Hello readers! I know you've all been patiently waiting for the second half of my adventure to visit my friend Marta! Picking up where I left off on the last post, Marta and I left Amsterdam via train on Thursday late afternoon.
Our first train arrived in Brussels around 7pm. Our next train to Bruges didn't leave until 9:30-10pm, so we had a little bit of time to explore Brussels! We saw the Grand Palace, tasted some VERY good chocolate and had our first Belgium waffle! Unfortunately I did not save any chocolate for folks back home---I just couldn't resist myself. The waffles were amazing though! Different from American waffles, these are crunchier and have massive toppings. Mine had whip cream, strawberries, and Oreos! It was SO good (and probably very bad for me). Since we didn't have a lot of time, we tried to get to the train station a little early, with the hopes to find an outlet to charge my phone. Guys, let me tell you, OUTLETS DO NOT EXIST IN PUBLIC SPACES IN BELGIUM. Words cannot describe how frustrating it was that there wasn't a single charging station or outlet located anywhere in the train station or public spaces. My phone was probably at ten percentage and we still had to show our tickets (which were on my phone), and find our way to our hostel in Bruges. I couldn't turn my phone off either because for some reason whenever I restart my phone, my data doesn't work, so then I have to take it into my cellular provider and have them fix it (and there's not a Vodaphone in Belgium). God must have heard my prayers though because when we got onto the train, there were outlets on some end seats! Okay I already know how horrible it sounds to be so dependent on my phone, but literally everything was on it (tickets, directions, etc.). It all worked out in the end, so we're thriving over here.
We arrived in Bruges around 11:30pm and walked to our hostel which was about fifteen minutes away. One thing that kind of surprised me was how safe I felt walking that late at night in a foreign place. Bruges is a medieval town, so most of their buildings are very old. Walking down the streets, we didn't see anyone (besides those still at the bars). It was just a very comfortable vibe and it was cool seeing the buildings in the dark. Some of the buildings had these scary witch statues in their windows which was a little creepy, but other than that it was very peaceful. Arriving at our hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to see that our beds were like little cubbies. By cubbies, I mean that the only part that was exposed to the rest of the room was the foot of the bed, so other people wouldn't see your phone light or your face while you were sleeping. This hostel also had outlets in the cubby, so I could sleep with my phone next to me. It was the first time in the whole trip (including Amsterdam) that I could charge my phone at night. How refreshing honestly.
The next morning, Marta and I decided to head out to town early to explore before it got busy. Nothing really opened until 9:30am, so we ate some waffles at a nice tea room. The waffles were very good, even if they just had powdered sugar on them. Definitely weren't as sweet as the waffles we had the night before in Brussels. After our breakfast, we headed to the Belfry of Bruges to climb up the bell tower to get an amazing view of the city of Bruges. On the way up, we learned what different sounds of the bell signified. For example, there's different sounds for special events, when the work day starts, when lunch hour is, and when there's a public torture event. The staircase was very narrow and there were many times where we had to squish to the side to let others come back down (and we had our backpacks on us, so it wasn't easy). I would compare it to climbing the stairs to the top of St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican City in Rome, but just not as many stairs. The stairs are also very narrow, so there's a rope in the middle of the spiral staircase to grab onto for support. When we finally got to the top, we experienced first hand how loud the bells can be inside the bell room. Marta got a video of me plugging my ears---I'm deaf enough as it is. Pictured at the end of this post are pictures from the top of the Belfry!
After our climb, we decided to go to the Torture Museum of Oude Steen. The Museum was actually the cities prison (before they turned it into a museum), so some of the tortures described were actually carried out there. Now if any of you guys know Marta, you know she doesn't like scary things. She was apprehensive about going into the museum, but I think she really ended up enjoying it oddly enough. We learned about all sorts of torture methods like tearing off the breasts of women accused of witchcraft, stretching someone to dislocate their bones, trapping a rat on someone's stomach and making the rat burrow through that person (so sorry for the mental images I'm creating for you). One that I thought was funny was what they used on bickering women. I think it was called the violin, or something like that. Basically it was a wooden piece attached around both of the women's heads and hands, so they were forced to look at each other and talk to one another until their issue was resolved. It was not a painful or sadistic form of torture, but rather a means to force two bickering women to resolve their issues with each other. But that and a handful of other methods were the only trivial, not painful tortures. Everything else made me want to throw up (there were some pretty sick and twisted minds to come up with some of these tortures).
After the torture museum, Marta and I decided to see the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which supposedly holds the real blood of Jesus Christ. The main reason Marta and I wanted to see this was because of the horror movie we saw, called The Nun. Basically the plot of this movie was that this covenant held a gateway to the afterlife (hell) by a crack on the floor, but they needed to protect the blood of Jesus, because whoever held it, held the power. So basically two outsiders (a priest and a Nun in training), come to see why these Nuns have been dying and then proceed to collect the blood of Jesus and force the demons away. Don't quote me on that thought because there are some major plot holes in that, but it's been awhile since I've seen the film. We just thought it would be cool to see a real life version of the blood of Jesus. Unfortunately, they were holding a mass when we were there, so we didn't get to see the blood up close (they were using it in the service).
Then we were on our way to the Frietmuseum, which is a French fry museum. It was kind of cool to see the evolution of fries, but we weren't super interested in the history of it. We mainly wanted to try to fries at the end of the museum. Since it was lunch time, we got lunch at the little restaurant they had in the basement of the museum. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, which the cheeseburger was grey and did NOT taste like a hamburger. The fries were good though, but I was just a little peeved that the hamburger was literally grey. When purchasing tickets for the Frietmuseum, we also received tickets for the Choco Story Museum. This was a chocolate museum, which was actually pretty cool. We learned where chocolate came from and how it was introduced to the public. Here's a fun fact---apparently hot chocolate was a VERY popular drink way back then, so much so that people would bring it to church to drink. The pastor was tired of people showing up with all this hot chocolate and being distracted by it, he banned it from the church. The people were angry, so they decided to poison him. They literally killed their priest because they couldn't drink hot chocolate in church. Let that sink in a little bit. People were straight up crazy back then. We also sampled a lot of chocolate throughout that museum. Before we headed back to the train station to head to Ghent, we saw the Saint-Salvator Cathedral. It was very pretty, but I don't have really anything else to say about it. Haha it was just a beautiful cathedral with lots of cool paintings and statues.
When we arrived in Ghent, we decided to walk to St. Bavo's Cathedral, which was about 45 minutes away from the train station (yep, we got our steps in)! The Cathedral was very beautiful with lot of stain glass, statues, and paintings. Inside the Cathedral was the famous painting, "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb," which is a twelve piece painting by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Unfortunately, the piece was undergoing restoration, so we got to see a mock version. I'm no artist/art critic, so it made no difference to me. After the Cathedral, we headed to Gravensteen, the Castle of the Counts. If I could suggest one place to visit and pay for the audio tour in Belgium, it would be this place! The audio tour was very interesting and the commentary made it funny! You scanned your audio device at certain checkpoints in the castle and it would walk you through the purpose of the room and the story of the Count who lived there. It was really interesting to learn about the history of what was happening in the world at this time. One of the reasons this castle was built was to show the authority of the Count and for the Count to have the biggest house in Ghent. The egos of these people, geez.
After our tour, we grabbed a bite to eat then made our way back to the train station to head back to Amsterdam to spend the night. I had an early morning flight, so I wanted to make sure I was in the right country ahead of time! Overall, I would say this trip was successful! I saw a lot of Amsterdam and Belgium and can officially check them off my bucket list. I had a great time catching up with my friend from Ames after two months of being apart! It's hard to believe I've been here for two months---sometimes it feels longer, sometimes it feels shorter. I only have about a month and a half left. This weekend I'm heading to Alnwick Castle, otherwise known as the Harry Potter Castle! It's their opening weekend and I'm told there will be broomstick flying. Then next weekend I will be catching some sun in Ibiza! Until then, enjoy these pictures from my time in Belgium! If you'd like to see more pictures and videos of my trip to Amsterdam and Belgium, check out my Instagram highlights on @healthyhappyfaithful (you should be able to hit the Instagram logo at the bottom of this page and it will take you to my profile!)