Beer Diaries, Bruges Part 3

After the carriage ride, we finally got our hands on some on some of those famous Belgian waffles.

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I got mine with chocolate on it because duh and it was wonderful. In Belgium waffles are a snack, not breakfast. I think we should combine our uses and make them both. We also stopped at a chocolate shop where I bought some truffles and some chocolate for my friends because I want them to like me.

Several people told us we needed to try the bar De Garre which was located in a teeny tiny alley. By completely dumb luck, our waffle place was on the same street as the opening to its alley.

IMG_2509IMG_2510It was very crowded, so we ended up climbing all the way to the third floor before we could find a table. We did have a great view of the rooftops around us though.

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We started with one of the house beers at De Garre and it was delicious. I love Belgian beers so much.

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Sari hit up some more hot chocolate.IMG_2516

Then we finished with some Delirium Tremens because it’s my favorite beer, Doug had never had it, and it’s made in Belgium. So fresh.IMG_2569 

On our way out I stumbled and kind of skied down the bottom five or so steps. So, that was fun. Several people clapped for me.Then, we started heading toward home so we could eat dinner. Our last food requirement of the day was mussels. And we found them.

DSC_0285  I had a glass of Westmalle Trappist with my oysters and I happily finished them both.DSC_0303

We finished the night at a bar with a Belgian Chimay. IMG_2593

It was a fabulous day, but my luck ran out and I finally found that hangover.

Bruges Part Deux

After Madonna and Child, we walked to Grote Markt which is the center of the city.

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IMG_2437DSC_0111We sat at a little cafe in the square and had some fabulous fries and a few beers. Sari had her first of several hot chocolates for the day.

DSC_0079    IMG_2491 Fries with mayonnaise is so freaking good I cannot even believe I’ve lived 30 years without it.

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After our snack, we decided to take a carriage ride around the city to get a better view of everything.

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IMG_1702 IMG_1705Sari showing us Lover’s Lake or another tourist.

IMG_1708 Welp, looks like there will be part 3!

Chasing Churches or Bruges, Part 1

I took almost 800 pictures in Bruges, so this is going to happen in a few parts. It’s taking me a massive amount of self-restraint to not just publish 80 posts of photos. We were supposed to stop and spend the late afternoon/evening checking out Ghent, but we spent so many hours trapped in the traffic of Brussels that we were not able to (still sad about that). We have been pretty lucky so far with traffic, but driving through Brussels at 5pm on a Friday was nothing short of terrible.

Anyway, we got a room at a hotel a couple of miles outside of the heart of Bruges because anything closer was way out of our budget. Peasant life. We spent two nights at the Value Inn Bruges and it was a lovely little hotel.

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We were able to finally all get a good night’s sleep because that window opened and there was a consistent breeze all night. Hooray for small miracles.

After we arrived, we walked a couple of blocks to a small restaurant for our first Flemish fare. Doug and Sari both had steaks and I had lobster soup. I really wanted escargot, but I didn’t know how well it would sit in my stomach during a morning run. We also got our first Belgian fries. They were tasty.

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We were slightly concerned about our ability to communicate in Belgium after we encountered only French in Bastogne, but pretty much everyone in Bruges spoke very clear English. We were extremely happy about that because Bastogne really tested the limits of my memories of high school and college French.

The next morning, I woke up around 6:45 to go running. I had not been able to run the past few days because we left so early each day that I would have had to run in complete darkness. While I enjoy that at home, it’s not really something I wish to do in a place that I’m completely unfamiliar with. I left our hotel just after 7 and it was completely dark still. It did not occur to me that I was further north and the sun would come up later. Oops.

Our hotel was just off of Koning Albert I-Iaan which is a main street that goes into the heart of the city. I ran on it toward town and figured I would just wing it when I got downtown. I didn’t get a SIM card since we were only in Belgium for two days, so I couldn’t navigate with my phone. At one point I was running down a street that was completely dark and it occurred to me that there were no other runners out and I had absolutely not idea about whether or not Bruges was a safe city. So, that was not a good move on my part, but thankfully nothing happened.

As I got closer, I spotted a church tower and started weaving my way toward it.

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Then I saw another

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And another tower (not a church):

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I spent about a mile lost on my way home, but I eventually made it with just under six miles total. We got ready and headed to the Sint Michiels area to do some laundry. While I kept a watch on the machines, Doug and Sari got our breakfast.

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I could live solely on croissants I think. We finished our laundry by lunch and headed into town. It was crowded as hell. Bruges on a Saturday is mayhem. If you visit, go on a Wednesday or something because there were places where we couldn’t even walk. It’s quite the popular little place.

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We walked by Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk and I wanted to go inside, but there was a hellacious long line to get in. So, we kept moving.

DSC_0025Per usual, our primary goal was to get some food as we were afraid all the food places would close on us around 2. Everything was packed, but we finally found a little restaurant called City De Poulin Kipkroeg (I have no idea how much of that is the actual name, but that’s what was on the window) down a side street. Doug and I split the short ribs with potatoes and Sari had tomato soup with meatballs.

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Sari is a pretty picky eater, so watching her try to navigate menus in other languages has been interesting. Doug and I both got the Achel Blond and it was one of the best beers of my life.

I was so glad to hear that it’s apparently quite difficult to find.

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After lunch, we passed the church again and this time there wasn’t a long line. As it turned out, the line was actually to get into some kind of art exhibition, so I ignored that and walked right by it into the church.

DSC_0030      DSC_0038 DSC_0039 DSC_0040 DSC_0043DSC_0042 Doug and I were in the middle of bitching/trying to figure out who had slapped an ugly white wall up in the middle of the church blocking what were sure should have been a spectacular view, when Sari excitedly came running up. As it turns out, that art exhibit we had so easily dismissed contained a somewhat well-known Michelangelo piece.

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Oh hi there Madonna and Child.

DSC_0046   DSC_0052She was beautiful. I had no idea she was in that church. For some reason I thought the sculpture was in Ghent. I’m so glad Sari realized she was back there.

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There was also a spectacularly ornate pulpit.

DSC_0057 DSC_0060 With this dramatically crying chubby little angel, this concludes part 1 of undecided Bruges posts.

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Bastogne

After the museum, we grabbed a quick lunch in the city square. I love the traveling sandwich culture around here. People were just cruising around everywhere munching on sandwiches.

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That bread is what dreams are made of. I had a Camembert and apple sandwich on a crusty baguette. I don’t know how I’m going to eat bread at home again. I’ve been ruined. Sari was not a fan of any of the sandwiches, so found a burger.

Doug also had a sandwich, but didn’t care to pose. After scarfing that down, we headed a couple of miles out of the city to the Bastogne War Museum and The American Memorial on Mardasson Hill.

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This was probably the newest and one of the fanciest museums I have visited. Everything was cool. Everyone gets an audio tour headset to use and as we walked to different areas of the museum, it automatically triggers the tour. I thought that was pretty amazing, but I don’t get out much.

The tour started by introducing us to the four people who would alternately narrate as we went through the exhibits. They were all people who were alive and the stories are based on their experiences during the war. The personal viewpoints of the events really added to the historical information.

DSC_0933 From left to right: Emile Mostade who was a young boy in Bastogne when the Allies approached the city, Mathilde Devillers who was a teacher in Bastogne and delivered messages for the Belgian resistance, Hans Wegmuller who was a young soldier in the German army and was an officer in the Wermarcht encompassing the city, and Robert Keane who was a soldier fighting with the 101st Airborne division.

From there the exhibits displayed information on World War I, the Treaty of Versailles, and Hitler’s rise in Germany.

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There was a great video where Hans narrated his pride as his country won victories and conquered Poland, northern France, Belgium, northern Africa, and started pushing east. He turned 18, joined the military, and was injured in Stalingrad. Mathilde shared the pride she felt that her country remained neutral and refused to easily give in to the Nazis and the turmoil over the fleeing of their king. Emile was angry because the Nazis wouldn’t allow him to ride his bike after school and the priest who taught his school was gone. Robert joined the military after Pearl Harbor and was shipped to the Eastern Front in preparation for D-Day.

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D-Day happened and Hans was shipped toward the Allies in Belgium and joined the fight for Bastogne. Emile was sent from his parent’s farm into the city of Bastogne where his uncle lived and had a strong basement. Mathilde’s school closed and she went into hiding in that same basement. They stayed in that basement with 20 other people for an entire month. Encamped with the 101st Airborne, Robert fought in the forests of Bastogne.

From there, we entered another theater that had trees and snow made to look exactly like the Ardennes. It was eerie. Two screens in the middle detailed the battle.DSC_0970

The below right shows the map of the battle. The black is the Nazi-held ground and that tiny circle in the middle is Bastogne and the land held by Allies.

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Hans was captured by Allies and Robert was charged with walking him to headquarters in the city. As they arrived, the Germans began their shelling of the city. As luck would have it, Mathilde saw people on the street through the basement window and went up to bring them down to safety. There they all spent a long night as the Germans shelled and the Allies fought back. They all survived and Hans was safely delivered to headquarters.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the museum was how much information they had about Belgian people during the battle. It’s so easy to get caught up the military roles and movements, that you can forget the innocent people just trying to live. Throughout they had videos of Belgian citizens who had lived through the German occupation and the battle. Middle school-age students conducted the interviews and it was heart wrenching to watch.

One woman told how her father forced her mother and her to evacuate without him because he wanted to stay on their farm to make sure the animals were not tied up and could get away if a fire came. They never saw him again. A man described how when he was a young boy his family fled to the safety of the coast and how they always felt so cowardly about leaving. He had tears as he talked about the power of fear and terror. They were all difficult to watch.

They also had a lot of information on the Belgian resistance and all of the incredibly brave acts of the Belgian citizens to protect their homeland.

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At the conclusion we learned that all of our narrators survived the war and went on to have relatively normal and uneventful lives despite their terrifying war experiences.

After the museum we walked out to view the memorial. Each section pointed to a different area of the forest and had a detailed map of the movements in that sections.

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Then we headed north and our GPS took us through the center of Brussels at rush hour and we spent the rest of lives there. The end.

101st Airborne Division

I have had so much trouble sleeping here. I don’t know what these people have against  circulating air, but I feel like I’m suffocating at night. I usually sleep under a fan, but even when a fan isn’t available, I can at least turn on the air conditioning fan and air will move. I need air on my face. I can’t sleep without it. Even with the window open, it’s not enough. Anyway, that’s my primary complaint at this point. Oh and Google Maps makes pathways for walking the same width as roads. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve navigated us right up to a walkway.

Anyway, after not sleeping, we woke up early and headed a couple of hours north through Luxembourg to Bastogne, Belgium.

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I still can’t believe how green it is here. I think they’re hogging all the rain.

As big fans of both the Band of Brothers series and book, we were all looking forward to this day of the trip. We arrived mid-morning and our first stop was at the 101st Airborne Museum in the city. The museum is dedicated to the role and memory of the 101st Airborne Division and their defense of Bastogne.

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The first floor contained maps and details related to the battle plans for the operation and items the soldiers packed into the field.DSC_0821

The extent of my knowledge about the Battle of the Bulge is what I read over ten years  ago in the book and what I watched in the series. I didn’t retain a lot of what I read apparently, because I was surprised to remember that 80,000 Allies, 100,000 Wehrmarcht, and 4,000 civilians were killed during the battle.The 101st Airborne lost 3,700 men itself.

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The next floor had models of soldiers in the battle as well as artifacts from the forest.

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Couldn’t agree more with that statement:DSC_0877 DSC_0887 DSC_0890

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The final section of the museum was located in the basement of the building. The basement was set up the like the cellar of wartime Bastogne and we sat there as the city exploded around us:

The floor vibrated and everything shook. The noise level was unreal. It was honestly frightening. I could feel the fear and panic tightening my chest even though I knew that I was completely safe. How anyone survives living in a war zone is incredible.

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The museum was truly incredible. The sheer amount of artifacts they have on display is beyond impressive. I also found myself unexpectedly emotional in this museum. I kept thinking about the men they interviewed in the series, my grandfather (he was not on the Eastern front) and his friends going to war, and all of those people who still volunteer to serve in the military today. It was difficult to view the personal artifacts and helmets of those men who were killed or wounded in action and to think about how differently the world would look today without their courage. Sari and I both bought bullets that were used the Battle of the Bulge to help us remember the men and women who bravely volunteered and those who continue to volunteer to serve.

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Stay tuned for part two of our day at Bastogne around lunch.