Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bruges and Bikes and Museums

Bikes are everywhere in Bruges. In fact, our bed and breakfast, Bruges at Night, offers free bicycles to get around the city just like the locals. If you come here, try it. If I wasn't with a non- cycling spouse, I would although here few people wear helmets, which is a drawback. I am a great believer in always wearing a helmet. But you are as likely to be hit by a bike as by a car in Bruges. They are everywhere. Belgium has a strong bike culture and I think it's great. We need to find ways to promote cycling the same way in the U.S. And the cyclists are on the road with everyone else, not just in special bike lanes, at least in Bruges. There is a lot of signage to help but not a lot of special lanes and I think that makes Bruges stand out from somevother European cities in that regard.

Because Bruges is mainly a tourist city, a lot of tours are offered by bicycle, both within the city and to surrounding areas. You can buy a guidebook that is a whole bicycle tour, just as you can get walking tour guidebooks. You can tour Bruges by Bike during the day or, in July and August by night. You can take Pink Bear Bicycle Tours to Damme and the Polders, which gives you a ride to a nearby medieval town, or the Green Bike Tour that covers essentially the same area with a little more commentary. Or just rent a bike, get a map, and go off in your own. The area is flat and the riding is easy.

Today we went to the Gruuthuse Museum. I was disappointed that they did not have the whole house open and most of the material was showcasing other city museums. However we did get to see some of the rooms and the wooden beam decorations were wonderful. The kitchen was very impressive and there was a very nice fifteenth century chest. But the most impressive thing was the private chapel. In 1474 Gruuthuse was given permission to build a room that opened directly (through a window) to a view of the Church of the Holy Virgin. I had never seen anything like it. He could watch the services from the privacy of his own house. It was amazing to look down on the tombs if Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy that we had just seen the day before.

Then we went to the Hospital of St. John, which also houses the Memling Museum. Unfortunately the attics were closed but we did get the audio tour of the hospital, which had some interesting medieval documents and manuscripts, some good paintings, some not-so-good art, and then the Memlings, which are wonderful.

After all that we were tired and hungry so we found a nice French place for a salad lunch, followed by gelato, and then went off to another part of Bruges to see the Jerusalem Church built in the fifteenth century by the Adorne family, who were merchants originally from Genoa. They had come to Bruges in the thirteenth century. This was a pilgrimage church begun in 1427 and finished in the 1470s. Although small, it is a wonderful church with some very nice stained glass windows and the tombs of Anselm Adorne and his wife Margarete de Banke. There is also a lace museum and lace school there.

When we had finished at the church we stopped at a cafe near a park and had something to drink before coming back to Bruges at Night. Once we were back, we spent some planning our trip to Ghent tomorrow. If course the main thing is to see the van Eyck altarpiece. Then we went out for dinner. I had carbonnade, salad, and frites and more dark Belgian beer although I think two in one day is probably one too many. On the way we passed the church where Nemling is buried and the square with his statute. If we get back early enough tomorrow, we will try to visit the church.

On the way I saw someone on a motorscooter riding next to someone on a bike and they were having a compaionable ride and conversation. I don't think I have ever seen that in Champaign-Urbana. Definitely a different cultral attitude toward bicycling in Belgium.

No comments:

Post a Comment