You caught me... the picture above is actually of the Antwerp train station, not Bruges, but it was too beautiful to pass up!
Oh, Bruges, Belgium. The next stop on our Christmas Tour began on December 26, and there was definitely an odd quiet getting off the bus from the train station. We weren't used to it after the hustle and/or bustle that is Amsterdam. In fact, Garrett and I were calling it "little Amsterdam" at one point because of it's similar yet smaller scaled canal system.
Garrett, Ali and I packed a lot into this little mini-stop considering we only had one full day to explore. However, it was totally do-able and any more days than that and we might have become bored. If anyone reading this is considering a trip to Bruges, 1-2 days max, people. You can walk end to end in about 20 minutes.
We arrived into Bruges in the afternoon of the 26th, so after quickly checking into our hostel we decided to explore the area around our hostel in search of some food. We stumbled across some humongous (I've never typed that word before... it looks funny) windmills and posed in front of them -- I save those type of pictures for facebook, haha. We were feeling pretty Belgian. It only took us maybe 5 minutes to explore the immediate area, and there was no food in site. Cute neighborhoods, and a quaint church (to European standards anyway), but no food. So we headed towards the center of town and found ourselves, where else, but a Christmas Market. It was pretty happenin' considering the ghost-town vibe of the rest of town, so we stopped there for food. I had myself a foot-long sausage smothered in onions and spicy mustard. I don't want to diss on my homie Germany, but it rivaled my favorite bratwurst stand... Good one Belgium. We also found a little grocery store and I bought some Belgium chocolate (had to!) to take home. Oh yeah, and then I may have gone back to the Christmas Market for a Belgian waffle. Don't judge, I'm on vacation! We ended the night by relaxing at the hostel restaurant which was actually more like a nice pub, and with our meal the hostel gave us a coupon for free beer tastings! That was the night I tasted the best beer I've ever had in my entire life. The dark, blonde, and cherry beer were all orgasmic. Seriously. I'll never go back to Keystone again.
The next day was our full day so we intended to hit all the major sites. One of our favorite things about Belgium was that all the museums were crazy cheap, at least in comparison to Amsterdam. We saw an old creepy church (pictured above) that had a "recreation of Jesus' tomb". It was more like a claustrophobic closet of death, so I just stayed outside of it and took pictures of Garrett and Ali going in. No death closets for me. In the same museum that included the church there was a lace museum because Bruges is known for it's lace-makers. It was beautiful, and I'm a little bummed we didn't make it back in time for the afternoon demonstration on lace-making! We also went to a museum of Flemish art that included incredibly realistic paintings, and a few modern abstract ones. We went back to the Christmas Market for lunch, and then it was time to climb the crooked Belfry. No, the picture above is not an illusion, and it's not my unsteady hand (known to ruin other pictures). It really is crooked, and it was a main feature in the movie In Bruges if you've seen it. It had near 400 steps and the staircase was only big enough for one-way traffic. If someone was coming down, we'd have to press ourselves up against the wall of the spiral staircase tower and endure some awkward brushing. But in the end it was all worth it when we happened to be at the top during the ringing of the bells, and we got a complete view of Bruges; It was breathtaking.
Our last stop of the day was at a family owned brewery that was recommended by locals. For 6 euro you get a tour of the brewery and see the beer-making process. At the end you're treated with a free blonde beer.. and again, Belgian beer, SO delicious. It can make a beer-leiver out of anyone (yeah, I just made that bad joke). However, moving on, the night was not quite over yet! We searched and searched and finally found a cheapish place to get fries to go. We couldn't leave Belgium without having Belgian fries to rival the San Luis Obispo, CA cult-favorite snack stand Bel-Frites. While Bel-Frites is good, I think they're over-thinking it. The real Belgian french fries are all about SAUCE. My personal favorites are the garlic and hollandaise, but there were so many to choose from that I didn't get to try them all.
Bruges was a compact, historical gem. Definitely recommended by me.
Where was next? ...