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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Bruges (again)



Our hosts and friends Barbara and Jeff, having been to Bruges before, decided to return to Leuven early, so my family and I had the morning and afternoon to ourselves to explore the historic town:


We began the day by taking a boat on a half-hour trip around some of Bruges' canals (WARNING: photo overload ahead):











Back on dry land, we next headed over to the nearby Groeninge Museum, the town's most famous art gallery, specializing in Flemish works of art ranging from Flemish Primitive and Renaissance up to surrealism and Flemish Expressionism. I certainly took advantage of the the museum's policy allowing non-flash photography:


The Virgin and Child with Canon Joris van der Paele (1436), by Jan van Eyck:
 
The level of detail in van Eyck's work was astonishing:

Portrait of Margareta van Eyck (1439) by van Eyck of his wife:

St Luke drawing the Virgin's Portrait (circa 1500), by Rogier van der Weyden:

Death of the Virgin (circa 1481?), by Hugo van der Goes:

The Judgement of Cambyses (1498) by Gerard David:
This paining used to hang in the Bruges council chambers as a warning against corruption.

The Baptism of Christ (circa 16th century), by David:

Death and the Miser, by Jan Provoost:

The Last Judgement (1525), by Provoost:

The Last Judgement (1551), by Pieter Pourbus:

Secret Reflect (1902), by Fernand Khnopff:

The Last Supper (1927) by Gustave van de Woestyne:

The Assault (L'Attentat) (circa 1932), by René Magritte:

My wife, not being very familiar with Western art and where its inspirations and themes come from, was a little overwhelmed by the gallery, but she gamely agreed to visit the museum next door, the Arentshuis, located in an 18th-century mansion (and free with the Groeningemuseum ticket):


This museum is mainly devoted to the works of Frank Brangwyn, an Anglo-Welsh artist who was born in Bruges:



After the museum, our next stop on the Bruges sightseeing trail was the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, the Church of Our Lady. Truth be told, while the church has a history going back to the 13th century, it's not as impressive as the cathedrals we had previously visited in Leuven and Antwerp. Due to differences in times of construction, the interior architecture can hardly be described as harmonious, and the noise level of the crowds certainly distracted from the normally somber, awe-inspiring atmosphere found in the other old churches we'd seen:



Still, there was much to be impressed with:




The cathedral is noted for having the only work of Michelangelo that left Italy during his lifetime. Madonna and Child dates from 1504:



By this point, the girls were tired of art and cathedrals and wanted to take a break, while I hadn't had a beer yet. Problem soon rectified:


Following lunch, we continued our explorations of Bruges' streets. Here's Amber on Wijingaardstraat:


The Begijnhof. Once common all over Belgium, this was an area where widows and unmarried women could live in their own communities and perform acts of piety, such as taking care of the sick (the women, known as beguines or begijns, could return to the secular way of life if they so wished). Today, Benedictine nuns live in the houses surrounding the square, making it one of the quieter sections of Bruges:


The 't Begijnhuisje is a small museum, a 17th-century house that provides a glimpse into the simple life led by the beguines:




I did find some of the decorations to be a little disturbing:


The last section of Bruges we visited was the Minnewater, which started life as the city's harbor before turning into its modern-day incantation as the "Lake of Love":



The Poertoren, dating from 1398, used to be where the city kept its gunpowder:


I could've stayed another couple of days in Bruges, exploring more of the charming city, but it was getting late in the afternoon, and our friends were expecting us in Leuven. So we rode the train back, where Jeff was waiting for us at the train station. After dropping off our bags at their apartment, we went out with Barbara and Jeff for an evening on the town. On the way into the center of the city, we passed by the Fons Sapientiae, a statue of a student literally being brainwashed while reading a book. Either that, or he's refilling his skull with much-needed beer. And why is he wearing a diaper?:


Dinner was had at Domus, where the service might've been slow, but where the dinner set menu came with not one, but two of the restaurant's own distinctive brews. I came to love Belgium for many reasons:




Pancakes with brown sugar for dessert. Old World civility never tasted so good:




 



















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