Benelux Trip Report

Jul 5th, 2006, 04:55 PM
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Benelux Trip Report

I first posted this under my old "Streets Filled With Water" thread, but that title wouldn't jump out at people who want some info on Belgium, LUxembourg, and the Netherlands. So here's a new one.

Slowly shaking off the jet lag--I never have trouble going west to east, but coming back home from Europe is always a bummer.

Anyway, for a start, we were pleased with our accomodations:

1. Vianden, Luxembourg--2 nights at the Hotel Heintz. A very pleasant family hotel on the road going up the hill to the castle. We had one of the more expensive rooms (90 euros a night including parking, breakfast, taxes). The restaurant is very good--excellent trout.

Room was spacious as was the bathroom--we actually had a large sitting room with TV and a separate bed chamber. Has an elevator. http://www.hotel-heintz.lu/english/index.html

2. Bruges, Belgium--3 nights at B&B Marieke. Our host and hostess, Willy and Trees, made this place one of our favorites. It is a B&B, not a hotel, so rooms are smaller (there are only 2 guestrooms), but certainly adequate. Could be difficult for folks who have trouble with stairs--it is a typical old townhome with steep winding stairs. One room is on the first floor (the one above the ground floor) and one on the second floor.

Trees and Willy are great hosts and will do anything to make your visit to their city fun, educational, and trouble free. Trees was always giving us tastes of various Flemish dishes and Willy even copied our photos onto a CD for us and let us use the PC to check email.

Location is very good--about a 10 minute stroll to the center of town. The house is on a canal and not in the center of traffic and tourist noise. A real bargain at 60 euro a night including a good breakfast and parking.
http://users.belgacom.net/marieke/

3. Delft, Netherlands--2 nights at the Hotel Leeuwenbrug. Old building with modernized rooms. Very comfortable. We paid 90 euro the first night and 74 the second night (a weekend night). Did not include breakfast or parking. Public parking lot is one building away--9 euro a day. On a canal, has an elevator.

Good location--out of the tourist bustle, but only 10 minutes walk from the main square. Had separate shower and tub in the bathroom. TV. http://www.leeuwenbrug.nl/index_eng.html

4. Amsterdam, Netherlands--Maes B&B. Ken and Vlad are great hosts, and they have a beautiful facility. Much like the B&B Marieke in Bruges, this is an old townhouse so it has steep, winding stairs.

Great location about a 5 or 10 minute walk (depending on how much you gawk along the way) from a tram stop that gets you to many of the major sights in the city. Dozens of restaurants, cafes, etc. of all sorts within a 15 minute walk. Anne Frank house an easy walk.

Very good breakfast, attentive service. Vlad and Ken are very knowledgeable and are willing to give any advice a visitor might need from transportation to sights to dining. We paid 80 euro the first night for a smaller room with private bath in the hall (they provide a robe). 95 euro a night the next 2 nights for a larger room with ensuite bath.

It was hot in Amsterdam, so I was concerned about the lack of air conditioning, but we stayed out so late at night that it didn't matter.

They arranged our taxi to the airport--30 euro including tip.
http://www.bedandbreakfastamsterdam.com

I didn't include our stay in Odenthal near Cologne as we stayed with friends.

Tomorrow I'll either start the actual "touring" report, or give some dining recommendations. We generally spent in the range of 30 to 45 euro for dinner for the two of us including drinks and tips.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 7th, 2006, 02:44 PM
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OK, the jetlag seems to be under control, so I think I can be almost coherent now.

Part I: Flight to Amsterdam and 2 days in Cologne area--
We left D.C. Dulles on United Airlines around 6:20 PM on June 21--almost an hour late. But they made up time and we actually arrived at Amsterdam a few minutes early around 7 AM the 22nd. The plane was full, but as the flight only took a bit over 6-1/2 hours, it wasn't at all unpleasant. Even in cattle car class. People actually reclined their seats without any fights erupting. The flight attendents were very good.

Our luggage was waiting for us by the time we got through immigration and after getting a phone card and euros, we were in our rental car and headed for Odenthal, Germany (near Cologne) by 8:15 AM. We could tell when we entered Germany as we immediately had many cars whizzing past in the left lane at upwards of 140 kph. Used a reststop, and neither of us was enamored with the prison-appropriate stainless steel toilets. Much of the Autobahn mileage that we travelled from the German border to Cologne was not in great shape--many kms. of bumpy roadway.

viamichelin.com had estimated the drive at about 2-3/4 hours, and we met our friend Toni at the local Lidl "supermarket" just before 11 AM. We spent 2 nights with Toni and Karin. Their house is very interesting--they've got about 1/3 acre, and the house has no nails, it's all held together with wooden pegs as in the old days. We gave them a Chesapeake Bay cookbook and some Old Bay Seasoning which we tried on all sorts of dishes the next 2 days.

That first afternoon, Toni took us to sights around the Odenthal area--nice castles (including Schloss Burg http://www.schlossburg.de/), Altenberger Dom (http://www.altenbergerdom.de), plus Odenthal's town hall, church, etc. ( http://www.odenthal.de/HOMEPAGE.HTML) Had many beers as we talked over old times that evening.

The next day, Toni took us to Cologne. Neither Mrs. Fly nor I had been to Cologne before. He parked on the other side of the Rhein by the famous steel bridge (the Hollenzollern Brucke). Lovely view of the city as you walk across the bridge. Checked out the Roman ruins/musuem and a couple of other local sights, then the Dom.

The cathedral really is magnificent. It is constantly being renovated--originally made of sandstone which is falling apart, so they are replacing it stone-by-stone with granite.

After buying some special beer pastries, we stopped at the Frueh Brauhaus for a couple of Cologne's own Frueh Koelsch beers. Served in 0.2 litre glasses to ensure that your beer is always fresh and cool--the waiters continually serve fresh beers using circular beer trays that hold a dozen or so glasses. According to Toni and Karin, Bavarians just don't understand this 0.2 litre thing at all. But the beer is very refreshing in the summer.

That afternoon, Toni surprised us by taking us to the local flying club. He is a pilot (an officer in the German Air Force reserve). Took us up one at a time in a small plane to fly over most of the sights we had seen from the ground, including flying over the Cologne Cathedral--what a thrill! I will be posting photos later.

Really enjoyed our 2 day stay. But on the 24th it was on to Vianden, Luxembourg.

Couple of sidenotes--to save 100 bucks we rented a manual transmission car. Never again--OK on the highways, but what a total pain in the rear in small towns, cities, and hilly areas. I'll save money somewhere else next time. The rental company will probably need to replace the transmission on our little Chevy sooner than they expected. Everywhere we went we were able to get good dinners including booze for well under 20 euro each. Total trip (14 days including flight days) cost $4,700.

Part II will be Vianden and Luxembourg city.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 9th, 2006, 09:11 AM
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I saw the post where you announced your return and have been looking forward to this report. Eagerly waiting for more...
Leely is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 11:08 AM
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Rufus, not to hurry you, but is there more coming? Sights, trouble or ease of driving, restaurants, etc.? Benelux will probably be my next European vacation as due to a LONG flight delay I missed out on Amsterdam on my way to Tanzania last month.
Leely is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 11:13 AM
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Rufus, where are you? Anticipating the next installment of your excellent report!
kswl is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 03:45 PM
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Sorry to take so long, but we've had some family issues--nothing catastrophic, but eating up some time.

So, on our way to Vianden, Luxembourg. Our original plan had been to drive straight to Vianden (unless we saw something especially interesting along the way to explore) via Bitburg. I had all the routes marked out, maps printed, ready to go.

Over beers and wines and schnapses and lord knows what-alls the night before, it somehow got changed so we'd visit Trier on the Mosel, then head north to Vianden. Well, since we might have stopped along the road somewhere anyway it probably didn't mean much timewise, but I wasn't looking forward all that much to driving into a largish place that I didn't have a map for. What the heck.

Of course, getting to Trier wasn't a problem, the highways never are for us.

It's always after we get to the "unknown" place that the trouble begins--hidden or missing street signs, navigating from an inset map that shows the city about the size of a post-it note, manual transmission, unreasonably impatient locals who don't want to travel behind us at 2 kph, signs in every direction with red diagonal stripes that mean I can't do something there with the car but I'm not sure what it is I'm not supposed to do.

After about 15 minutes of circling and dodging and Mrs. Fly and I "bantering" about each other's driving and navigation skills, things were getting pretty frosty in our little Chevy whatever it was--and the AC was not turned on.

Just as I was getting really red in the face and the Mrs. was ready to call her feminist lawyer friend in D.C., we fortunately found a parking garage and ducked into it, figuring that if there's a parking garage it must be near something--and as long as that something involved a beer, I'd be OK.

Well, turned out we were in a pretty good spot near the intersection of Boehmerstasse and Zuckerbergstrasse just off Windmuehlenstrasse (what in God's name is wrong with steet names like Elm and 1st???), just a few blocks from the Porta Nigra.

Parked the car and headed for the Hauptmarkt. Like all the other towns we visited, the main market place was all scaffolded and speakered and big screened for the soccer games. There was some sort of festival going on as well, though we weren't able to get a clear explanation of what it was all about--it either had something to do with some Saint who was chopped up and fed to the fish somewhere, or a celebration of the Portugese soccer team's tie with some other team (probably 0-0; or are negative scores possible in soccer?), or a wine/beer/Lipton Ice Tea with Gas festival. (More about the Lipton Ice Tea with Gas later.)

Whatever it was, we ate and drank our way towards the Porta Nigra through crowds of quite happy folks--they'd had a head start on the drinking part.

Trier is really quite scenic. We hadn't enough time to visit Trier the last time we were on the Mosel 4 or 5 years ago, so it worked out well that we were able to spend a few hours there. As Mrs. Fly and I are both Roman Empire groupies, the big ruin of Porta Nigra was the main attraction for us.

And it was worth the stop. A very impressive mass of stonework, and great views of Trier from the top.

Drat--gotta stop. I'll be back.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 04:48 PM
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Mr. Fly I'm enjoying your report. Glad to hear that you and Mrs. Fly enjoyed Trier; we spent four days there last November and loved it--great access for day trips too (Mosel, Lux City, Metz, Fr.).
mvor is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 06:06 PM
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Hi Rufus,

I've been waiting for this and am so glad to have come across it. Appreciate the fine detail in your descriptions as usual

Especially appreciate the tip on the Roman ruins in Trier as DH and I are also ancient history buffs.

Looking forward to more
TexasAggie is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 06:10 PM
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P.S. Did your $4700 include airfare? If so, SHARE your secret please!
TexasAggie is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 08:05 PM
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Hi, Texas Aggie.

Yes, the $4700 included everything. Though if I had it to do over aganin it would have been $4800 with automatic transmission in the rental car! It's not really magic, but just the way we like to travel.

1. We don't stay in big hotels--we like staying in comparatively small B&Bs and family run hotels, and these generally cost less. If you can save 60 to upwards of 100 euro a night compared to a larger full-service hotel, that's a big chunk over a 10 day or 2-week vacation. We enjoy staying in smaller places that give at least some feel for how people live day-to-day. Can't always do this, but we do when we can.

It takes some research to be sure we're not getting into a dump, and we always get private baths. But I love doing the research (I'm a historian and anthropologist by training and inclination--so hours spent researching something is great fun for me. It would drive Mrs. Fly crazy.)

2. We aren't shoppers. We shopped more than usual this trip, and spent a total of about $90 on souvenirs (mostly museum books) and some Christmas decorations.

3. We eat well, but we aren't foodies in the sense that there is no way we'll normally spend $100 or more on a meal unless it happened to be our anniversery or a birthday or some such. We really splurged on our last night in Amsterdam when we spent about 70 euro to try the famous Indonesian/Dutch rice table (with appropriate beverages, of course). It was very good and we're glad we had the experience, but it didn't taste "better" and was no more satisfying than the 30 euro meal we had the night before at a brown cafe.

We are not big lunch eaters at all. I'm just as happy with a well-prepared Bratwurst on a bun or a simple Weisswurst platter as I would be with anything else at lunchtime. Well, add a beer in there, too.

4. We research museum/sights combo tickets, public transportation, etc. before we go so we know how and where to get the best deals for our sightseeing style and wants.

5. I put a lot of time in on shopping for airfares, car rental prices, train passes/specials, accomodations. (Research is so much fun!)

6. We're not big nightlife people--we love museums, historic sights and sites, walking, people watching, architecture. We're too tired by the end of the day to do much partying, and that saves some money.

Of course, you can travel even less expensively than we do, and I'm sure many people here at Fodors do so, but everyone has to find what works for them.

But I know a lot of people who, for example, really enjoy having all the conveniences of a big hotel or fantasize for months before their trip about an expensive Michelin-starred restaurant they've made reservations for, and are willing to pay for it. They could save a lot of money staying in our 60 or 80 euro B&Bs and skipping that Michelin-starred restaurant, but they'd be miserable doing it. And what's the point of going on vacation and saving money if you're miserable doing it. We could save more money staying in hostels or camping, but we'd hate it--and I sure don't want to hate my vacation. Other people love camping or the hostel atmosphere and couldn't stand to be cooped up in a building.

Anyway, that's all the magic there is.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 08:58 PM
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O.K., we were in Trier. Yes, we enjoyed the city for the short time we were there, it was a worthwhile stop. But on to Luxembourg.

We left Trier on the A64 towards Luxembourg. Our German friends had told us to wait until we got to Luxembourg to get gasoline. So I kept an eye on the gas gauge that was creeping to the bottom red line--but, as we had been told, there were gas stations as soon as we crossed the border. And the gas was much less expensive in Lux. At the station we chose, you pump the gas first, then drive to a booth to pay. Happy to report that both our ATM card and our credit card worked everywhere we went.

On the recommendation of an employee at the gas station, we decided to drive towards Vianden on route N10 along the Sauer (Sure) River on the Luxembourg side of the border with Germany. It's a very scenic, pleasant drive--farms, cows, small villages, hills, the river, very little traffic.

It was a pretty quick drive--as usual it took less time than expected. Intellectually I know that, say, 100 km. is only about 62 miles, but I'm always surprised when that 100 "units" go by so quickly.

Vianden: A very picturesque village on the Our River. We had originally planned to be in this little village during the week when everything would be open, but because we had had to make a big schedule change, we ended up here on Saturday and Sunday. It turns out that this was no big deal--there was plenty for Mrs. Fly to do on Sunday, and I ended up having other things to deal with.

The view of the castle high on its hill is quite impressive. It really dominates, towers over the little village and valley below. It was lighted at night--what a show.

At any rate, we easily found the Hotel Heinz (a bit of a splurge for us at 90 euro a night including parking and breakfast). We highly recommend this hotel and its restaurant--see 07/05 report above.

We then walked up to the castle--even though it was about to close, we wanted to get a closeup view. Took several photos and admired the various village buildings on the road to the castle. There was a little cafe along the way, and Mrs. Fly asked if I wanted to stop for a beer (it was warm out). I declined--I think we both realized that was not a good sign. I think the last time a Firefly (Leuchtkaefer?--the family is actually of German heritage) refused a beer opportunity was when a cousin of mine went to a party and the host had only Lite "beer." Of course he left the party and got his own beer, but that's not important right now.

We walked down to the river and spent an hour or so just taking in the atmosphere, admiring the architecture, feeding the ducks, and taking photos. Finally feeling hungry, we headed for the Heinz Hotel restaurant--they are noted for their trout dishes.

And it was wonderful. In a not-overwhelming, light, gently seasoned cream sauce. With steamed vegetables, good bread. I didn't feel like any alcoholic beverages (ooooooooohhh), and just had bottled water. But Mrs. Fly said the house white wine was quite pleasant.

I was feeling a bit washed out, and went right to bed. Feel asleep immediately.

I had been having some digestive system rumblings and grumblings for about a week--even before we left for Europe. At 2 AM it hit full force. Let's just say that from that point until sometime early Monday morning, it was all a washout for Rufus. I did not leave the room for the next 12 hours.

Mrs. Fly did carry on bravely without her escort. She visited the castle and various little museums and sights in the town. I was miserable and generally quite pathetic. She returned to the hotel to check on me at lunch time, and then had her luncheon out on the terrace.

I took some photos of her having lunch, being sure to get into the shots the rather mysterious dark-haired fellow who had that almost swarthy southern French look about him and whose chair and table I could just swear kept getting closer to Mrs. Fly's location as they sat out there and enjoyed themselves in the fresh air and sunshine for really more time than was absolutely necessary, IMHO, as I stood in my lonely misery peeking through the parted curtains!

By mid-afternoon I was feeling, if not in tip top condition, at least well enough to venture from the room. The Mrs. and I decided on a late Sunday afternoon stroll around town. Had some gelato; watched a young fellow fishing; admired the castle; checked out the church and little chapel--very nice.

We then sat along the river chatting and watching children playing on the other side of the river, and other tourists (many Germans, and some said Portugese as well) in the two riverside restaurants. It was really very pleasant, and just what we both needed about then. Our friends in Odenthal had kept us moving the entire time we were there, plus my fragile state, and Mrs. Fly was tired from her forays of the day, and our systems were not fully adjusted to the time change yet. So it was a wonderfu chill out time at jsut he right time.

We would have liked to have been there when the village was a bit more active during the week, but it worked out fine as we really had only 1-1/2 days in the town.

Next--another change in plans, leaving Vianden, and feeling much better, thank you, but no beers for me.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 03:09 PM
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Our last night in Vianden as we were going over our travel plans for the next day's drive to Brugge, Mrs. Fly decided she'd like to head southwest and see Luxembourg City instead of heading north as planned to visit a variety of castles, battlefield sites, and such. One of the main reasons I'd wanted to head north and then west was to visit a brewery or two I'd heard about, but my digestive system was still upset and beer did not particular appeal. So the next morning it was off to Luxembourg's "big" city for a few hours.

It was an easy drive, though we did get off the main road the last few miles because of some confusing road signs. We discovered how small Luxembourg city actually is when I saw the main train station and realized that we'd driven all the way thru the city in short order without a clue.

But it only took 5 or 10 minutes to find the center of town, park, and set out to explore the main sights.

Luxembourg city is very walkable and manageable. Nice architecture, the requisite ruins, interesting stores. The highlights for me were the Bock Casements (old fortifications) and the Archaeological displays. These two took up almost all our time, along with just wandering about downtown enjoying the sights in general.

Luxembourg City didn't blow us away, but it was certainly worth the stop.

From there, we drove directly to Brugge--I was feeling a bit tired by then and was still bummed out about not feeling like stopping at any breweries, or even tasting a beer anywhere. In Belgium of all places!

As we have come to expect, the drive to Brugge was not a problem. Roads were in pretty good condition, signage was fine (though we had to guess at a couple of splits in the road that included a good deal of instructions in French as well as the destinations).

And, as we have come to expect, once we got to Brugge it took some doing to get to our lodgings because of signage problems (signs not matching what was on the maps, or signs placed in positions difficult to find). But we managed with only minimal cursing and recriminations. And Brugge is just so pretty that it wasn't all bad to drive all the way around the town to get to the right entrance road.

We drove directly to B&B Marieke; a typical little 3-story townhome built umpty-ump years ago (late 19th or early 20th century as I remember). I was really feeling tired (it was mid-afternoon when we arrived) as I rang the bell. How nice it was when Trees opened the door and flashed one of the biggest most infectious smiles I'd seen in some time as she welcomed us into their home.

Cozy, comfortable, and welcoming is how I'd describe the Marieke and Trees and Willy. Trees is a collector--guidebooks, history books, photo books, rose-themed decorations, and many, many teddy bears of all types, sizes, colors, and shapes (some antique bears that are pretty valuable, too.)

If you value meeting people in the countries you visit, and you want to have a source of good information on everything from local history and culture to restaurants, sightseeing, and petrol stations, then B&B Marieke is a joy. As described above, it is a typical town home, so if you cannot handle narrow, steep staircases or small (but not tiny) showers, then you might want to look elsewhere. However, Willy and Trees will take your luggage up and down the stairs for you, in fact they will practically insist on it as they have the "technique" down pat.

The rooms do have tea and coffee making equipment, snacks, etc. as well as soap, lotions, and such all complimentary. The place is clean, the water pressure is good, and there was plenty of hot water in the shower.

We quickly got our luggage straightened away as we wanted to begin exploring Brugge right away. A quick orientation from Trees, our front door and room key pocketed, and off to the main square where the market was still underway.

Next--Brugge: interesting, picturesque, and romantic (after the tour buses leave, and before they leave if you're just a bit away from the center of town).
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 05:07 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report. I'm glad your stomach problems didn't spoil too much of your trip.

Can't wait for the next installment.
mv_rd is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Brugge--we really enjoyed this small city for the 2-1/2 days we were there. I'll start off with a restaurant recommendation--I think it was our second day, we'd been walking ALL over the city and were both pretty tired. We found ourselves in the northeastern part of the old town as the afternoon wound down. Just finished the Folklore Museum on Balstraat as it was set to close.

As I said, we were tired and hungry and thirsty, so we started to head back towards B&B Marieke. Of course, there were a couple of shops that caught our eye, and then a couple of photo opportunities that we couldn't pass up, etc. So after a while we were really, really tired and famished.

We missed a turn on the route and went a bit farther than we intended and ended up on Hooistraat--not far from the B&B. At #42 we passed a cafe, looked at one another, turned around, and walked into the In't Nieuw Museum Grill. It was still a bit early for dinner, so only a couple of tables were occupied--both by local folks who were playing cards, drinking, and chatting.

We were greeted warmly--and were asked right away if we'd like something to drink. White wine for Mrs. Fly and a Campari and tonic for me. Lord those drinks did taste so good. They do have a varied menu, but their specialty is grilled meats--the grill is on one side of the seating area so you can watch the food prep.

Besides our drinks and a bottle of mineral water, I had steak provencale and Mrs. Fly had the mixed grill. Both came with salad and hot vegetables and a big bowl of Freedom Fries. All was execellent--a simple, tasty, well prepared meal with friendly, competent service in a pleasant atmosphere. Total was 39 euro. If you're not looking for anything Michelin-starred and you happen to be at that end of town, we recommend the In't Nieuw Museum without hesitation.

But back to our first afternoon in Brugge. Following the simple directions provided by Trees and Willy, we headed for the main market square via the Burg square.

The main square would be less than a 10-minute stroll from B&B Marieke if one didn't stop along the way. Our hosts recommended that we walk along a very scenic little canal along Groenerei and Steenhouwersdijke streets. This entailed a lot of stopping to admire architecture and take pictures. Eventually we moved on past the fish market (Vismarkt), over the canal at Blind Donkey Street (Blinde Ezelstraat), and into the Burg square.

This square has the Provosts House and Old Civil Registry, the Town Hall, the Basilica of The Holy Blood. All very photo-worthy and interesting sights. The Church of the Holy Blood fascinated me as it has drops of Christ's blood brought to the city during the Crusades. Keep in mind that Brugge was at one time a very large, wealthy, and important city in Europe. So it's appropriate that it would have such a world-class relic. Certainly more impressive than Koeln Dom's remains of the 3 Wise Men.

I'm not going to go into the history of all the buildings we saw on the trip--you can find that anywhere, but we were fascinated with the Baroque and Renaissance architecture in Burg square. We spent some time in the Church of the Holy Blood--the lower level is a very old Romanesque church (12th century as I remember) and the upper level Gothic, so you get to see a variety of architectural styles in a relatively small building complex around the Burg square.

I'm not a Christian, but I do find something more than just a sense of history touches me when I visit these old religious sites. I guess they knew what they were doing when they built these structures to the glory of god--I always get a sense of calm and well being from visiting such places.

We spent a good deal of time looking at and photographing the buildings and surroundings, but then it was on to the Markt--just a couple of blocks to the west.

Brugge will be continued.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 08:03 PM
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The rest of the 2-1/2 days in Brugge.

Mrs. Fly and I love boat trips--especially on calm waters and not out of sight of land. So whenever we're in a town that has a canal or harbor or river and boat tours are available, you can count us in.

The boat tour of Brugge was one of the nicest we've been on--largely because the driver (steersman? captain? swabbie?) was very personable and knowledgeable. With the extensive canal system throughout the old town, you do get to see most of the major sights from a different angle--and learn a lot of history and folklore in the process. I think we did the boat tour the morning of our first full day in the city. It was an excellent orientation cruise--and it gave our street-weary feet a bit of a rest.

After the cruise we had waffles with fruit and ice cream--to build our strength for the museums we'd be walking thru the rest of the day. And we did hit most of the major museums in town over the next two days, including the Folklore, St. John's Hospital/Memling, Gruuthuse, Church of Our Lady, Groenige, Archaeological, Belfry, and Town Hall museums/displays.

We were a bit disappointed with the Archaelogical museum--it wasn't bad, and it's largely a matter of personal taste, but it just was not as complete as other Archaeological museums we've visited. Other than that, we enjoyed all of the musuems we visited.

Favorites were the Folklore, Groenige, and Gruuthuse. As a group, the Brugge musuems present an excellent mix of fine arts, architecture, crafts, and social/cultural life. We did get the musuem card that gets you into five museums/sights for 15 euro--you have to pick from a list and they punch your ticket at each museum you select. So use your ticket for the most expensive of the museums you choose to visit.

By the end of our first 1-1/2 days in the city, we'd covered a lot of ground by foot--from the Begijnhof and the Church of Our Lady with Michaelangelo's Madonna and Child (a must-see even if you aren't a Renaissance groupie) in the SW of the city, to the windmills in the NE. So on our last day, we decided to include a short daytrip to Damme--a village just a short drive (or bike ride, or walk) outside of the city.

Damme was an important canal center on the outskirts of Brugge. Of course now it lives off of tourism and is a bit of a bedroom community for folks who prefer a smaller town to live in. It's not more than a 15 minute drive from Brugge (depending on where you are in the city), and there's also a boat you can take if you prefer.

We spent about 3 hours in Damme, visiting the little museums, taking photos, and enjoying a pleasant lunch (13 euro for a ham and veggy omelette, waffels with strawberries and cream, something-not-totally-unlike-lemonade, and ice tea). While there were other tourists there, the place wasn't mobbed, though a local gentlemen I had a short conversation with said it would be a madhouse come the weekend. All-in-all a pleasant way to see some of the countryside and some interesting sights.

That evening we decided to try Flemish dishes, though the cuisine did not sound all that exciting, we do like to give the local dishes a try wherever we go. So we ended up at the Gran Kaffe de Passage--and I was finally able to drink a beer. So I made it a "Brugge Tripel" which was pretty strong stuff--so I made it two and I was feeling quite content by the time we left the place.

Besides my beers, Mrs. Fly had a couple of glasses of wine and we each had versions of Waterzooi and shared a large salad. I had the traditional chicken Waterzooi (stew) and Mrs. Fly had the seafood version. It was fine; a good way to experience some local dishes. Not being a big stew guy, it's not something I'd seek out again, but it was tasty enough and filling. For all we had, the total bill was around 40 euro, which seemed pretty reasonable.

I did forget one Brugge restaurant--we dined at a little Italian place called Pili Pili one eveninge--first one I guess. Had an excellent vegetable soup, appetizer, an OK lasagna, something or other carbonara, salads and water for me, wine for Mrs. Fly. A nice meal for 36 euro.

We spent a fair amount of time in Brugge just walking around and gawking at the architecture. We're very glad we spent more or less 3 days in the city--we probably could have used another full day to good advantage, but the Nederland was beckoning.

So we left Brugge on a Thursday morning. The other couple staying at the Marieke B&B also left that morning--a nice couple from Scotland; we shared experiences over breakfast each day.

Our hosts, Willie and Trees, reviewed our proposed route to Delft, showed us the better way to go, told us where to get petrol, and sent us on our way with big hugs and smiles all around. With their good directions, we had a much easier time getting out of town than we had getting in.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 09:50 AM
  #16  
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Just a quick aside on mail service between the USA and Deutschland. Our friends in Germany asked us to send something to them from Maryland after we returned home.

We mailed the parcel by the least expensive air mail option at around 11 AM on Saturday, July 15. They sent us an email that they received the parcel in Bamberg on Wednesday the 19th.

I think that was pretty good service for 10 bucks--and over a weekend.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 10:12 AM
  #17  
 
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An intereesting (and little known) side trip on the drive from Germany to Brussels or Brugge (that is, the E40) is the Herba Sana or Garden of Health. An unusual and interactive place for those who like gardens or an interested in "natural" health care.
http://www.biere2005.be/informations...A/V/42672.html
BTilke is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 10:33 AM
  #18  
 
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Very nice, your report broght back some very nice memories...If ever in that locale again, by all means try & stop by Maastricht. It would seem to fit in well w/the rest of your trip. I last did a similar jaunt a few years ago...Cologne - down the Mosel - Trier/Luxembourg - Maastricht & on up to Oostende/Bruges/Brussels. It is a great reminder that I need to go back...
SAnParis is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 11:32 AM
  #19  
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SAnParis and BT. Thanks for the tips. We actually had Maastricht penciled in on our original itinerary, but time limitations didn't allow it this time.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 11:42 AM
  #20  
 
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We visited another small town in the area as well - Namur, I think. Neat littel Ped. zone & a nice castle overlooking the river. Also had a nice little restaurant in the castle once you hiked all the way up there. A nice day trip from Lux. City.
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