A quaint little medieval town, veined by a canal. The market square to socialize. Historic bell tower to add a fairytale element.
Have you seen the cult classic, dark comedy – ‘In Bruges’? No? Doesn’t really matter what you are doing now or what you are planning to do in another 2 hours, drop everything and watch it. I really mean it, you won’t regret.
The movie starts like this.
Ray: Brugge is a shit hole.
Ken: Brugge is not a shit hole.
Ray: Brugge is a shit hole.
And some time later, Harry, their boss, calls from London to know if they are having a good time in Brugge.
Ken: Well, I’m having a really nice time. I’m not sure it’s really his cup of tea.
Harry: What? What do you mean it’s not really his thing? What’s that supposed to mean? It’s not really his thing. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s fucking thing? How can all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and those churches, all that beautiful fucking fairytale stuff, how can that not be somebody’s fucking thing, eh? Is the swans still there?
Ken: Yea, there’s swans.
Harry: How can fucking swans not fucking be somebody’s fucking thing, eh? How can that be?
We almost reached Brugge.
The pigeon – mostly white, with a few gray feathers, just started crossing the road. We were in the car probably about a 30 meters away, our proximity increasing with every passing second . Few seconds and 29 meters later it was still there, active in pursuit of the other side of the road on its feet. That was un-pigeon like. It wasn’t supposed to be there. And we weren’t supposed to be there either if not for the forced detour. It may have just been a fraction of a second that we crossed paths in our space-time existence. I was not really sure if I should look back, but I did any way. We owe it that much. Lot of those white and gray feathers, now detached, were scattered across the road in tiny pieces. The pigeon was still there, twitching. It never did manage to cross, and never will. At least not in this lifetime. Mari was avoiding the rear view mirror, intentionally. I had to tell him any way what I saw. To every gory detail.
We reached our Airbnb host in another few minutes. We had to park the car a block away due to lack of a street parking space. For a town like Brugge, I didn’t really expect that. It was the prettiest building I could see in that part of the town. Our lovely host probably in her 50s pointed us to this space right across the street which would be more convenient. We brought the car back to the aforementioned space. Having just got a parking ticket in the town of Leiden in Netherlands we had to be very cautious to look around for a possible kiosk suggesting a payment to be made or any other parking deterrent.
It was one of the most artistic and classic Airbnb homes I’ve been to. Our host happened to be a painter. She was extremely kind to give us a map of the town and feed us with quite a lot of information on going around. We could have probably picked her brain with more questions that she was more than willing to answer but we needed time for a quick nap before heading into the town looking for some local favorite, late night watering hole.
After about a 20 minute walk on the road which was mostly deserted except for an occasional car, we reached the central part of the town, crossing over a moat with the swans. It was a pretty well preserved medieval town indeed. Most of the restaurants were starting to close. After having seen an Indian eatery once in a remote part of the Scottish highlands, it doesn’t really surprise us anymore to find a TajMahal, Indisch restaurant in a town like this. I love watching a town in its natural habitat. With not much tourists. With not much people clamoring around clicking pictures. I want to see the middle aged couple doing their close of business chores, before closing down their falafal place. I want to see the young girl on her bicycle with her books, rushing to join her late night study group. I want to see the old men at the market square, bickering about and socializing, in a language that I cannot make any sense of. I want to see the college kids at the beer shack, getting wasted like there’s no tomorrow. I want to sit wide awake, watching a town shut its eyes down.
And we did it all, after gulping down a few of John’s special mixes at this blues and rock cellar, before devouring a steak at this only place which was still open and took last food order at the market square.
(Oh, I love these European squares. More of that on a separate dedicated piece)
For Brugge, that was really late, so we headed back. Pretty sure we were the last ones to walk those roads for the day. Mari mentioned that he has never seen the movie ‘In Bruges’. I was going to make him watch, and I felt like watching too. It has been years any way since I watched. But with the poor wifi we couldn’t really watch a minute of the movie without it getting buffered. We would rather sleep and be up in time for the breakfast, that our host mentioned should be ready by 9 in the morning in the 3rd floor.
I knew it would be futile to wait for Mari to wake up and join me for breakfast. Best thing about these breakfasts I had while traveling was that, one can get freshly squeezed orange almost everywhere. Which is never in the US. I’m not going to miss on a filling home made continental breakfast. Our host must have had this burning question from yesterday which she finally shot at me while I was buttering the bread – ‘If I may ask, are you two a couple?’. ‘Umm.. Yea, you may ask. We are nothing more than a couple of heterosexual male travel pals who happen to share a room to facilitate the economic feasibilities of travel!’.
It was such a classy place whose ingenuity I can’t get enough of, I wish we stayed another day in the place and chilled out but we wanted to wrap up the rest of the town and be on our way to Brussels for the night. Mari was already down by the road with his backpack. I went down after handing over the keys and thanking our host for the stay.
Car keys – check, backpack and camera bag – check, sun glasses – check. I looked at Mari. He looked at me. Something was amiss. He uttered those dreaded words as I did.
‘Where the fuck is our car?’
To be continued here..