Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bruges On Foot ...

Yesterday, a New Zealand friend and I braved freezing cold temperatures to travel from Antwerp to Bruges ... otherwise known as the Venice of the North It's a stunningly well-preserved medieval city, with canals and quaint buildings; horse-drawn carriages, an abundance of lacework, and shops full of Belgian chocolates. Back in 1127, Bruges merchants began monopolising the import of English wool via the river-to-sea link provided by Zwin River,and by the 14th century Bruges was experiencing its very own Golden Age. For a time, it was the most important trading centre in Northern Europe however, all good things seem to end, and as the river silted up Antwerp began to take over as 'the' port. By 1845, at least half the population of Bruges was forced to beg to survive, and over 10,000 women tried to live by selling the now famous bobbin-lace ... it's as the lace salesmen explained; lace-making is an art that was born out of poverty.
The beauty of this new European life of mine, is the way that I can jump on a train and be somewhere incredible very quickly. New Zealand is a 23 hour flight from many countries, so I'm not sure that the novelty of Paris in two hours will wear off any time soon - not that I've been there yet, I'm still waiting for paperwork and permission to work.

Bruges was a 12euro trip and only took an hour and twenty minutes - we were lucky and got the weekend ticket price in this time between Christmas and New Year. Amsterdam is close, and Rozanna had simply popped over from London on the train. We walked all over Bruges but had to stop often as it was icy cold, and although I was wearing my thermal undershirt I had reasoned that, as a Kiwi, I was used to extreme weather and wouldn't need my longjohns ... I really really needed my longjohns.

The hat, the gloves, the polar fleece and the heavy black coat were almost enough, but perhaps Istanbul-living has softened me. My legs were so cold that I might have mentioned them once or twice however ... we did discover that the pubs and cafes of Bruges are more than happy to revive the frozen traveller ... we survived.

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