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Beer and Chocolate

November 23, 2010

As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of finding myself in a fairy tale. And one day this dream came true, even though I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and the fairy tale was not really a fairy tale but a beautiful town Brugge, also known as Bruges, located in the northwest of Belgium. This medieval town is a World Heritage Site of UNESCO and is often referred to as “The Venice of the North” because of a series of canals running through the city.

The walls and the canals of Brugge were created in the beginning of the 12th century, when the place obtained its city charter. They have stayed intact until today, giving Brugge its unique character. When I first found myself inside the town-fortress, I had this incredible feeling of jumping back in time. The only thing I was lacking was a medieval dame’s outfit.

The population of the historic center of Brugge is about 20,000 people, which is significantly fewer than the number of tourists coming here every year. My family and I lived outside of the historic center, but if you ever decide to explore Brugge, I would definitely recommend booking a room in one of the charming little guest houses scattered along the canals. Talking about buildings, they all look like decorations in the Cinderella book or a Christmas postcard. Designed in pastel and dessert colors, the buildings make Brugge especially charming.

While in Brugge, check out authentic medieval basilicas, cathedrals, the city hall and the courtyard. Also, explore the complex system of water canals in a gondola voyage. As an alternative, take a relaxing tour of the city in an antique horse carriage.

Now on to my favorite topic—food. I can’t say that Belgian cuisine can offer something really unique; a lot of dishes are based on game, potatoes and gravies. But the restaurants in Brugge are very interesting. They carry the spirit of old European taverns with deep soft armchairs, real fireplaces and old-fashioned ways of serving food in silver dishware. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a 16th century castle, in the middle of a chivalrous food fest after a successful hunt in the local woods.

But it was not the architecture, the nature or even the food that made my trip. It was freshly brewed Belgian beer and incredible chocolate truffles. In Brugge, there is a beer brewery on every corner. And every night my dad and I, both loyal beer lovers, would go out to explore local pubs (different ones every single night) to indulge ourselves with delicious wheat lagers and ales. Most of these pubs are located in the basements and are lit with real fire torches instead of electricity. Coffee shops that offer authentic Belgian truffles of all imaginable kinds of chocolate are also a common phenomenon in Brugge. But for me, the beer scores the most points.

After spending some days in Brugge, we went on to the Belgian capital—Brussels. I found the city too monumental and official, as it features many headquarters of prominent international and non-governmental organizations such as European Union and NATO, among others.  Anyway, excellent restaurants and shopping made up for the lack of architectural mastery.

Share with me if you’ve been to other exciting places in Belgium!

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