Over the last weekend, I visited the historic city of Bruges, Belgium. It is filled with many attractions including: a Madonna and Child by Michelangelo (one of the few works by the Italian Renaissance master to escape Italy), the Hans Memling museum, the central place with its ornate guild halls, the short canal cruises and horse carriage rides, the excellent restaurants, and the tourists (oh, so many tourists).
But there are 3 somewhat unusal attractions that I highly recommend. They provide short respites from the crazy crowds that congregate in historic Bruges:
- Friet (frite or french fry) Museum: Belgium is rightly famous for its “double-fried” frites served with home-made mayonaise, mustard, or some variant, all in a paper cone. The fry museum presents a wonderful mix of historic facts and humorous tales that highlights not only the frite, but also the potato. (The latter is believed to have been imported to Europe from the highlands of Peru after the Spanish conquest.) You can argue with some of the nutritional information presented, but the museum is a great diversion from the Bruges mob scenes during the high tourist season. The highlight of the adventure through the museum is a video presentation of a man and woman making tuneful music on a specially-carved potato and a modified paper frite cone. (For a price, you can eat frites at a small kitchen in the basement of the museum.)
- 2be Bar: Belgium is also famous for its beer. And this bar is a great place to sample (or consume) the local beers. The entry to this bar contains a long wall displaying hundreds of Belgian and other beers. And the bar itself dispenses a wide variety of beers. I decided on a geuze (a mix of older and younger lambic beer that is served in a champagne-type bottle complete with cork) named Mariage Parfait. The date on the bottle was 2009 (I don’t have the slightest idea if that was a good year for beer). For me, the geuze had a dry, citrousy, almost sour taste. However, most describe geuze as having a cidery taste. Some patrons have complained because the bar doesn’t serve food, but I was able to get some excellent cheese and bread. Alternatively, you can purchase frites at a shop nearby.
- Barrel-Organ Man (his instrument is sort of like a large hurdy gurdy): In my travels around the world, I’ve seen all kinds of buskers (street hawkers and entertainers). But this guy is the best I’ve ever seen. He is great. He smiles, he tips his hat, he lets you play his barrel organ, and he dances with women in the crowd. He just seems to be having a great time. And you have a great time just watching him have a great time.
When in Bruges, don’t miss these three attractions. You won’t be sorry. And don’t miss seeing Bruges at night.