Because of it’s location, many locals spoke both English and Dutch. Apparently, in English the city is spelled Bruges, but the natives use the Dutch version of Brugge, and this confusing differential was the first thing I noticed. Then I fell in love with the amazing river-side landscape. Having grown up around lakes and oceans, I love a city with greenery and water. The train station was just a short walk from my hotel towards the town center, so crossing the bridge over a small river through town was a nice welcome. After checking in, that night, I headed to the main city square, also known as Jack van Eyck Square, for a lovely dinner al-fresco and just watched the people for a while. I was able to get a great feel for the city that made me excited to explore.
The next day, I headed back to the square and toured the Historium Museum. This interactive museum had a few different rooms that were each decorated to look incredibly realistic to the time in which the story is set, using headset to guide you through medieval Brugge and the story of Jan Van Eyck using video projection. While it was just that, a story, I left the museum actually having learned about Brugge in a way that was entertaining.
After the museum, I was wandering down the streets and found a sign that was explaining many of the buildings in front of me. This part of the city was developed in the 1200s when the area became a thriving port. To my right was a medieval house called De Rode Steen, which translates to The Red Brick, which was the first building restored in the late 1800s with city funding. In front of me were a row of buildings; the central white one with a red door was the Toll House which was one of the oldest existing brick buildings that used to be where tolls on imported goods were paid, and the narrow building with the red door was Pijndershuisje, which was the meeting place of dock workers. Finally, to my left was the Poortersloge, originally where rich burghers gathered, then it became a meeting place for the Company of the White Bear, a jousting association, before becoming an art academy and museum in the 18th century. I’ve captioned the pictures below with their names. Down the street a bit more was Woensdagmarkt, one of the last two buildings with authentic wooden facades. Beginning in the 17th century, it was prohibited to build wooden facades and the existing ones were torn down for obvious fire hazards, but this and one other were left for historical purposes. I could have wandered this city for a few more days, just taking it in, but besides what I saw, there wasn’t much else unless you wanted to take little day trips to nearby cities.