When I look back through my holiday photos from Bruges, it’s hard not to think that everyone looks like they’re about to burst into tears. Personally, I don’t blame them.
Visiting Bruges was probably one of the wettest, greyest and coldest experiences I’ve ever had whilst abroad. There are a few places that rank on my list of Tragic Trips (a future, equally tragic blog post perhaps?), but Bruges definitely scores highly.
It wasn’t just rain, it was torrential rain. Rain which just didn’t give a damn that I was supposed to be on holiday and enjoying myself. It thought it would be funny to start just as I got off the train, and even more hilarious to stop right as I stepped back on the train.
As a result, a lot of my pictures make Bruges look a fairytale vampire village which is completely uninhabited because everyone has been eaten.
Not the most conventional way to describe Bruges, but I guess it’s nice to see this side of the city as well. Although, maybe I would say that now, sitting in a warm, cosy room. Soaked to the bone, shivering, and looking over my shoulder for vampires, it didn’t seem that way.
Probably the saddest boat trip you’ll ever see.
Nevertheless, Bruges’ charm did still ooze through the weather. The chocolate shops were gorgeous, as were the quaint little squares teeming with bikes and cafe tables. There are some lovely canals that drift through the city centre, and some dreamy gardens which I could have quite happily have sat in on a (much) sunnier day. The frustration was not being able to appreciate Bruges in its full glory on the one occasion I had to visit it, a frustration I’m sure many a traveller has had all over the world.
But, whilst sunshine and warm weather would have been ideal, the muted, wet colours and tranquility left from the rain were actually mysteriously beautiful in their own surreal, vampire-village way. The lack of people added to the peace, meaning I suddenly paid more attention to small sounds like church bells and bikes whizzing along cobblestones.
I also had an excellent map which saved the day on several particularly cold occasions throughout the trip. It was produced by a European organisation called USE-IT, which helps volunteers create maps of their home cities. They’re full of little gems of local knowledge – the best places to eat, drink, shop, hang out, even kiss! They tell you which tourist attractions to skip, or which local spots are even better. I always try to get hold of one for the places I visit, and new maps are constantly being added. I would highly, highly recommend them, and you can find all their current maps here.
So, overall, a beautiful medieval city which managed to retain a huge amount of charm even in the worst of conditions. I can only imagine how amazing it must be in the sunshine. Maybe second time lucky…
Disclaimer: I am not accusing the inhabitants of Bruges of being vampires, they were actually very friendly and not averse to garlic at all.