I did the one thing I said I wouldn’t do during my study abroad this weekend: visit somewhere I had already been.
I broke this self-imposed rule easily and with little guilt, mainly because of how beautiful I knew the destination was. Bruges, Belgium, is straight out of a fairy tale, and spending just one day there is enough to enchant you.
This past weekend was my third time in the city, but I’ve been no less excited on the return trips than on my first visit.
Bruges is one of a few European cities called the “Venice of the North” for its picturesque canals winding through the medieval streets and beautiful bridges spanning them.
The ancient history of the city is apparent everywhere, from Sint-Janshospitaal, built in the 11th century and now turned into a eye-opening and slightly creepy museum on medieval healthcare, to the 366-step Belfry, which towers over the main square and which I have now climbed twice.
Bruges showed off the best Belgium has to offer, with chocolatiers, lace-makers, waffle stands and beer gardens lining the streets and giving you a taste of some of the best products in Europe.
If last weekend was my wine adventure, this weekend was certainly my beer adventure, and there’s a reason why some of the world’s most popular beers come from Belgium.
Our Belgian adventure didn’t stop in Bruges, however. We also explored Ghent, one of the largest cities in the country.
It had an young, urban atmosphere, while also proudly showing off its history in the city center.
The architecture was more mixed, with modern styles alongside the traditional Flemish style that was everywhere in Bruges. I loved the feeling of walking around a city that was both lively and entrenched in history.
We walked around Sunday morning finding street art. It was amazing to look to your right and see colorful, intricate graffiti and artwork then look to your left and see a crumbling Gothic church.
While we were lost trying to decipher the Dutch spoken around us the majority of the time, we were happily surprised to meet many friendly people ready to give us a beer recommendation or ask us about life in the United States.
On a side note, I can’t wait until Nov. 9 when the election is over and I can finally be free of the constant questions about politics. I swear Europeans can sniff out the Americans in the vicinity just to give them a hard time about Clinton and Trump.
Minor annoyances aside, a weekend in Belgium was just what I needed to get a little break from France without going too far.
I love watching all the Dutch men and women zipping around on their bikes, the brightly colored houses and triangle shaped roofs, and hearing so many languages around me all the time, not to mention the cheap beer practically flowing down the river.
It was an unpretentious, unhurried and unexpectedly jam-packed weekend that made me want to come back for a fourth visit to Belgium as soon as possible.
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