A day trip to Bruges started with a one-hour train ride from Brussels. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, but it was FREEZING. And we couldn’t believe all the tourists there this time of year. We can’t imagine what it must be like in summer. I guess everyone falls in love with all the picturesque winding streets and alleys, the stunning medieval architecture, and all the beautiful canals which meander throughout the beautiful city.
The main market square in the heart of the city of Bruges is lined with 13th-century medieval gabled houses, which now serve as shops and restaurants.
After reaching its pinnacle in the 15th century as an important center of commerce, finance, and culture, the city began to suffer from competition from Antwerp, as well as from other circumstances beyond it’s control. It then began to decline, and continued to do so through the 17th century. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it was rediscovered and restored into what is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and, subsequently, as one of the most popular tourist sites in Belgium, if not all of Europe.
We were able to escape the crowds of tourists when we took a long, peaceful walk all along the medieval outer ramparts which surround the city. This is where we ran into the picturesque windmills, which were introduced to the region by the Flemish crusaders in the 15th century. The 19th-century steam-driven machines made the windmills archaic, and only four of them remain, out of the original thirty or so which previously dotted the area. One of these four windmills, the St. Janshuis Mill, is still in operation today and is used to grind flour.