinerary.
The way we have planned our travel is a combination of hostels, couchsurfing, workaway and friends. This means we get to experience regular life and meet locals in the places we visit as opposed to just being main stream tourists. It also means we can stretch our budget further and travel for longer! We’ve already met lots of people from all over, in Korea and along the way and always appreciate the tips, suggestions and insider information we get. As a result of this we are often adding new places and activities onto our list.
In our initial planning Belgium wasn’t even on the list of countries we wanted to see. Considering it is famous for its beer, chocolate and waffles, this seems ridiculous now! Our stay in Ghent doing workaway was a great experience and enabled us to explore the nearby, and the more well-known town of Bruges as well. We were lucky with the weather as there was one sunny and mild day before the next rainy, cold front hit. Seizing the opportunity, and at the urging of our workaway host, we took a day off to explore Bruges before we’d even started working.
Being near a train station, it was quite easy to get to and from Bruges(we booked online at belgianrail.be). The main train station in Bruges is situated just a short walk from the city centre and the tall bell towers can be seen from the station. there is a tourist information center at the station where you can pick up a map and ask any questions you have before heading into town.
The town center itself has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. As soon as you’re inside you realise why. Wherever you look it’s just amazing. Small little homes packed next to each other, narrow cobbled lanes, churches, abbeys, coffee shops and restaurants. The whole town center is in the shape of a large oval and it’s crisscrossed and surrounded by canals. In the past, these were used for transporting goods and people even used the water to brew beer. Now they’re mostly filled with tour boats and ducks.
We spent an hour or so just getting lost in the alleyways (worth it if you just want to immerse yourself in the town, as opposed to just seeing the tourist highlights) until we stumbled upon Die Halwe Maan Bouwerij. They offer brewery tours on the hour every hour at 9 Euro per person. The brewery itself has been there for 150 years. The tour takes you through their current, very modern brewing process, that sees their product piped almost 3.5km away for bottling, as well as up through the older parts of the brewery. Here you can see how they used to brew in the past and you get to go right onto the roof which provides some great views of Bruges. We always love a good high point to get a look at the whole city so this was an added bonus. At the end of the tour, you also get to try one of their beers in its unfiltered state on tap (this is the only place in the world where you can have it this way). Tasty AND unique!
|View from the top of Die Halwe Maan Brouwerij
|Right in the town center, as with most of the European cities we’ve visited, there is a “market” square. These are usually the gathering place for everybody in town, especially when the weather is good. They are a great place to grab a beer, find a comfy spot and just people watch. In Bruges, the square is surrounded by cafes, friet shops, waffle carts and pubs. We tried the friets with a traditional stoofvlees sauce (rabbit stew). It turned out to be super tasty, even though Kayley was a little hesitant to eat the poor bunny! (Friets will only set you back about 3 to 4 Euros depending on the size and choice of sauce). We ate them sitting on the steps of a statue watching everybody trying to get the perfect selfie in front of the impressive Belfort.
The rest of the day we wandered the streets some more and soaked up the ambience of the town. If you wander far enough there are also some operational windmills situated on the edge of the outer canal. Coupled with the gorgeous blue skies and the lush green grass, it was a great place for us to take some photos and have a picnic (read: beer, cheese and chocolate). If your navigational skills and feet are up to it, there is also a park with sheep, hidden away somewhere. Bruges has much to offer the budget traveler in terms of age-old beauty and quaintness. It also has many paid attractions like climbing to the top of the belfry, seeing Michealangelos Madonna with Child (the only sculpture of his to ever leave Italy) and a Dali exhibition to name a few.
We were there on a Thursday and overall the town wasn’t too busy to get around and get decent photos without people crowding your shots. We may have been lucky though, as our host told us that Bruges is almost always super crowded, especially in the town square.
If you’re looking to just get away for a weekend it will be more than enough time to explore the town, enjoy all the food and drink and take in the cultural/historic sites. If you only have one day you may have to sacrifice a bit of beer quaffing time to see a few more things. As in many cities in the lowlands, there are bikes for hire to get around quicker as well as horse and carriage rides and canal boat tours. We usually prefer walking as its easier to stop for photos and to appreciate the sights, not to mention the extra calories it burns! Bruges is small enough to easily cover on foot though.
I know we ALWAYS mention beers in our posts but we can’t help trying them when we are in Europe- especially Begium! What are your favourite Belgian beers?