Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bruges - Flanders

Walking around the beautifully preserved city of Bruges (Brugge) is like taking a step back in time. Bruges seems to have changed little from its 13th-century origins as a cloth-manufacturing town. In the Middle Ages, Bruges was among the wealthiest cities of Europe, evidenced by the elaborate and distinctive architectural treasures that remain from that time. UNESCO has recognized the cultural importance of the historic center by awarding it World Heritage status in 2000, and Bruges was a 2002 European Capital of Culture.

Photos below - Bruges Town Hall (top) and its spectacular interior (bottom):

About an hour north of Brussels by train or car, the Dutch-speaking city is the capital of West-Vlaanderen (West Flanders) province and the pride and joy of all Flanders citizens. Around four million visitors a year descend on the city of 115,000 residents.

Medieval Gothic architecture is the big deal that Bruges provides, in quantities that come near to numbing the senses. In addition, its scenic canals and reputation as a lace-making center add icing to the cake that is one of the wonders of Europe.

The main sights of Bruges are concentrated within a fairly small area, making the city easy to explore on foot. Highlights include the 272-foot tall 15th-century Bell Tower (with a clock and 47-bell carillon), that offers stunning views over the city and surrounding countryside. The architecture of the adjacent Market and Burg Squares is spectacular, most notably the City Hall dating from 1376. Its gothic council chamber on the building’s first floor is open to the public, and features distinctive wooden ceilings decorated with gilded medieval carvings. Various other sites offer daily lace- and chocolate-making demonstrations.

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