When most people think of Belgium they probably think of three things: waffles, chocolate and beer. It’s true, food is what the Belgians are best known for. Take a walk through the medieval streets and you will see chocolatiers, their creations deliciously displayed in the windows; waffle stands with berries, ice cream and Nutella for toppings; pubs carrying a taste of some of Belgians 800 plus brews on tap.
The Belgians take pride in the things that define them. The cherished symbol of the people, and their most defining icon, is the Mannekin Pis (Peeing Boy). The boy stands two feet tall and pees into a pool blocked off by a gate. He was built in the early 17th century and has been kidnapped multiple times. The people dress the boy for special occasions and holidays with a wardrobe of over 900 outfits.
Belgium may have its quirks but there is a feeling of calm and peace. In the Flemish city of Brugge (Bruges) this feeling is amplified. Bruges is a town pulled directly out of the old fairy tales.
Canals thread through the city with ancient stone bridges arching over top. Wild swans float on the water and nestle in the grass. The city center itself is so small, it’s streets so narrow, most of the traffic is made up of cyclists and pedestrians.
Amidst the quaintness of the city is a darker undertone. The medieval architecture lends a slightly sinister, eerie sense to the place. The Roman Catholic Basilica of the Holy Blood, lit inside only by small candles, has a vial mounted on the wall believed to contain drops of Jesus’ blood.
If you want a taste of this dark side of Bruges the only thing you need is the movie, In Bruges. Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes the film follows two hitmen sent to Bruges to hide out.
The film will take you down the the city’s canals in a riverboat, up the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry bell tower, and into the pubs serving up local brews.
To enhance the experience grab some Godiva to fix the movie-watching munchies or try one of these beers available locally:
Blue Moon- Belgian White
New Belgium- Abbey
Hoegaarden- Original White Ale
Monday Night Brewing- Fu Manbrew