Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brugge. Beauty, Elegance...and abundantly good manners

Brugge July 2010

I am in the very fortunate position of being able to travel regularly and usually once a year to Europe. And while I have, like everyone I’m sure, expectations, I must say that on my recent trip my expectations were surpassed in the beautiful city of Brugge.

I had been told by my companion, Damien, who despite living in Switzerland knew the city well from his childhood,  that it’s romantic nature rivalled that of Paris, and I was incredulous. But…for me, it certainly did. The beautiful canals, hidden gardens, tiny laneways, cobblestoned streets, discrete street lights, all combined to absolutely take my breath away.

And not only as a tourist. Somehow the spirit of Brugge touched my soul. I found the people to be absolutely charming, whether they were assisting us at our lovely hotel, the Martin’s Relais Oud Huis Amsterdam, or advising me with my choice of lace and tapestry, or kindly greeting us in the morning with our coffee and pastries.

And to wander in the late evening light, after a discrete and always elegantly served dinner, gently arm in arm, around the laneways, beside the canals, gently avoiding looking into private windows, was a time of reflection for us.
                                                               

Brugge July 2010

To be an Australian in Europe is not unusual. But to be an Australian so comfortable in a small city, filled with ancient, by Australian standards, buildings and feeling so completely at home, made me ponder.

The wide open spaces of my land, and it’s harsh and unforgiving but stunning light, is often daunting to the visiting European. The large houses, open streets, suburban outlooks of a modern nation are unfamiliar and often clumsy.

Brugge July 2010

I felt at ease in Brugge. I wondered if it was that the pace of life was in so many ways the pace of the bicycles which seem more in tune with the cobblestones than cars. Or was it the gentle manners of the city’s residents who so seamlessly were able to speak in numerous languages accepting with graciousness the bumbling language efforts of an Australian? I think all of these factors, enhanced by the fact that my companion was familiar with the city and its charms, assisted in my feeling of easiness.

And when I returned to Australia my friends asked which part of my journey I had enjoyed most. And it was my days in Brugge. Would you return? Could you live there for a while? And to both questions, my answer was adamantly, yes.

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