Mons is Magical!!! Its a lesser known gem of Belgium!!! I just kept wondering how it isn't as popular as Bruges or Antwerp. Its the paradise for any heritage enthusiast. There is so much to see in Mons, that I managed to just see exactly the list I wanted to, and didn't have time to explore in 3 days!!!!! There is so much to see and so much to do in and around Mons! Its so awesome that it was titled the European Capital of Culture in 2015.... When you're in such a fabulous heritage town, it only makes sense to stay in an equally fabulous heritage hotel!
Guess what? We're not in a church here, in this picture, I'm at a hotel - Dream Hotel, Mons. Its a 19th C Neo Gothic Church converted to a hotel. Today the hotel has 62 rooms of which 1 is Suite Royale, 1 is Junior Suite, 17 are Suites and rest are classic and deluxe rooms.
The hotels is in 4 floors and most of the magic happens in the 3rd floor. Each room in this floor follows a Belgian special theme and each room looks so different from others! The various themes include Tastes of Belgium, Carnival, Art Nouveau, Magritte, Manneken Pis etc. Of these, one room is the fabulous Royal Suite called Cinq Sens, which has a huge church window, as its window, overlooking the belfry! Now, that's called a room with a view!
The really fascinating part of the whole thing is - every article in the room matches the concept, not just wallpaper and bedding, but even chair and carpet and bath tub. For eg., the Art Nouveau room has wrought iron chairs whose back rest is art nouveau design and the bath tub is painted gold!!! The cushion on the bedside table of Tastes of Belgium room looks like a macaroon!!! The chair of Magritte room is made of transparent, colorless acrylic to match the surrealism!!! The carpet in Carnaval room had the pattern of cobble road filled with multicolored poppers... If you're going with a toddler, you may want to choose the BD Belge room with Comics theme. 4th floor has some aparthotel rooms which is include its own microwave oven, stove top etc.
The corridor is plain to balance the craziness of each room, but there are black and white wall art throughout corresponding to the theme. At the end of the corridor is the frontage of the hotel which is a stunning stained glass window, restored from the original church!
Only the Junior and Royal Suite rooms have bath tubs while the rest all have showers. The bathrooms are provided with shower gels and shampoos in non-removable dispensers. Rooms are also equipped with hair dryer, locker, towels, and bathroom slippers. There are no kits kept by default in the room, everything has to be requested if needed. There is a mini bar and cafe with kettle. Some rooms have the bathroom & toilet attached while some have it separate. Quite weirdly, a room which had separate toilet, didn't have a wash basin in there!!!
Throughout the hotel the reminiscence of the church can be seen. A pillar base of the church now serves as a central bar table, the gorgeous windows are used in several rooms, some frescoes can be seen in the meeting rooms, the pillars can be seen everywhere including some weird placements in the rooms (the pillar in carnaval room is fitted with a lifesize mirror and surrounded by wall on all sides), but that can be forgiven coz obviously, the current building is only built following the cues of existing building.
Also throughout the hotel, the heavy influence of the Doudou festival (a UNESCO recognized annual event) can also be seen. Even the wallpaper and curtains at the Mezzo restaurant are Doudou themed.
There are fitness room, sauna, spa, hammam etc which are complimentary for the guests but has to be booked in advance. There is a bar and restaurant in the ground floor. Breakfast is at an additional cost. The variety is not much, but whatever was there was really really delicious. Don't miss the apple pie and fruit platter with maple syrup!
Its a floral overload in my blog! But I can't help it, its spring now after a tiring, tiring, very tiring, looooongg winter (that's the effect of dealing with a newborn in autumn & winter!). So, once the weather showed some improvement, neither Atyudarini, nor I were interested in staying indoors. Following the floral boom in Belgian Tulip Festival and the Mystical Blue Forest, its now time for some Royalty to get involved!!!
Well, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, as the name says belong to the Royal family of Belgium. It open its doors to the general public only 3 weeks a year (the actual palace is open to public for another 6 weeks following BalNational - Jul 22 to Sep 2). While the Palace is located centrally in Brussels, the greenhouses is located very close to Atomium. An very small entry fee is there to support Queen's Charities that helps in restoration of artworks at Royal Collection.
First things first, with Atyu in a stroller, with bigger plans for upcoming weekend, the mere crowd and the queue at the beginning point of the greenhouses was just scary. I really considered heading back without venturing in. But Mr.V cajoled me and we went in. Atyudarini and the crowd wasn't a good combo and I ended up wearing Atyu and the stroller was just a waste of space and our energy!
Usually, if I sense crowd, I visit the place early in the morning, as the first person, to avoid the crowd. However on that day, early morning was chill and the weather was good for 11AM onwards, so we left a bit late, The queue to get into the gardens was sooooo long that it took easily 30-45 mins to just get to the ticket counter! The visitor route first leads to the Orangery, which as the name suggests, has Orange trees in it, which were safeguarded here in winter and moved outside in summer. The next stop was the Theatre Greenhouses.
Beyond this was the long walk under open-sky to Palm Greenhouse, where the fore-mentioned queue was. But before this point were the most picturesque locations of this place. Long back, during my earlier trip to Brussels (before I moved here), I got lost and found myself walking in a street with some Japanese architecture, turns out its the Far East Museum belonging to the Royal Museums of Art & History. The view of its pagoda looks splendid from here! The vast expanse of greenery itself is just so pleasing to the eyes!
The queue moved and we did witness 2-3 people giving up and moving out with their kids in strollers. Mr.V's perseverance paid off and we went in. It was definitely gorgeous and reminded me of Barbican Conservatory with indoor water works and more, but moving in a queue at a particular pace did spoil the overall experience a bit.
One of the rooms here is called Queen Elisabeth's (nope, not England's one, the Belgium's one) studio - the room in which she played violin and created sculptures which were her hobbies! Today its maintained in the same way as it was when she stayed here. This is followed by corridor after corridor of extremely beautiful flowering plants and there were some with gorgeous sculptures too!
The route wraps with Winter Garden which is a huge circular room with high dome filled with such stunning beauty. This was the first greenhouse built for King Leopold II in 1880, designed by architect Alphonse Balat. It was intended to be used for Royal receptions! Its majestic, huge and imposing, but is it beautiful when compared to Winter Gardens of Ursuline nuns? No! This is just plain...
Its a beautiful place. Yes, it is! Good to go on weekdays if you're with kids. Atyu did get a bit flustered half way through but found a new friend in a little toddler who kept chatting with her and kept her calm. On weekends, yes it gets really really crowded, which is kinda obvious as its open only for 3 weeks a year!!!!!
To Get There: Nearest Tram station: De Wand Nearest Bus stop: Koninklijke Serres / Serres Royales Its open only for 3 weeks every Spring. The dates & timings are announced in the official website of Belgian Monarchie. Entry fee: €2.50
After getting really frustrated through the winter, especially after we had a tough day at Mechelen, I was really really looking forward for spring. We've begun to visit parks and Atyu has got on grass and soil since last few weeks. Ofcourse, the icing on the cake of Floralia Brussels! The very next week after Floralia Brussels, I headed off to Hallerbos!!!
This year, as its in the news everywhere, the weather has been cold for very long, delaying spring and making blooms really late. Blooms like the Tulips, Bluebells, even Cherry Blossoms look picture perfect for only about 10 days. Before or after that, its only OK, not so perfect! So planning for these from far away may not really give the best results, coz you might decide based on the dates of last few years and this year, it may turn out different! This year, by chance, I'm in Brussels and I needn't plan prior for the BlueBells. The day I got the info that the bloom has begun, I headed there the next to the next weekend (the immediate next I was at Floralia Brussels)!
If you're planning to visit, and you're in Belgium or even Europe, its better to keep an eye on their official website. They announce the moment the blue carpet fills the forest. Its better to head there within 10 days from that point.
Though there are several parking lots, while taking the public transport to visit Hallerbos, the best feasible starting points would be P1 & P8. There are 2 Bluebells tracks which are about 5km each and they meet at P8. I started at the P1. They are some lovely volunteers who guide with the details of where the best of bluebells viewing can be seen at that particular day. It so happened that this point was on the other track. However we did a bit of short cut and headed to the Tranendal area which was the best last weekend.
Throughout the track were the bluebells in various density, but it wasn't really impressive. Apart from Bluebells there were also Ramsons. And finally I reached the Tranendel area.
Hallerbos Hyacinten 2018 - YouTube
How was it? It was unbelievable! I haven't seen something like this in my life! The tall beech wood trees, with the fluorescent green leaves, on a blue carpet, topped with chill, mild wind and chirps of birds........ It's something I cannot express in words. You have to be there in flesh and blood to understand it! I could just stay there all day and yes, Mr.V & friends did have a tough time to pull me out of the place and yeah, they did give in and accepted to explore one more small track! Its just so so so so so so gorgeous...
Here are a couple of tips - its not really stroller/wheelchair friendly, though strollers are still ok (there are some steep climbs). There are no food kiosks in there, however the parking lots have benches where you can picnic (with your packed lunch). Toilets are available in the parking lots as well. Being a national forest, there is no entry fee or timings. Dogs in leash are allowed. Plucking Bluebells, which are essentially wild flowers, is illegal. Ofcourse, wear good shoes as the dirt track is pretty steep and rocky at some places.
It might be already too late to visit this year (2018). However if you're in Belgium, you could still take a chance. If you're planning for next year, make sure to keep an eye on their official site since the beginning of April for announcement of bloom!
To Get There:
From Halle Station to Parking 1: 3.5km (DeLijn bus 155 every 1 hr)
From Halle Station to Parking 8: 5.5km (DeLijn bus 114 every 30 mins)
Free shuttle from Halle Station to the Hallerbos parking lot is available in the weekends during the bloom.
Every tulip lover's dream is Keukenhof in Netherlands. Mine too! Infact there were organized day trips from Brussels to Keukenhof. However that would include 6-7hrs bus travel in 1 day which would be just too stressful for Atyudarini. May be next time. Hunting for the next best tulip festival, I came across this happening in this very city - Floralia Brussels!
This was happening in Groot Bijgaarden and Castle, located a bit farther to Koekelberg from city centre. The architecture of the entrance across a moat with an impressive bridge - In the first instant it definitely reminded me of Eltham Palace. This was built in 17th C CE. The bridge with 5 arches is the first stunner, followed by the 30m tall, 4 storied tower with 3m thick wall and then the main castle. All 3 are accessible till date. Following this is a spectacular huuuuge 14 ha garden (again reminding of Eltham Gardens!). Right now, when Keukenhof is in full bloom, so is Groot Bijgaarden!!!
The best thing I did was to reach there at its opening hour, coz by the time I was returning, the entire car park was filled and the crowd was too much! As soon as I entered, I was tempted to climb the tower, but then, since there weren't many people at that time, I decided to head directly to where most of the flowers were.
Just behind the tower, was a this charming, wooden bridge across a canal and beyond it was this heart shaped arrangement of red tulips. Further ahead was my favourite spot - rainbow valley! There were multitudes of tulips and several other flowers in several colors! Best part 2 geese and a.............. BLACK SWAN!!!!! Call me ignorant, I didn't know Black Swan existed!!! It a species that's originally from Australia and has been introduced in UK & Europe.
From there the next spot was the French Garden with tulips in rectangular arrangement. Further ahead from there was the cafeteria. Picnic isn't allowed in the garden (except for small babies like Atyudarini who cannot by any rules, lolz!), but the food & drinks variety here at the cafetaria is really good. The Cheese cake was divine. Beside it is the indoor arrangement. The floral arrangement around old horse carts was just exquisite.
Behind this was the maze! Honestly, it was a let down. When I saw the maze in the map, I was really expecting a human height or atleast waist high vegetation. Sadly it was on the ground. Tulips arranged like a maze, on the ground.
After walking about for some more time (the peacock had lost its sheen by the time we visited!), I was back at the tower. This has 4 floors and each floor has a beautiful floral arrangement by Sebastien Dossin, which very much reminded me of Flower Time, Brussels.
It wasn't very big and cannot be compared to the tulip fields of Keukenhof, but this is the best place to go in Brussels. Overall, it was a day well spent, esp., for Atyudarini, who we left on the ground behind the cafeteria. She did, totally enjoy the sun and the colorful blooms!!!
To Get There:
On Google Maps: Groot Bijgaarden & Castle Nearest tram & railway station: Groot Bijgaarden While the railway/tram station is located 750 mts from the entrance, the bus stop is located just opposite to it.
My day in Mechelen began with the Beguinages. This is perhaps the most modern, commercialized Beguinage of them all! Quite opposite to Bruges which was the strictest of them all, of what I've been to. I'll do a seperate post on the UNESCO Sites of Mechelen, soon after I get to visit Rumbold's Tower. I didn't visit this time, coz it was a bit too cold for me to take Atyudarini there atop...
Guess what's inside the beguinage here - Het Anker Brewery. This is the oldest surviving brewery in Mechelen. This is located inside the Beguinage. Originally there was a hospital in this location when this was a thriving beguinage.
The beguines were associated with the hospital is caretaking of the patients. At that time, the beer that was brewed here, was free of taxes. Guess what? Since beer was distilled water and alcohol, it was used for the hospital, ofcourse, also for the self-consumption of the beguines. Even today some of the buildings in this brewery date back to 15th & 16th C CE.
Their inhouse beer is called Golden Carolus, named after the golden coins of King Charles, the bold. Its logo boasts King Charles seated on a horse! Today this place is majorly used as a storage space. The brewing happens in another facility at Molenberg. However all the original equipment are still here.
The varieties of beer here is quite interesting from blonde to dark, including flavours of caramel, plums, vanilla, chocolate, elderflower, clove, rosemary, coriander etc. The hops are exclusively sourced only within Belgium. The classic dark beer is a gorgeous ruby red. The Tripel beer is their most award winning beer. Their specialty annual limited edition beers include Christmas beer, and Indulgence series. Apart from beers, they also make konishi sake, ales and whisky.
The guided tour takes you around the facility for an hour and an elaborate tasting of 2 varieties of beer happens for almost another hour. We were guided by Mr.Ward Deprins. Kids can also be a part of this tour, but ofcourse they get a fruitdrink at the end of the tour. No, I didn't get to taste any of the beer as well, my guy did! I had a coffee instead with some authentic Belgian dark chocolate.... If you're a new reader, you might ask why. I'm a new mom and I'm breastfeeding, that's why!
From there, I proceeded to experience the Sense-ational Mechelen! Its a initiative by Mechelen Tourism, to experience the best of what Mechelen has to provide. I esp., followed the food trail and managed to taste some excellent stuff. I began with coffee and a very very yummy spiked apple pie at Cafe Sava. The next stop was Bakery Vanderbeek which came with some awesome chocolates. These ones were called Moon Extinguishers, and are basically Dark Chocolate that came with assorted fillings from Peppermint to Caramel. The story of Moon Extinguishers (Maneblussers) is interesting. On Jan 27, 1687, in the foggy night, a drunken man (well, this is the beer capital of the world) saw the moon, which gave a reddish glow from behind the Rumbold's Tower. He mistook it for fire and started shouting that the tower was on fire! People attempted to extinguish the fire and some ran atop the tower only to realize that it was the moon! Yes, Mecheleners tried to extinguish the moon!!!
Next stop was Schockaert’s Cheese Shop which provided 2 cheese sticks. This place is a cheese lovers' heaven. Since I headed on a Sunday, the biscuit shop was closed, but the Tourism office was kind enough to keep aside a pack for me! The biscuits are shaped like, take a guess.... ofcourse, Rumbold's Tower!!! I skipped the 6th one, Belgian fries at Korenmarket Chip Shop, but instead went inside Rumbold's Tower to give a snack to Atyu (well, that just means feeding her). One more in this sense-ational list was a beer at Het Anker Brewery which anyways we had with the tour.
To Get There:
From Rumbold's Cathedral: 700m
From Mechelen-Nekkerspoel Railway station: 1.7km along the scenic Dijle Path
It was 2°C when I ventured to Mechelen, but the 'it feels like' said -6°C! Wind was moderate and I hated the weather. But then, if its called a Winter Garden, you gotta visit it in Winter! I layered Atyudarini with 2 layers of clothing and wore her in babywearing and then covered atop with another quilt and still she did begin to shriek atop her voice. But then, the weather inside the Winter Gardens was warm enough that she slept off! Its there in summer too, but when everything else is dry and cold in winter, to see the Winter Garden maintain its green, that's the specialty!
First things first. when I heard of the name I though the whole place is a conservatory and I expected something like Barbican Conservatory. However only the first room here is the conservatory or winter garden and the rest of the building is a still functioning school and the rest of the rooms are still functioning class rooms, dining rooms, exam rooms are more. Infact the guides who take us around the place was also a teacher in the school!
By end of 19th C, Belgium was one of the top countries when it came to education. However education of women was still in the fledgling state. Women weren't allowed to study Latin and moreover a co-educational institution was kind of unheard of! So here in Mechelen, a boarding school for girls was proposed set up by the then diocese, and various other institutes were asked if they could run it. The Ursuline Nuns took it upon them to run it. It was the era when every building in Belgium was being built in Art Deco style. However in a very modern & unique feature, this was built in Art Nouveau style!!!
The building is not really 'in' Mechelen. It is, but its in the outskirts which requires a 20min bus ride. The huge building with its unique architecture is a giveaway and its easy to spot it! The place can be seen only via a guided tour which happens in English, Dutch & French. The tour begins in the Winter Gardens and continues through the rest of the school.
The stained glass details here are stunning, beginning from sunrise and stork on one side, moves through the day through the entire ceiling and ends with sunset and owl on the other side. Everything here, from the floor tile patterns to door frames to the chair cushion designs, its all Art Nouveau at its best! Originally the orientation of this building was 90° different from what it is now. During the WWII, its orientation was changed to protect in the midst of the surrounding buildings. Since the whole room was made of iron & glass (like the typical art nouveau style, remember similar iron base structure in Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels?), it was relatively east to pick it and turn it to 90°.
Girl children from all over the world came here for quality education, all the way from America, Russia etc. Children spent almost a decade of their preteens to teens here. Parents visit them once a year or so. The chatting place for parents with children is this winter garden. Just beside the winter gardens, all the walls are painted with representing the cities around incl., Luxembourg, Tournai, Antwerp etc.This is to give an idea for the parents to know what's around.
Then the hour long tour takes you through various rooms including Piano room, dining hall etc. There is an exquisite church inside the school. Since its inside an educational institution, it doesn't have a Father or Priest. Instead of a usual Chapel, here is a huge Cathedral sized Church!
There were pathways from the dwelling area to the Church, to prevent anyone blaming the weather for not going to church! Bathing was a luxury and was allowed only occasionally!
To Get There:
To Mechelen: 33km by road (30 mins by train, frequent IC service is available regularly) Mechelen to Wintertuin: 8km (15 mins by bus, available from Mechelen Nekkerspoel every 30 mins)
Entry Ticket & Timings:
€10.00 - Reservation via firstname.lastname@example.org is necessary Every Sunday 2:30pm from Mar-Nov; Every 3rd Sunday 2:30pm from Dec-Feb
P.S: I was invited by Mechelen Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.
Brugge / Bruges would have an eternal special place in my heart forever and ever! This was the first trip outside of Brussels and first stay at a place other than home for Atyudarini. I was extremely flustered about all things that could possibly go wrong, but it was relatively OK. Unlike my earlier trips where my itinerary would be jam packed, this time it was slowpaced and included getting back to the room for atleast an hour during noon for Atyu to sleep!
The entire city of Brugge is listed under UNESCO as Historic City Centre just like its counterparts in Ahmedabad, Florence, Bath etc. The centre point is ofcourse the Belfryand TownHall and the whole city around it. It is possible to visit the Townhall as well, however I chose to miss it. Just beside the Townhall is the Basilica of Holy Blood. This place is called the Burg Square and in the way from Belfry to here is the most important place - Chez Albert Waffles. Its just divine, perhaps the best waffle I've ever tasted so far. Just beside the Belfry is the Salvador Dali expo which I sadly missed though Dali is one of my fav artists.
From there a short walk took me Rozenhoedkaai which immediately reminded me of Graslei & Korenlei of Ghent. Its just so picturesque and probably because we were there on a weekday in winter, it hardly had any of the touristic crowd! As I was told "Lose the map and explore Bruges", I gave up on the map and started to walk where my legs took me and ended up in Kon Astrid (Queen Astrid) Park. It was sunny and Atyudarini got to see ducks for the first time and took some sun bath as well! In this garden is also a Church of Mary Magdelene and Saint Catherine.
By afternoon we headed to Sint Annakerk & Jeruzalemkerk and by sunset we were at Kruisvest where 4 traditional windmills are located along the canal. Somehow I missed to see a traditional windmill both in London & Amsterdam and I was pretty much bummed about it and here I was in front of one with my Atyu! The first in the line is Bonne Chieremolen which can only be seen from outside, followed by Sint-Janshuismolen (St.John's House Mill). This has been converted into a museum. But sadly this was closed for renovation when I went. But still, I got to see traditional windmills!!!
It is till this point, bordering along these mills, the UNESCO Heritage City's boundary lies. Following these 2 are 2 more mills, but by this time, it started get colder and Atyu began to cry and we skipped the 2. Pretty close to the 4th mill is the OLV-ter Potterie Church. This houses some statues or paintings of the 13th & 14th C CE.
In the opposite direction, very close to city centre are Groeninge Museum, Arenthuis & Arent's Courtyard. The connection between Groeninge Museum and OLV Church (OLV-ter potterie is a different church!), is gorgeous little bridge which is actually one of the most romantic places in Brugge! This is called the Bonifacious Bridge built in only in 1910 CE. The best part - it has a built in seat inside it making it a perfect place to sit & watch the stream. But behold, get there as early as possible to get your solo pic or just to sit peacefully and enjoy. The place does get very very crowded throughout the day.
On the other side of the bridge are the OLV Church, Archaeological Museum, Sint Janshospitaalback to back. Further ahead is the Begijnhof and Minnewater, which is also considered one of the most romantic location in Bruges. There are so so so so so many swans here (yes, Atyu got to see swans for the first time too)! The park is more of a very forest-y (read: not manicured) park which is very nice. At the end of it is the Powder Tower. The other end of the UNESCO Heritage City boundary is till this. The powder tower is one of the gates of the original city wall belonging to the 11th C CE. However this tower was built in 1401 CE and was used to store gunpowder. Today accessing inside this is not permitted however it is a stunning backdrop at Minnewater.
Pic Courtesy: T-Series (Screen grab from 'Char Kadam' video of PK Movie)
That wraps up Brugge / Bruges series and I'm be back with another place. In the mean time if you're an Indian or watches Bollywood movies, all the pics above might feel familiar. The first half of the movie PK was shot here! The 2nd last pic is a still from the movie and the last pic is Atyu & me at the same location - Minnewater!
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Brugge City Centre.
Town Hall - €6.00; 09:30AM to 05:00PM Sint Janhuismolen - €4.00; Tue to Sun 09:30AM to 12:30PM & 01:30PM to 05:00PM These 2 are included in the Musea Brugge card Roxenhoedkaai, Kon Astrid Park, Bonne Chieremolen, Bonifacious bridge, Minnewater, Powder Tower - Open 24hrs Chez Albert Waffles - 10:00AM to 06:30PM Salvador Dali Expo - €10.00; 10:00AM to 06:00PM
Ofcourse, the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk is the most important church in Brugge with the priceless sculptures and paintings in it. Apart from it, there are quite a few churches incl Basilica of Holy Blood, St.James Church, Jerusalem Church, Great Seminaire, OLV-ter Potterie and many more. I managed to get into some of these apart from OLV Church & Beguinage Church.
Basilica of Holy Blood:
Yes, as the name says, its a church which has the relic of the Holy Blood of Jesus Christ. The church is in 2 levels with the original chapel of St.Basil that forms the lower section of the church belongs to the 12th C CE by Derrick, Count of Alsace. Here are the sculptures of Seated Madonna & Child of 1300s, Pieta, Jesus on Cold Stone (both of 1900s). Sadly I could not visit the lower section.
A spiral staircase built in 1533 (which definitely reminded me of the Bramante staircase of Vatican Museums) located to the right took me to the upper floor. The current structure belongs to the 19th C, built after French Revolution. The stained glass windows of the upper chapel belong to 1845. The stunning fresco behind the altar belongs to 1905.
In the upper floor in a separate mounted seat on the right, is the Father and on a cushion in front of him is the relic of Holy Blood. There is a small queue to reach this. Donation box is available and most people do drop in a euro or 2 before heading to the relic. So you may want to keep you change ready. At the entrance of the upper chapel, to the right, is the treasury.
This is a quaint little church, a bit away from the city centre, towards the windmills. This was built in 17th C CE and has a rather rich, baroque interior. The best reason to visit this church is the humongous painting of Jan Garemijn, the largest single canvas painting in the whole of Bruges.
This is located bang opposite to St.Anna's Kirk. However I did not manage to visit this. I was here by 4PM and it closes by 5PM. I didn't want to do a rushed visit, so I skipped it for the day and somehow I couldn't make it again. This is a 15th C CE replica of the original Jerusalem Cathedral.
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Brugge City Centre.
I did exactly the same thing, as I did when I went to meet Michelangelo's David in Florence, here too - going there first thing in the morning when it opens its doors. Plus going to see the masterpiece before everything else in the place. That ways I get to have a touristy, crowded place all by myself or atleast share with very less people.
I took off from hotel at 9:20AM and reached Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk at 9:40AM. It opens at 9:30 and still I was the first person to enter! As I guessed, Michelangelo's Madonna and Child, was the very last exhibit. I walked straight through the corridor and there I was, in front of the sculpture, all by myself! (BTW, after enjoying the rest of the place, I headed back to the sculpture and by this time there were 2-3 other people and I asked one of them to click that pic for me! Oh yeah, the bed at Hotel Prinsenhof was too cozy for Atyu & her dad to leave it at 9AM!!!)....
This was sculpted in 1505 CE. The specialty of this sculpture is that its very different from the earlier representations of Madonna & Child, which is usually Madonna looking fondly at her infant baby. Here, the baby is more of a toddler, standing and leaning on Madonna's lap and Madonna is more of a mature mom looking to leave the child to take his baby steps!!! The facial structure & expression does have similarity to Pieta in St.Peter's Basilica Vatican!
There are several paintings here, that are post Flemish Primitives, more in Baroque Art, belonging to 1600s & 1700s painted by Caravaggio, Jacob van Oost and many more. At the altar is a huge triptych depicting the Passion of Christ (Crucifixion) painted by Bernard van Orley. In front of it are the 2 ceremonial tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold.
The original structure of this church was built in 1225 CE. Bits and pieces of the original frescoes belonging to the original structure are in display within the chapels as well as below the nave (covered by glass). The best part - the ceiling detail of Madonna & Child of 1469 is still visible in one place, in an extremely deteriorated state. This was covered by several layers of plaster. In 2014 restoration works, this was brought out in all its glory (or rather what's left of it)!
The entire church was layered with one more layer of plaster filled with frescoes in 19th C CE, with Neo Gothic details on it. The present layer of white washing was done over this. The lower half of the wall has the typical 'curtain painting' which was the style of the era. A lot of gilt with gold leaf was used atop it as well.
Currently the church is under renovation and several parts of the church were not accessible. This is my account after seeing a portion of the church!
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Brugge City Centre.
When I first came across this term 'Flemish Primitives' I did not understand a bit. Was it something to do with archaeology? Actually nope! Not, thaaat primitive. They're just talking about 15-16th C CE. Well, the terminology was assigned in 1902 as the name of an exhibition of about 400 such paintings that held in Bruges. Primitive is more associated with the style of the paintings which was more soft, fluid Christian in feel.
The realism in these painting were mind blowing, esp., in their depiction of fabrics, fur, metals & precious stones. The timeline is the same time as Gothic architecture. This was also called Early or Northern Renaissance and was prevalent all over Belgium, esp Flanders. The main artist of the era is Jan Van Eyck who is one of my favourite artists during my art history days in Uni. Today the gorgeous pieces of art are scattered all across Bruges - Groeninge Museum, St.John's Hospital, Church of our Lady, St.Savior's Cathedral and more.
On day 2 at Bruges, I took off from Hotel Prinsenhof at 9:15AM to reach the OLV Church at its opening time and from there I headed to Groeninge Museum. When I visited, there weren't any temporary exhibition on. The permanent collection, when compared to the various fine arts Museums I've been to, this is relatively small.
It begins with - no prizes for guessing - obviously, Jan Van Eyck! Here's Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele from 1434-36 CE (first pic of the post). Another major artist, his contemporary, was Hans Memling. So the first room with filled with both their artworks.
Further ahead in the other rooms were the paintings of the Flemish artists of later era till 19th C CE. Though there were quite a few works of Hans Memlin, Gerard David etc were in display, there was only one Jan Van Eyck's work! That was definitely a bit surprising....
From there I headed to St.John's Hospital. A temporary exhibition called Smoke, Ashes, Fable by William Kentridge was on, incl tapestry, animation and more. The permanent collection majorly features Hans Memling. The most important being the altarpiece of John the Evangelist and John the Baptist. It reminded me of the Adoration of Mystic Lamb at Ghent. This altarpiece was commissioned for this chapel in St.John's hospital.
Bonus: Here's me with Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait at National Gallery, London. It was after studying the details of this painting, I fell in love with Jan Van Eyck! :)
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Brugge City Centre.