Day 10 - Bruges

I wonder about the love you can't find
and I wonder about the loneliness that's mine
I wonder how much going have you got
and I wonder about your friends that are not
I wonder, I wonder, wonder I do

I Wonder - Sixto Rodriguez

I still haven't watched Searching for Sugar Man, the documentary about Sixto Rodriguez *sigh* Why was it not on the plane? I like in-flight entertainment. It often allows me to watch things that I wouldn't usually know on my own, for example on a flight from or to Japan, I watched this very interesting documentary about Herb and Dorothy Vogel. Then on my flight back to Singapore from this trip, I watched Dancer, a documentary about the ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin. I kinda remembered reading an article about him in CNN. Anyway, I'm digressing. Let's talk about my trip. How my vertigo, you ask? I wonder if you're really asking or I kinda just hope one would ask. Most probably you didn't ask, but let me tell you anyway. Well as of yesterday, I was still taking the meds because I still had the attack. It was horrible :( I'm hoping I don't have to take any today, we'll see.

Usually when I plan my trip, I like to schedule all the day trips first to leave me time to enjoy the city last. Unless I have quite a few days in that city, then I may spread the day trips a bit because usually they get really tiring. On the Amsterdam trip, I did all the day trips first and left exploring Amsterdam last. The first day trip I did was to Bruges in Belgium. I kinda know this city from Cloud Atlas (whose movie I actually really enjoyed by the way) and I think it was also mentioned by Casyrn when she was planning her Europe trip years ago. I'm not sure she made it though. So anyway, I had mix feeling about taking the day trip because the review talked about how the group was big and the bus wasn't comfortable and it was quite a long day. I did contemplate if I should do the trip on my own by train. However it's more expensive that way, so due to cost I stuck with the day tour. The travel agent office was packed and all the queuing and the many people didn't really make me excited about the trip. When I reached the bus, there were already many people. I managed to get a window seat, but then a lady sat next to me. The seat wasn't very spacious and I did start to get anxious if I was gonna hate the whole trip. I don't know if a couple thought the same and just left before we started or they managed to find seats in the upper deck, but next thing that happened was there were seats available and the lady who sat next to me moved to sit with her husband and I got to sit on my own. Well that really made me so much more relaxed :)

The ride was long, but since I was sitting alone, it was just fine. When we arrived, it was drizzling on and off. I actually packed an umbrella on this trip but that day I didn't bring it with me. I was thinking how stupid that was. My sweater coat has a hoodie and that kinda had to make do. The guide gave us an option to follow him a bit for a walking tour or we could just explore on our own. I think most of us decided to follow him. I don't know what to expect in Bruges, but from the first few things I saw, I kinda like it.

One of the first stop we made was to The Béguinage or Begijnhof Brugge. I learned something new this trip. I learned about beguines who basically I think are ladies who lived like nuns, but didn't take the oath. The Begijnhof is a compound where they used to live. I don't know if there's like a rule in making the compound but The Begijnhof I saw here and in Amsterdam are kinda the same. The houses are in the perimeter of the compound and in the middle of it there's a open green space like a garden and there's like only one or two small entrances in the perimeter to enter the compound. The houses in Bruges Begijnhof are painted white and I think there's a museum. I like the tranquil feeling in it. I didn't have the time to go back to visit it during my free time and I think it's kinda a shame.

After The Begijnhof, we actually broke for lunch and walking tour resumed after it. There were still quite a few of us following the guide. The sky was getting grayer and the weather made me get anxious and disappointed that it would be a rainy day throughout. Just look at this very cloudy picture of Rozenhoedkaai, a place which is often photographed in Bruges I think.

As we walked more with the guide, it started to rain :( I was getting concerned. We made it to the square and after taking some time taking shelter, the rain went into a manageable drizzle. The guide let us off there and we're free to explore on our own. Since it was still drizzling, I went to the nearby Basilica of the Holy Blood where I don't know for what purpose, there's a group of people who seemed to be practising for a parade of something. There's people playing musical instrument and people walking behind them singing.

I watched them for awhile and the drizzle stopped and the sky actually kinda cleared out as I was walking around. The sky was getting bluer when I walked pass a counter selling ticket for the canal cruise. I had googled about this beforehand and I did want to take it. From googling the ticket counter seemed to be somewhere else, but since I passed one by Rozenhoedkaai and the price was the same (8 euro), I thought why not. I didn't have to wait long and it was a really nice trip. I do recommend you doing this when you're in Bruges. It makes you realize how pretty and photogenic this city is. The unskillful me didn't take good pictures, but even from the ones I have, they're just beautiful. The boat ride is about 30-minute long and they took you around places which you may never walk on your own. I also think the view from the canal itself are quite different as compared to seeing it from the streets.

After that I still had time to walk on my own. Somehow I made it back to Basilica of the Holy Blood. I was only in the courtyard earlier when I saw those people practising. This time around I decided to go inside the church. The guide did talk about the presence of the Holy Blood of Jesus Christ in here (hence the name of the church), but as I often do, I didn't really pay much attention. So when I entered I didn't even remember that. It only dawned on me when I entered and it was quite a sombre serious atmosphere inside and I saw a few people queuing at one side of the altar. There weren't many people and I observed them awhile. One by one they went up the altar, they put a donation and they look at this glass case which was manned by an older priest and a younger one. I think that's the older priest's assistant. Some of them touched the case. I thought I was there, why not, though I did feel inadequate or perhaps unworthy. This would be a big deal for some Catholics or people with strong faith to Jesus. I have to admit that I felt kinda nervous and I tried not to make eye contact with the priests, lest they could see it that this was just a curiosity for me for rather than a faith affirming experience. Also since I felt unworthy, I didn't touch the glass case. Honestly, I would have liked to take my time and see the vial and blood thoroughly, but since people only took a short time, I didn't dare linger. Wikipedia has a picture of the vial, you can see it here. After that I went to the other altar to pray a bit, telling God how thankful I was for the opportunity and the protection in the trip. I think I was the last person to see that vial that day because when I prayed I heard the ringing of bells and when I finished praying I saw that the priests and the case were gone. So they show it to the public at specific time during the day and I was quite lucky to be there at the right time. Whether or not you believe that's really the blood of Jesus Christ, as my guide said, it's up to your faith and belief. You can't take pictures inside the church, so I have none.

After that the plan was to do some chocolate shopping. I didn't really google much about where I should go. There are many chocolate shops in Bruges and all are tempting (obviously!). I started with one just near the church. Got some for me and my landlady. Then I went to Leonidas which I have heard of. I have to say the chocolate prices were cheaper than the one in Switzerland. I got some for me and my parents. Then it was back to meeting the guide and the ride back to Amsterdam. It was really nice visit to Bruges. I'm thankful that the weather wasn't all bad and the sky cleared up that day. I enjoyed it more than I expected. The city is really charming and I actually like it a lot. For pictures of Bruges, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 8:33:00 PM •

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