Don't bother about being modern
Updated: 2012-12-16 10:01
By Jofelle P. Tesorio (China Daily)
Bruges is a dreamlike fantasy, with its fairy tale setting of castles, red brick buildings, cobbled walks and romantic bridges. Photos By Jofelle P. Tesorio / for China Daily
For Jofelle P. Tesorio, the medieval city of Bruges is a surreal place to visit, full of fairy tale attractions and some of the best beer in the world.
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Salvador Dali once said "the one thing of which the world will never have enough is exaggeration". Bruges, the Belgian medieval city, has a permanent exhibition of the surrealist's works at the city center museum and it seems fitting. The city is a dreamlike fantasy, with its fairy tale setting of castles, red brick buildings, cobbled walks, romantic bridges and horse-drawn carriages. The UNESCO World Heritage Site seems suspended in time. History has it that Bruges was among the most prosperous cities in Europe around 1300.
But the silting up of the Zwin channel that gave Bruges access to the North Sea proved to be detrimental to its economy. Trading slowed down around 1490 and there was a migration to prosperous cities like Antwerp.
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Since then the once robust trading center has endured two world wars and occupations by the Spanish, French, Austrians and Germans.
Due to these wars, much of what you see is not original, but restored to a medieval state during 20th century renovations.
I visited with a friend during the summer and the busloads of tourists showed that the city has got its groove back.
I also found out this uber-charming city is not defined by seasons. Tourists arrive all the time.
Bruges is best discovered by walking or biking, since cars are restricted inside the walled city. We opted for a walking tour from the train station at mid-afternoon.
The moment we entered the moated city, we were greeted with winding canals. Bruges is not called the "Venice of the North" for nothing and tourist boats ply their trade alongside elegant swans.