Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Greetings from: BRUGES

The expectations game is an extraordinarily bad one to play while on vacation, but when armed with foreknowledge of a place, it becomes impossible not to play it. Today’s contestant: Bruges. It already has two strikes going against it: 1) we’ve heard it’s extremely touristy (it has little industry of its own outside of tourism; blame the French); 2) Matthew has read that most of the buildings are more recent constructions, rather than the more authentic medieval buildings of Ghent.

And so, even as we wander about Bruges, we’re not so taken with it. At the open air ‘antiques’ market, one vendor has a large map of the city all done in lace. The souvenir shops themselves offer your initials in lace, as if trying to personalize the experience. We do see one actual lace maker at her work, but she has a small dish for tips next to her as she manipulates the pins and the string, and it reminds me of Colonial Williamsburg more than anything. The canal cruises are 1€ more expensive than in Ghent, the boats are more crowded, and they don’t even give you a free beer!

We meander along the canal the rings the city, and I get the sense that this is an interrupted city. There’s an old seminary for sale. A monastery that’s been turned into a hostel (of sorts). An abandoned apartment building with everything ripped out of it except for the light fixtures and some vinyl cling-on decorations for a kid’s room. It would be a sad sight, if it weren’t the life cycle of any city you could name.

Eventually we come to a small street fair. More Flemish rock, but on a more intimate scale. The band -- who seem to be aging bikers in their spare time -- perform hard rock classics. The rest of the street has become a huge garage sale, with all the junk that you expect from garage sales. It’s like the antique market that we passed earlier, except with pretensions or the ridiculous prices. They don’t trying to pass off their crap by claiming its authenticity.

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