Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 6 - Gent to Brugge

After an evening of cards and some musical interludes by some of the fabulous singers we had on-board, a good night’s sleep was in order. We awoke to another sunny day to ride in. Today was the day that we would reach our final destination, but not the final day of riding. We were headed to Brugge, pronounced “Bruh-he”. Only in french do they pronounce it like “Brew-gg” and never do we say “Brew-gay”.

After breakfast, we sailed a bit to a new starting point outside of Gent. We would be headed to Brugge, but along the way we would see some interesting sights, including a privately owned castle. Normally the gates are closed when this ride goes by, but for some reason they were open this morning. Still, this was not an inviting place as the sign outside the gates was clear: this was a private residence. We all stood by the gates and zoomed in with our cameras to get the best possible pictures, with no-one daring to venture onto the grounds. It was an impressive structure, complete with its own moat.
A private castle

After leaving the castle, the back roads towards Brugge would serpentine through the farm country. Horse drawn wagons were seen sharing our bike road, as well as visions of wildflowers and various farm animals along the way. This was not your typical route to get into a touristy city such as Brugge. Bicycling trips allow you to get to know the real surroundings, the genuine countryside and to get a perspective on the way life truly is in the country you are visiting. I believe that bicycling is the best way to see the sights and smell the smells. Try it, if you haven’t before.
What you can meet along a path less traveled

We stopped for lunch at a pub that was fine with us eating our bagged goodies, but they were happier if we ordered something to wash it down with. The pub was nothing really special, but it did allow me a chance to find out more about our guide, Tom. He has been doing these type of trips for 7 years now, but originally he was an Industrial Design Engineer, but did not like working behind a computer. His love was to be outside and this type of work fit the bill. His parents keep asking when he was to get a real job, which only cements the desire to continue doing this instead. I must agree, this seems like a great type of work to be doing, especially on the sunny days.

After leaving our lunch spot behind, we came across a couple of markers on the trail to indicate which direction to go. Normally in The Netherlands and Belgium, the bike path markers show a single number with an arrow for direction. Every intersection along the path is numbered and the signs simply point giving the direction to take. You navigate by following a series of numbered intersections. This is really a clever technique as you don’t need to know left or right at this or that street name, you just need to know the numbered list, like 2, 17, 91, 34 and that will clearly lay out the route to take. However, we came across these two new markers that didn’t match the usual numbering system. One said “Fietsar” and the other “Idioten”. A “fietsar” is a cyclist and well, you can guess what an “idioten” means. If you took the path that it was pointing at, you would certainly regret it later on. Aila did take a picture of me however, with the “idioten” sign pointing straight at my head.
Hmmm. Which way to take?

At the next town, Moerbrugge, we came across a statue dedicated to the Canadians who fought in World War 2 and were instrumental in defeating the Germans at this location. There is a tank that has been cut up into pieces and welded back together making for a very unusable pattern that is the basis for the statue. The plaque read that 52 Canadians had lost their lives in this battle to help Belgium. A solemn feeling came across me and I had thoughts of my Uncle Jack, who fought in this war. I recall that he was in Belgium and Italy and might have been at this exact site.
Tank statue to commemorate the Canadians

The path from Moerbrugge to Brugge took us along the canal that feeds into the waterways of our destination. Along the way were several cement bunkers that were used by the locals during the war. These bunkers had grasses growing on the tops, to make them harder to spot from the air.
Getting close to Brugge

The final miles into Brugge would end up being very familiar to me. When we arrived at the barge, it seems that Angela could not find her camera, with the fate of the hundreds of pictures she had taken at stake. I took a ride back along the paths to see if I could spot it in the brush along the way. No luck. Aila and I headed into Brugge for a nice walk around town. This is a beautiful city, with almost zero crime, but very touristy. After the walk, I did another ride along the paths to try once again to see if I could find her camera. I met Angela along the way doing the same thing. Still no luck.
Market Square in Brugge

That evening our guide Tom took us into the city for another of his now famous walk and talks. We saw the old hospital, the market square and the brick church. This church is the 2nd highest brick building in the world. Bricks are not the best material to use for such a tall structure, but this church steeple was incredible to view.
The 2nd tallest brick building in the world

We learned how Brugge started making its world-famous lace and of course it involved one of Tom’s stories. It seems that hundreds of years ago a husband and wife had 4 daughters, but even with the daughters working, they had a hard time to make ends meet. The oldest daughter, Serena had a male friend that she knew her whole life. One day Serena prayed that if God helped her family that she would forego any happiness for the rest of her life. A while later, while Serena and her male friend were out talking under a tree, her head felt like there were thousands of spiders running around on it. She was wearing some type of skull cap and pulled it off and the itching stopped. There were no spiders, but the cap had spider webs on it that showed beautiful patterns. Serena looked at these patterns and decided that she could figure out a way to make these, using fine string. She tried and tried and finally found a way to make these lace patterns, something unknown to people at this time. Her work was beautiful and she showed her 3 sisters how to do this also. Many people saw this work and wanted to buy it. Her family prospered. After a while, Serena’s friend thought that since everyone was doing well, that maybe they should get married. Serena told him, that she could not and also could not explain to him why. They both separated, heartbroken. She knew the reason and it was because she promised God that she would forego being happy if God helped her family. Some time later, Serena once again felt as though thousands of spiders were once again in her hair. She again took off the cap and found another pattern. This time the pattern was of doves and wedding bells and words, which said “You are released from your promise to me”. It wasn’t long after that Serena and her friend got married.
Brugge at night

The next morning I grabbed a bike and tried one last time, doing an extra 6 miles to see if that camera was waiting to be found. It was futile. The dew from the morning weighed down on the vegetation along the path sides, making them difficult to get a glimpse under.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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