This weekend, I made a pretty spontaneous decision and went to Bruges! Being in the Netherlands, I am surrounded by beautiful cities and countries, all a short train ride away. Or, in the case of getting to Belgium cheaply with 2 days notice, 4 short train rides away. On Friday, I finished classes at 3PM, headed to the train station, and by 4 o’clock I was on my way! After three train transfers, one missed connection, and a lot of music, I finally arrived in Bruges, and began my wandering. I had booked a hostel in the city center and decided to slowly explore the city, looking for food along the way. I saw the city by night, found a cute brasserie to order some food, and tried to take in the picturesque streets. Immediately, I noticed that the city while beautiful, is an extreme tourist trap and is so so expensive, and that I had packed too much into my backpack and my shoulders were already aching!
Exhausted from my day of classes and travel, I made my way to my hostel, and entered a lively scene of young people from across the globe drinking and talking, and was pushed into a conversation with two 20 somethings from the UK and a man from Australia while we took part in a Belgian beer tasting. By the time I went to bed, I had exchanged information with the pair from the UK, and we agreed that we might find each other the next day.
I woke up in the hostel, was relieved to find all of my stuff save and exactly where id left them, and headed off for the day. I decided to carry all of my things with me rather than leave them in my room which ended up being tough, but I made do. I found a cute cafe, got a delicious tea and soft boiled egg and did some school work before heading off to adventure. Immediately after I left the cafe, I ran into James and Ester in the city square (Bruges is small!!!) and began my day with them. We walked all around the city (8 miles to be exact), visited churches, markets, chocolate shops, and walked along the canal. We joined in a marching band parade at one point, waving to everyone watching from the streets, and even found an old church that is being revamped as a community center/art space that has a beautiful swing in the middle of it. I had no idea that exploring a city with two strangers could be so incredible, but it really made the trip special.
On Sunday, I woke up and truly went off alone. Again, I found a cafe and read, and then decided to tackle the Bruges Belfry, which can be climbed to show views across the city and beyond. While waiting in line to simply enter the Belfry (for an hour!) I met a lovely Australian couple who helped me recreate this photo of my mom that she took 18 years ago when she, my dad, and my grandfather came to Bruges with me in tow, and heard all about this couple’s life in retirement. Once we got in, and climbed the 366 steps (between 20 and 30 flights of stairs), the view was incredible, my back was exhausted, and my knees were close to buckling, so I climbed back down, got a waffle, and people watched, which is very interesting there, as tourists make up the majority of the population, or so it seems.
Once I had recovered, I had 2 hours before my train, so I went to the famous brewery in Bruges and tried a belgian beer, and then meandered my way towards the train station. I stopped along the way to get some ice cream from a little cart in this beautiful park, and watched the ducks, which I apparently loved doing when I visited 18 years ago. I got on my train, and eventually back to Utrecht with no issues, and can’t wait for my next adventure while I am on this program.