BRUGES UNDER SNOW
They say it only snows a couple of times a year in Bruges. Well then by some amazing luck, we ended up in Bruges for a weekend in the middle of a snowstorm that covered this sleepy city on Belgium's North Sea coast in almost half a meter of snow. We had come for a sight of the grand architecture that inspired Walt Disney's famous castles and for a taste of the quiet this once bustling port has gracefully mellowed into. Bruges is often called "the Venice of the North" because of its elaborate series of canals that surround the city and intersect its neighborhoods, but because of the snow, there wasn't much canal to see - they were all frozen over and covered in so much snow they were unrecognizable from the streets. But in the snow the town's many still-standing medieval castles, clock towers, convents and churches were all transformed into a winter wonderland.
We arrived late in the evening from a similarly snow-covered Paris on Saturday to already a few centimeters of snow on the ground and more lightly falling. We hiked through the empty streets to a traditional Belgian brasserie where we had a great northern european dinner of local curried mussels and grilled venison, a perfect winter meal. By the morning the snow and wind was going in full force and it was getting seriously cold. But we knew it was the perfect weather to view this city in, so we wasted no time in getting seriously bundled up and heading out to see the city sites buried in snow.
Our first stop was the Béguinage, the medieval convent, and continued our tour on foot around the city, walking through many of the gorgeous churches and their grounds, and through the Market, the main plaza where all the enormous government buildings still stand. For lunch we pleasantly surprised to find Tanuki, an impressively authentic Japanese restaurant where we ate some fresh sushi and some Norwegian cod from the Baltic Sea cooked on the large teppan-yaki grill.
With it's great and varied food options (i.e. amazing chocolate and beer!), it's beautiful castles, churches and cobblestones, and it's peaceful atmosphere, even in the normal gray winters, Bruges is definitely a place we'd love to visit again. We were beyond lucky to get to visit for the first time in the beautiful snow; we seriously felt like we were in a winter wonderland. But we hear it's incredible in the summer too; you can actually get on the boats! See you this summer, Bruges!
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