Saturday & Sunday, 13-06-2015 & 14-06-2015.
More Beer, More Chocolate, More Fries
After our few days in Amsterdam, it was time to move on. So on a drizzly Dutch morning, we packed up the car and started off for Bruges, Belgium—another UNESCO World Heritage Site which carries the name Historic Center of Brugge (there are many ways to spell Bruges).
Bruges, like many old European cities, is hard to drive in. The streets are twisting and typically wide enough for just one car and often only one way. So we parked the car as soon as we found a parking garage sort of near our hotel and lugged the suitcases through the cobblestone streets. After settling in to our room for a few minutes, we headed out to explore the city. We only had two days, so we wanted to see as much as we could.
Back when we were in Brussels, we visited the Use-It Shop, a little space in one of the city's malls that gave out free well-designed maps made by locals that are targeted toward young tourists. These hip maps cover a number of different European cities, many of which we'd already been to. But we did pick up their map of Bruges, and it came in pretty handy. That's how we learned about Retsin's Lucifernum, marked on the Use-It Bruge map as "Willy's Place."
Retsin's Lucifernum is a white building surrounded by scaffolding that was just around the corner from our hotel. At one point, this building was a Freemason temple, but now it's an art space sometime cocktail bar/hangout owned by one Willy Retsin, some sort of eccentric artist. Even thought the building looks like it's under construction, but it's not—the scaffolding is part of the art, and once a week on Sundays from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Willy opens his home to visitors. We didn't go (even though we were there on a Sunday) because it didn't really fit into our timetable (and we didn't have nice enough clothes).
The Blood of Christ
But we did get to see a vial containing the Blood of Jesus Christ. Just down the street and around the corner from Retsin's is a little city square they call Burg, and in this busy tourist square stands the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a small but functioning church above the Chapel of St. Basil that holds a vial of the Blood of Jesus Christ.
As the story goes, the Blood was collected by Joseph of Arimathea (they guy who gave up his tomb so Jesus could be burired there) after Christ died on the Cross. I have no idea what happened to it until 1150 or so when Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders, brought a vial of the Holy Blood back to Bruge after his foray in the Middle East during the Second Crusades. And here it's remained since.
Seeing the blood is free as long as there is no ceremony taking place (check www.holyblood.com, the official website for available times [it's in Dutch]). There's also a small museum that costs €2 (per person) to visit and has some neat illuminated manuscripts on display as well as an intricately carved wooden Holy Relic Holder where the Blood was safely kept when it was taken out on processions around the city.
Cathedral in Crowne Plaza Hotel
Speaking of churches, just down the street from Burg in the basement of the Crowne Plaza hotel the foundations of the first ever cathedral in Bruges.
They use it as a conference space and, prodived there's no conference going on, you can check it our for free—all you have to do is ask to to see their basement.
Waterloo (The Battle and the Beer)
We just so happened to be visiting Belgium right near the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). That's when the Duke of Wellington put a stop to Napoleon's Hundred Days and restored the French Monarchy under Louis XVIII.
There were all sorts of Waterloo-themed events happening in Belgium around this time, but we missed most of them by about a week. We did have a chance to try The Beer of Bravery brewed by Anthony Martin in two varieties, the Triple Blond and the Strong Dark.
We also met up with some old friends of ours who just so happened to be in Belgium at the same time we were. It was good to see people from back home, and we spent the better part of a day hanging out, drinking beer, eating fries, trying chocolate, and seeing the sights before we sadly parted company.
This entry covers days 297 & 298. Header image: Bruges Belfry, Markt.