7. Bruges, Belgium

The city that kills calves

Bruges is a delightfully pretty city, and a thoroughly pleasant opening gambit to my world-conquering adventure.

Most places on my itinerary are there because there is something specific I want to see, whether it’s a ramble in the Alps, tiger-spotting in India, or the biggest statue of Buddha in the world. Bruges, however, is one of those rare exceptions that finds its place on my list because it’s just a generally really nice place to be.

The thing that makes Bruges (Brugge, to the natives) so pretty, and that has contributed to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the uniqueness of its buildings. Owing mainly to their age, every building, whether it’s a grand church in the centre of town, or a humble house in a quiet neighbourhood, looks different to every other building. Even when observing rows of houses on the same road, each one is pleasing to the eye in a way that differs from the ones either side. Throw in some very pretty little parks, a smattering of quaint shops, and a fooking enormous medieval bell tower on the main square, and you have a city that is a joy to do nothing more in than grabbing a camera, wandering round and getting lost in all day – which is exactly what I did.

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In fact, the generally relaxed ambience and variety of structures seem to be the main reason people come to visit – and dear lord do people come. Even on a Tuesday morning in early April, the centre of Bruges was laden with hoards of tourists striking silly poses on canal bridges and generally getting in my way. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like mingling with the constantly-open-mouthed masses, then I can only imagine what this experience would be like in the summer. Nevertheless, besides the aforementioned Belfort (it really is massive), there aren’t any singularly notable attractions here, so if you’re looking for an activities holiday, this might not be the ideal location for you.

If, however, you enjoy very pleasant strolls through very pleasant neighbourhoods, then this is right up your picture-postcard-beautiful alleyway. After somehow surviving damage in both world wars, and following significant restoration efforts in the last 50 years, Bruges’ historical, clean, relaxed atmosphere is well worth a visit, even if, like me, it’s only for a day.

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Bruges has provided an excellent start to my trip around the word, and now I’m even hungrier to see the rest of it. For now though, I need to lie down for a couple of hours, as my calves are far from happy with the amount of walking I’ve just done.

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Look! Mum! Flowers!

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This is a windmill. I’m not sure what else to put here.

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This is where I had lunch, luckily it was open.

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Sometimes it is the size that counts.

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For some reason there were a lot of chocolate shops.

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If you want to pay a man in a silly hat far too much money to give you a lift round the city centre while you take in the smell of horse shit, you can.

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The rather beautiful Minnewater Park.

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