In preparing the last two articles on the fascinating harp guitars at the Brussels Musical Instrument Museum that I got to experience “close up and personal” in 2007, I stumbled upon my photo journal of that remarkable trip.  This is now almost ten year old news, and so took place before I started this blog – but I thought I’d post it now anyway.  After all, it was the European trip where Jaci and I together fully discovered the magic of the exceptional architecture and our obsessive need to document every unique detail, which my faithful readers know well.  You’ll see your share of doors and doorknobs below!  It also happened to be a destination trip to the then-already-infamous harp guitar builder Benoit Meulle-Stef (Ben), so it fits the scope of the blog.  Presenting our photo tour in three consecutive days, beginning with:

In Bruges

Though Brussels was our final destination, we decided to first take a couple extra days to see a town several different friends had recommended: Bruges, a wonderful destination full of medieval buildings and more.  Yes, it is known as being “touristy,” but luckily it wasn’t packed with visitors, and other than the proliferation of souvenirs in a few too many shops, it was a spectacular, incredibly picturesque city.  It was almost too charming – Disneylandish even (and this from a Disney nerd), but most was original (or restored), authentic and ancient and we adored it.

Our hotel was small and serviceable, but quite charming, hidden on one of the many small winding streets.

Complimentary breakfast with Satie playing in the background on our first morning.  I could get used to this.

From our first walk to the main square, we were captivated by the buildings and incredible architectural elements.  We ended up probably walking half the streets, but could’ve spent a week there just rubber-necking at the variety of accoutrements.

Beautiful brick and stone everywhere; large doors, small doors…

…elaborate ironwork and stone creatures adorning many original buildings, beautifully preserved…

…often to every little piece of hardware.

We were close to the main square, or Grote Markt (Great Market).  Restaurant row is on the north side of the square.  Most of the buildings had that wonderful “stair step” brick facade at the top of the long, tall skinny buildings with adjacent walls.  It seems they were taxed only on the width of the street side property, causing this unique cultural construction.

We didn’t get around to a carriage ride.

Proviniaal Hof (Court) on the square’s east side.

On the south side is 83 meter (over 270 feet) high Belfort – the 13th century bell tower – which played its carillon of 47 massive bells every 15 minutes.

Climbing the 366 tight winding steps to the top, one eventually reaches the mechanics of the ancient device.  This is essentially a giant music box roll…

… the teeth activating this immense Rube Goldberg-like clockwork playing apparatus.

A flight up are the bells themselves.

At this point we were freezing and covering our ears as the music started.

Jaci bravely shot this while “in the belly of the beast.”

It was a pretty cloudy day as we looked out through hazy windows at the spectacular view from the top.  A bit of Photoshop on this series, and it’s more enjoyable:

Ultra-charming was the boat ride through the canals that thread through the city.

Most of the buildings – shops, homes and churches – sprout right out of the water!

Elsewhere were sturdier retaining walls.

The swans are local celebrities – pictured on postcards and tapestries of the town.

To Brugge Part 2