Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Still In Love

Day 126

The people here are just amazing. They will actually ask which language I would prefer to speak in then then give me half a dozen options. I feel a bit stupid for only being able to pick one of those.

I got up early because, well, I had things to do, old things to see, and beer to drink.

My first stop of the day was the Groeninge Museum. This holds mostly Flemish masters. They also gave me a free audio guide and that always makes me happy. Most of what I saw are referred to as Flemish Primitives. They are considered primitive because of the inaccurate way that the human body is portrayed. The fabrics, furniture and plants would be in perfect detail. However, human anatomy wasn’t really understood and artists were expected to used classical ideas of how the body looked. This didn’t really change until di Vinci came along, and then took some time to filter up to Flanders. A perfect example of this was Gerard David’s 1498 Justice of Cambyses. Cambyses was a corrupt judge who was skinned alive, this is what the painting depicts. The pain on his face looks quite real, but the exposed mussels and veins are not quite right.

There was also a good collection of Jan van Eych’s here. There should be though, he was from here. It is claimed that he invented oil painting but this isn’t quite true. He just mastered it with a skill no one had had before.

My favorite, and the one I came here to see was H. Bosch’s Last Judgment. It’s a bit odd because most of it is surreal, with over sized knives and shoes attacking people. I had always thought that it must have been really before its time, but apparently each object he used had some deeper symbol for the people of the time.

I wandered to a church with one of the 3 Michaelangelo statues not in Italy. After that I wandered down the smalled street in Bruges and what used to be the red light district.

I then had about 40 minutes to kill before my tour of the Halve Mann Brewery. There were already people at the bar with beers, but it wasn’t noon yet and I thought it was a bit two early. Instead I grabbed a tea.

The Halve Mann Brewery opened in 1856 and is the last one left in Bruges. The tour was pretty good and the guide was funny. In addition to the malt, hops, water and barley other things are often added to beer. Coriander cuts down on hangovers. Corn flakes adds color and sugars to lagers. I guess I could have had that morning beer after all.

Every beer in Belgium has its own glass and it is always served in that. Trappist beers are served in chalaces because it is like communion. The glasses are shaped for the beer to breathe, just like wine. There are often ridges on the bottom to help keep the beer cold.

The day before I went on this tour American Budweiser was bought by a Belgian company that also owns Stella and Leffe. One would hope that Bud was about to get drinkable. I don’t think this will happen, but perhaps we will get more good beer imported through their extensive channels.

After the beer tour I went and took a picture of a cannon buried in the cement. No one knows why it is there.

Another place that my map suggested was a candy store that was opened in the 50’s and is still run by the same little old lady. When I walked in I could see that it was really more of a small grocery store. The elderly proprietress got up from her chair in her attached house and came to ask me what I wanted. I really didn’t want anything, but I felt bad for making her get up. I got a water. I still feel bad for making her get up for fifty cents.

I then attempted to stop at the oldest bar in town for a late lunch but it was closed. Things have really odd opening days here. Instead I picked up lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Back at the hostel I spent some time with the blog and some credit card confusion. I was really just waiting for the free walking tour to begin.

I decided to give myself the evening off and didn’t take any notes. Although some buildings in Bruges do date back to the middle ages most are 19th century recreations. Several years ago they had a big problem with rats in the canals, so they let an alligator loose and over several weeks he ate them all. Now the alligator is in the zoo and they don’t have any more rats. I don’t know if that is really true or not.

I spent a little bit of time hanging with some people back at this hostel bar, but I was tired and soon I headed up to sleep.

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