Dan and Ian Wander Europe: In Bruges

So, you know that annoying thing people on the internet will do, where they fail to update their blog/comic/whatever, and then apologize by saying that they were working on something super cool that they can’t tell you about yet?

Welp.

The real problem is that, since we last spoke, I’ve been working on something that I’m not telling people about because the odds seem very small that it will go anywhere. It might. It might go somewhere, and if it did, it would be the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me by a significant margin. Save for “successfully being born,” I guess. But until that switches over from “dimly possible” to “actually probable” I’m trying not to get my or anyone’s hopes up by making a big deal.

And now that I’ve done that exact thing I dislike, onwards. Belgium. Let’s do this.

Bruges

I won’t lie to you. Bruges did not get on the itinerary through the noblest of methods. We weren’t in Belgium to see Flanders Field. We didn’t hit any World War memorials. We did not swing by the EU Parliament building in Brussels. No, we were in Bruges because I saw the movie In Bruges and thought it looked worth visiting.

And I was not wrong.

Since my return, people ask “What was the highlight of the trip?” And that is often a difficult question, since so much of it was great. But when I do come up with an answer, it’s usually “Other than London? Paris for the city, Rome for the weather, and Bruges for the food.”

Seriously you guys, everything in Bruges was delicious.

Show me where your noms at

My primary goal for Switzerland was cheese fondue: for Belgium, it was waffles. And the old town had plenty of waffle take-out windows to get lovely, fluffy waffles doused in chocolate, caramel, whatever you desired… I had a waffle in Calgary not so long ago. What a bland waste of time it was in comparison.

Belgium is also the birthplace of the french fry, thus giving us all the excuse we needed to gorge on street fries outside of the famous Belfry. You see, there’s a regular contest in Bruges: local fry makers compete against each other, and the two top entries get the right to set up a fry cart in front of the Belfry. This means those two carts are pretty much guaranteed to have the best fries in the whole city, and if you’re not helping yourself to an order from each one to see who comes out on top, why are you even there? Why are you even there.

I did not expect to say “Bruges had the best meatball I’ve ever had,” but there it is. It’s said. It happened. A random lunch stop brought us to a mom ‘n’ pop restaurant with a hilarious name and absolutely incredible food.

Funny name, maybe, but so tasty
Funny name, maybe, but so tasty

If you’re in Bruges, go there. Get a meatball. You will thank me. Do this or I will find you and hurt you.

Time for beers

I’m not a beer drinker. This is generally known about me. Just never developed a taste for it. When I finally began experimenting with alcohol, I drifted towards whiskey and cocktails, and skipped over beer completely, finding it unpleasant. But we were in Belgium. They brew over 2000 beers in Belgium, and they take it seriously. How seriously? They have designed individual glasses for each of those beers to optimize the drinking experience. And if you were to serve, say, a Hoegaarden in a Duvel glass, a Belgian drinker will send that shit back and demand you do it properly.

So while beer had never been my thing, going to Belgium and not sampling their ales would be like going to Italy and not having any pasta, or going to Greece and not having a single souvlaki, and god damn it I am not doing that again.

So, on our first night in Bruges, I eventually opted to skim the beer menu, see if I could find something palatable. What’s that, Duvel? You have a 12% alcohol content? Why, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

New friends

Also, if you’re in Bruges on a budget, by all means check out the St. Christopher’s hostel. Best room? No, not really. Best beds? Not quite. But it’s got a bar. A bar full of fellow travelers. The perfect place to hang out and have a few drinks with new friends. Ian put up another “Hey, we’re nice but shy, so come talk to us” sign, and within minutes we were invited to what became known as the “Commonwealth party:” a table of four Scots, two Australians and a Chinese woman living in Germany (for variety) that had met doing the In Bruges walking tour, something we’d been eyeing for our full day in the city, given my fondness for the movie and Ian’s fondness for looking at stuff.

Spot Ian. Bet you can.
Damp but fun.

The people behind the walking tour (which used our hostel as home base) also had two other gatherings: a beer tasting, in the pub connected to our hostel, and a pub crawl. I continued to succumb to local fares and signed us up for the beer tasting the following night, where I learned that Belgian ales are, in fact, not too shabby in general. Yes, I was like Christopher Columbus: boldly discovering something that millions of people already knew about.

We chose not to go on the pub crawl, despite the fact that it meant parting ways with our lovely beer tasting hostess, Caitlyn (being named Caitlyn makes you 10% more attractive to me, not sure where that comes from). Instead, we hung out with a new friend we made during the beer tasting, a ginger from America who may have moved to Florida but never lost her New York attitude. Once we’d finished the beers that came with the beer tasting experience, we set off into the damp night in search of other bars with other beers. Our primary targets, including a small tavern at the end of Bruges’ smallest street that brews a beer unavailable anywhere else in the world, were closed, but we continued undeterred, determined to find more beers. She suggested we make an adventure out of it.

We managed to only subtly imply that our reaction to being asked on a drinking adventure by a cute ginger was less “Oh, if we must” and more “Where the hell have you been the last three weeks?”

Oh, but before we left she had to check in with a guy from Scotland she’d “accidentally fallen in love with,” so don’t get excited.

I thought one full day would allow us to get the full Bruges experience. I don’t know why I thought that, but I was quite clearly mistaken. Perhaps one day I shall return… one day…

 

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