2020 weeknote 1 – In Bruges

The Belfry seen from the Groenerei / Quai Verte

The first week of 2020 began with a four-day trip to Bruges, which was fabulous and not a bad way at all to kick off a new year.

I’ve been editing the photographs (I took a lot) and I still can’t quite believe how lovely Bruges is. I had expected it to be lovely, and assumed there would be nice bits dotted around, but I was surprised by how consistently pretty it is, and how much I enjoyed walking around.

As well as how the place looked, I was also struck by how Bruges sounds. Traffic level are low, which has is a big help. And there are horses and carriages around every corner. Their hooves make a lovely noise on the cobbled streets. But the icing on the cake is the amount of church bells one hears all throughout the day. The bells mark the hours and quarter hours, and also call people to services. They reverberate around the town wonderfully.

The Belfry

The highlight of this auditory experience of Bruges was going up the Belfry, which houses an array of bells (obviously), but also (less obviously), a carillon, which enables the array of bells to be played as though it were an organ or similar keyboard instrument.

We somewhat accidentally chose Saturday morning for our climb up the tower of the Belfry, and it coincided perfectly with a carillon performance – as we neared the top, we passed the small room inside which was a man happily sat at his keyboard, just starting to perform using the bells meters above his head.

Nothing could have prepared us for the experience of being inside the belfry as the bells played out. I had foolishly assumed that the viewing area of the belfry would be different to the bit where the bells are, otherwise how could mere mortals occupy a space in which loud bells are rung every quarter of an hour?

Wrong. And, indeed, bong.

The viewing area is very much where all the bells are housed, and the noise of their clanging is, quite literally, cacophonous. It was also a unique opportunity to get out my Tascam recorder and – after a massive correction of the input levels in such a loud environment – try and capture some of the incredible noise we were experiencing.

Bruges was wonderful. We were there for almost four full days thanks to the convenience of Eurostar and I’d happily go back again some time to see some of the things we missed, and perhaps see the place in a different season.