We arrived in Bruges, Belgium from Amsterdam at around 6:30 PM. At first, I wanted to visit the town of Neunen, Holland because it is the birthplace of Van Gogh, and also because I’m a Band of Brothers fan and a battle took place there. Really the only things we saw there though was a lot of rain and some hail.
We stopped in several hostels to check their availability and prices, but this only led us farther from the city center. After asking in the last hostel we could find as to where we might find a campground, we walked some three kilometers towards the outskirts of the city after sundown.
Britt’s shoulders were hurting and I was getting impatient looking for this non-existent campground. The last hostel we stopped at gave us directions to the camp that included making a right at a McDonald’s. We have still yet to see this so-called McDonald’s. Stopping at a stoplight to cross a street, Britt makes eye-contact with a woman sitting in her car. We crossed the street, and Britt watches the woman swing her car around, park on the curb in front of us, and get out of her car. She’s walking toward us and I see she is a middle-aged blonde woman, and she has a pretty smile.
“Do you guys need a ride somewhere?” she asks. I’m still wondering as to how she knew we spoke English. She offers to give us a lift, and then calls her husband, Nikolaas, to bring a bigger car than her compact to fit us and our stuff. When he arrives, she offers to let us camp in their garden and serve us pizza and wine. We’ve learned to not turn things down when they are offered because, “It is better to give than to receive.” We are helping them more by accepting than they are helping us to let us sleep in their backyard.
At their house we met Alex and Tom, two guys that work for Nikolaas. He is a graphic artist and she works as the head of HR at a firm. Their house is beautiful and large. They offer that we sleep in their kids’ beds since they are on holiday camping with their grandparents. We decline respectfully.
Sitting around the living room, we each talk about our occupations before the trip. Tom and I got to talking about the politics of Belgium. It is essentially divided along it’s middle with the North being Flanders and the South is Wallonia. Dutch is predominantly spoken in Flanders with the exception of Brussels being French, and Wallonia is French spoken. Their government has at least ten parties while the US only has two. They are required to vote. I tell them that I like that idea, but Alex doesn’t like that they make him go. He would go vote anyway.
After some wine and a lot of food, I went out to the backyard to build the tent in the dark. We exchanged email addresses and promised to stay in contact. This would be the last time we saw them because they left for work very early, and they told us to come inside when we wake up and their maid will make us breakfast. It rained through most of the night, and Britt didn’t close her flap to keep the water out. Most of her stuff got wet.
We had breakfast waiting for us on the table when we awoke, and the maid served us coffee and tea. We tried to get directions to the station, but she hardly knew English. She drew us a map and that was very helpful. We walked back through Bruges and were able to stop and enjoy the scenery.
During World War II, this was one of the cities that Hitler refused to destroy because of it’s beauty and history. The whole town is surrounded by a canal, and is only accessible by bridge. The buildings are all made out of the same white colored stone, and they all look like castles. I stopped at a small bakery and ate a Belgian waffle covered in Belgian chocolate and whipped cream. I would sleep outside all night in the rain if I knew I could have one of the those waiting for me the next day.