Tag Archive | Bruges

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Work of Art

As a quilt maker I am always drawn to works of art crafted with textiles and threads. Many community groups create beautiful pieces which tell the stories of their towns and cities, both past and present.

Buckler’s Hard, in the New Forest in Hampshire, England, was a major centre for ship building in the 18th century. At St Mary’s Chapel the altar cloth, designed and stitched by Belinda, Lady Montagu, features the Tree of Life, representing the timber used in ship building. Around the border are the names of the ships constructed on the Beaulieu River, including three which took part in the Battle of Trafalgar – Agamemnon, Swiftshure and Euryalus.

alter cloth

This delicate yet detailed piece hangs at Fishbourne Roman Palace, in West Sussex, England. It is a map of the village of Fishbourne and was created to celebrate the millennium.

Fishbourne wall hanging 2000

Bruges is famous for its lace makers and one of the most intricate pieces of lace is this map of the city, created in 2008. It shows the museums, churches and streets of the old town and stands on the bank of one of Bruges’ canals.


I’m inspired to get out my needle and thread each time I see works of art like these.


I’ve written about some more beautiful textile creations in these posts.

 Weekly Photo Challenge – Love

Weekly Photo Challenge – The Hue of You

A Stitch In Time  – Weekly Photo Challenge – Delicate



Let’s Go Shopping

Bruges is a city of contrasts. Medieval buildings and cobbled laneways sit alongside busy tourist attractions and lively markets. Cars and buses squeeze past horse-drawn carriages in the narrow streets. Shops are filled with traditional lacework and divinely decadent chocolates while a few steps away stalls sell Belgian frites and waffles. The blend of old and new is seamless.


Walk through the door of the Volkskundemuseum in Baalstraat and suddenly you’ve travelled backwards in time for a unique shopping experience. Inside this row of 17th century almshouses is a collection of olden day shops; their stories told in life-sized dioramas.

The milliner’s shop has the latest fashionable hats, created to match a new dress purchased from the dressmaker, while for men the tailor can craft a new suit in just a few days.




No outfit would be complete without a pair of bespoke shoes handmade by the local cobbler.



At the grocer’s there’s a wide range of food on display while the confectionery store is a magnet for those with a sweet tooth.



And if too many chocolates have been eaten, the apothecary can help with the necessary medicine.


At the Black Cat Tavern one of Bruge’s famous beers might be stored in barrels just like this one.



At the end of a busy shopping day refreshments might just be the best purchase of all!

Bruges by Night

More than 120 000 people call the city of Bruges home and another 3 million visit every year. During the day the atmosphere in the central area around the Markt and its surrounding streets is vibrant, and the shops and cafés hum with activity.



In the evening, after the day-trippers leave, the streets are practically empty. The medieval buildings light up and the carillon in the Belfry continues to play into the night.

It’s simply magical.


Enjoying the Quiet

In medieval times the town of Damme was a bustling port on the river Reie. It was connected to the city of Bruges, six kilometres away, by the river and it was to here that boats would come laden with exotic goods.


Because of Damme’s strategic position as a major trading post, a protective system of ramparts, walls and moats in the shape of a seven pointed star was built in the early 1600s. Unexpected guests were not encouraged.


Luckily today visitors are very welcome and, like us, many come for a day trip by paddle boat from Bruges. The day we went to Damme though we seemed to be the only visitors there and the serenity was a welcome change from the clamour and crush of tourists in Bruges.


The only person there to greet us was Jacob Van Maerlant, a medieval poet known as the father of all Dutch writers, whose most important works were created in Damme. From his plinth in the centre of the tiny markt he smiled down on us as if to say “Welcome”.


We wandered the empty streets and explored the remains of the ancient fortifications.



We ate our lunch next to a medieval water pump in the centre of the Herring Market. In the 15th century 28 million herrings were sold here every year. In the quiet of this day we could hardly imagine how hectic the market must have been.




After several hours of peaceful exploration we boarded the Lamme Goedzak again. We had just one more half hour of serenity before we would re-join the throng of travellers in the Markt once more.



Taking the Slow Road

When travelling in Europe it’s possible to get from one place to the next in a very short time. There are planes, ICE trains and fast ferries. But once we’ve arrived at our destination we like to enjoy our surroundings at a much slower pace.


The canal system around Bruges is perfect for slow travelling. When trading was in its heyday in the 16th century the canals were filled with barges and merchant ships. Now they’ve been replaced by boats full of admiring tourists; and during the day it seems as busy as ever. So we plan our escape to a more peaceful destination.


The tiny village of Damme is a mere six kilometres from Bruges but it may as well be a world away. To get from Bruges to Damme there is a perfectly good road and also a cycle and walking path that follows the canal bank. We decide to take the most relaxing way and buy €10.50 round trip tickets for the paddle boat Lamme Goedzak.



The 35 minute journey gives us the time to appreciate the beautiful scenery on either side of the canal as we sail along. Lush farmland and pretty cottages are interspersed with woodlands and windmills.



There’s the occasional waterbird and plenty of contented farm animals in the fields.


As we pass by, we wave to those on the path who are more energetic than we are.



When the boat arrives at Damme and ties up at the tiny wharf, we will stroll into the Markt along a cobbled street past ancient buildings.



At the end of the day we’ll return to bustling Bruges … and we’ll sit back, relax and let the boat captain do all the work.



Belgium Is Famous For…#1 Lace

When I told my friends we were going to holiday in Belgium the most frequent comments they made were: “Make sure you buy some lace/drink some beer/eat some chocolate.” I couldn’t ignore these instructions and needed no encouragement to indulge in all three.

Belgian lace is world renowned and has been made since the 15th century. In Bruges there are lace shops on every street, with window displays showcasing everything from simple bookmarks to elaborate tablecloths. The workmanship is beautiful.


The Volkskundemuseum, or Folklore Museum, in Baalstraat, Bruges has an exquisite antique lace collection and some of the pieces are more than 200 years old.


Climb the stairs to the exhibition room in the attic to see delicate collars, mantles and shawls displayed in glass cases at low light levels.



It’s not even necessary to imagine how these garments were worn as there are also paintings showing the wealthy citizens of Bruges dressed in all their finery.



The finest Belgian lace is still made by hand. Look carefully in the doorways as you walk through the streets of Bruges and you might just see the next beautiful piece being created.


Hear The Bells

You don’t need to wear a watch when you’re in Bruges – every quarter hour the bells of the carillon in the Belfry ring out over the city, signalling the passage of time as they have done for centuries.


The Belfry is a medieval bell tower, first built in 1240. At 83 metres it dominates the skyline of the Markt. Climb 366 narrow, winding steps to the panorama viewing platform and you will be rewarded with expansive views of the city and the lush countryside surrounding it.



The Belfry houses the carillon, a set of 47 bells dating from 1741. The bells of the carillon are usually played by a clockwork mechanism and an enormous cylindrical drum just like the ones in children’s music boxes. For weekly concerts and special occasions however, the carillonneur plays a keyboard with both fists and feet, although the music he creates sounds so light and delicate.



It’s the bells that many tourists come to hear and a twilight performance on a chilly autumnal evening is a magical experience.


PS Note to self – don’t turn the camera when recording!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Community

As part of European Car Free Day celebrations September 15th was Car Free Sunday in Bruges this year. From 10 am to 6 pm the cars were replaced by markets, performers, bands and dance groups. The streets were filled with people  wandering freely and enjoying the party atmosphere. Even the city museums had free entry for the day, which was an unexpected bonus for tourists.








Master Painter

Not far from the centre of Bruges is one of many small squares bordered by medieval buildings and a canal.


Overlooking the square is the statue of a painter, holding the tools of his trade while gazing thoughtfully into the distance.


This is Jan van Eyck, the most famous Flemish painter of the early 15th century. He lived in Bruges from 1425 until his death in 1441 and in that time he completed many beautiful works. One of his surviving paintings, Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele dates from 1436 and is in the Flemish Primitives collection of the Groeninge Museum in Bruges.


It depicts the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, St Donatian on her left and St George on her right. Canon Joris van der Paele, shown kneeling devoutly in prayer, commissioned the painting to show his devotion to God and the Church.The richness of the colours and the finely worked details are testament to van Eyck’s mastery of painting in oils.


There is another way to learn about Jan van Eyck, his painting and the medieval city in which he lived. The Historium, in the Markt, is a tourist attraction with a difference.


Visitors become virtual time travellers as they experience medieval Bruges through a light and sound show created with digital special effects, film and music. The story itself, about an apprentice given the job of escorting the young woman who is to model as the Virgin Mary for van Eyck, is fictional; the painting and its cast of characters around whom the story is based are certainly real.


When in Bruges, visit both The Historium and the Groeninge Museum – the story of Jan van Eyck’s magnificent masterpiece is worth hearing twice.