Friday 11th September
Ever since watching the film ‘In Bruges’, in which Bruges is described as being ‘like a f******* fairytale’ I have wanted to go there. I don’t think that I’m alone in this: a Belgian we met in the French Alps told us that the film had done a lot for the city’s tourism.
I can confirm that Bruges is like a f****** fairytale.
Our first stop was the famous bell tower, which dominates the main square.
It’s a bit odd-looking as it was built in stages.
At the top of this tower is a 47 bell carillon. A carillon is one of these things in case you don’t know (I didn’t).
At quite frequent intervals (maybe every half hour?) this carillon plays a different pretty little tune, which can be heard all through the centre of Bruges. We got to listen to the carillon all day, and it does create a very jolly and magical sort of atmosphere.
Here’s some views from the top of the tower (funnily enough, because the windows at the top of the tower were latticed, we got better views on camera than we saw ourselves).
At the bottom of the tower was an art display about male ballerinas. I know that it’s not nice to mock somebody’s efforts, especially online… but… this very serious art display was maybe a little bit amusing.
It focussed on four ballerinas, and had them dressed up in various costumes, showing off their many talents.
It was great.
After this, we wandered around a bit.
Then went to see a Body Works display which happened to be in Bruges. This concept was created by the German doctor who did the live dissections of people and animals on Channel 4 a few years ago. This guy.
He created a special technique which enables a cadaver to be “plasticised”, allowing it to be shaped and preserved. Body Works displays totally stunning anatomical models in imaginative scenes, with their bodies cut apart to show certain muscle groups, bones, nerves or organs. All the models are (or were) real people. The display made rather a point of letting you know that all the people featured gave their permission!
It didn’t allow photos, which is a pity, because it was absolutely amazing! I would never normally go to a museum or art gallery and read every single piece of information and stare intently at every thing on display, but here I did.
The exhibition focussed a lot on how to live a healthy lifestyle. It showed healthy and diseased organs, as well as explaining how various bits of the body worked.
Afterwards Eric said that looking at all that meat had made him feel hungry (what’s wrong with him??). So we had lunch.
Then we had a walk around a market full of useless tat, which is exactly the kind of market that I like.
Though Eric was being very stingy, and eventually gave his approval to a purchase of a 2.50 euro Christmas decoration. Long gone are the days when we were splashing out hundreds on leather jackets in Florence!
It was then chocolate time. There are a lot of chocolate shops in Bruges, all with window displays that Pavlov would surely have approved of.
Some chocolate boobs. Felt quite embarrassed taking this picture, but did it For The Blog (and now we all reap the reward).
Here’s Eric with his chocolate spanner.
I made a poor choice. I picked a cone of chocolate-dipped strawberries for 4 euros. As I was paying, I tipped the cone too much and one of my four strawberries (bit of a rip off) fell out and rolled under the counter. I was really hoping that the lady behind the till would take pity and give me another one, but she cheerfully suggested that I look for it and said “five second rule!” Dammit.
The result was that I insisted on buying some more chocolate. Eric rolled his eyes, but then ate his half like a good sport.
Saturday 12th September
Yesterday, cadavers, and today… the Torture Museum!
People did some extremely grim stuff to each other. I am going to describe some of the things we learned (because it is morbidly fascinating) but… skip if you don’t want to know.
This painting depicts a real event, in which a corrupt judge was skinned alive. His skin was then draped over his old chair, which the new judge (who was his son) was forced to sit on.
His son is looking understandably queasy.
I mean… WHAT THE HELL?
A brass bull. The unfortunate person went into the hatch. A fire was lit underneath the bull, and the person was slowly roasted alive, while his or her screams were amplified by the bull… which apparently sounded like the bull was snorting. Nice.
There were all sorts of other grim knives, whips and saws. I could really see how the guillotine was considered “humane” after seeing this museum. I also left feeling grateful to be born now and not a few centuries ago, when life was so unaccountably grim and violent.
“Torture should ever be allowed”… someone then added an “n” in front of the word “ever”, to turn it into the word it was intended to be (“never”). Hmm. What kind of people would set up a torture museum anyway?
Then we had lunch.
There weren’t any of his really famous works at this gallery, but rather lots of sketches and paintings that he did to depict poetry or stories that he was interested in/presumably paid a lot of money to illustrate. It was interesting to see this lesser known side of his artwork.
I want to mention something that you probably wouldn’t find in the Bruges guidebooks. For the two days we were here, Bruges occasionally smelled bad. Really bad. Like sewage. This smell came on in wafts which lasted 30 seconds or so (most of the time it did smell fine). I think maybe it was the stagnant water of the canal or some drains, though we spent some time joking about the full Bruges experience including ‘authentic Belgian pooh’.
Despite the mysterious yet unavoidable wafts of poop, Bruges was probably my favourite city. It has all the things I like: it’s beautiful, has interesting art and history, shops full of eclectic junk and is stuffed to the brim with chocolate. Plus, you can basically have a good time just wandering around. Bruges, you’re alright.