I'll save a thousand words and provide some pictures.
The second two pictures were taken on day four. Unfortunately, days one and two the weather was pretty horrible, with wind and rain. Tim and Michael had to get to the train station in a downpour but as we didn't hear from them, we're guessing they made it out on time.
Since the weather was bad, indoor activities were called for and we visited the Groeningemuseum, which houses a large collection of the "Flemish Primitives." They were anything but; primitive, that is. The most prominent, Jan Van Eyck is considered the artist who created oil painting. We saw the famous "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" while we were in Ghent and were able to see several other of his works, as well as those by Rogier Van der Weyden and Hans Memling. They lived between the late 1300's and the early 1500's, at the height of Brugges' wealth and influence. Their attention to detail is amazing. We especially noticed the beauty of their depiction of cloth. Then we learned that the foundation for Flanders early wealth (and they were tremendously wealthy) was the cloth trade, and it became a little more clear.
From our Lonely Planet guidebook:
"When Philip the Fair, King of France, visited Brugge in 1302, his wife, Joanna of Navarre, was so surprised by the inhabitants' wealth and luxurious clothes that she purportedly claimed: 'I thought I alone was queen, but I see that I have 600 rivals here'."
Unfortunately, the waterway that allowed the wool trade from London to reach Brugge silted up in the mid 1500's and the city's wealth moved to Antwerp. Brugge's long slumber began. In the mid 1800's tourists discovered Brugge beauty still intact and it has become a popular destination since then. Very popular. The place was crawling with 'em. We thought we'd seen lots of tourists in Ghent but Brugge has more. Luckily it still stays light until about 11 pm so an after dinner walk can usually be taken without having to shoulder through crowds.
And the light is great.
Day three began to clear and, although there were some heavy thunderstorms about, we decided to make a quick bike trip up through the village of Damme to the North Sea coast at the port of Zeebrugge. We got a good look at the way the Belgians spend their summer at the beach.
or maybe like this.
Returning from the coast it was clearing up and we could see the tower in Damme across the wheat fields.
The dock where we tied up while in town is a section of the canal that cuts through town but has been closed off. For those of you who remember your French, it's name, Coupure, will mean something. The rest of you will have to dust off your French dictionaries. (Oh, okay. Coupure is French for cut.)
Brugges is beautiful. It is also crammed with tourists. And churches, of course. We took a short break from some of wacky "cultural" events we've witnessed to take in some real cultcha, The London Pro Arte Choir at the Church of Our Lady.
But we couldn't miss the "country" music performance at the Brug Square the night before we left.
Sunday the bridges and locks are on a shorter schedule so at 10 am we were underway for the coast at Oostend. Unfortunately, Brugge just wouldn't let us leave and we didn't actually clear the city until about 12:45. Next stop is a loop taking in the North Sea coast, some famous breweries and Ypres and it's WWI battlefields.