Category Archives: 2019 Winter Tours

One’s downfall is Another’s windfall…

ANVERS in French, ANTWERPEN in Flemish

Monday-Wednesday, April 15-17, 2019

Having left Bruges we headed east to Antwerp. We had come close to touring this city when visiting our Belgium family while checking out Bastogne and  Waterloo in the fall of 2016. But, we didn’t make it as we needed to return to JUANONA to get ready to return to Maine.

This time, Antwerp was our original destination in between boat errands, yet we had added in Bruges because it was close to where we had to be Sunday. The only drawback concerned the lengths of our visits. Both seemed way too brief. We definitely could have enjoyed at least one more night, if not two, in both cities. If you’re thinking of visiting either, add on days!

Because of being short-timers here we wanted to be within easy walking distance of the sites we planned to see. And, we wanted to be able to park the car without having to pay half our room budget. AND, we wanted a comfortable place to crash with good wifi that wasn’t too expensive. Oh, and the ability to make a cup of joe in the morning… Good luck, right?

Well, we found one:  “Because the Night” B&B.

Not only did our room meet all the above criteria but also included one of the warmest and most helpful hosts you could find. Paul and Ann have an inn with three rooms available in a quiet neighborhood close to the city center. He greeted us, helped us park (free on the street!), and spent time showing us the best walking routes to reach our destinations as well as pointing out some good, but inexpensive eateries (one only served spaghetti, and, boy, was it tasty and filling :). In short, we found it the perfect place for our 36-hour touring of Antwerp.

Antwerp is the unofficial capital of Flanders, the northern region of Belgium populated by predominantly Flemish (Dutch) speaking people.

Its name originates (some say) in a legend involving a Roman soldier (Silvius Brabo) and an evil giant, Druon Antigoon, a toll-keeper living in a fortress beside the Scheldt River. Antigoon would cut off the hands of those unfortunate boaters who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the toll and toss the bodiless appendanges in the river. As you can gather, manly Brabo killed this despot and threw HIS amputated hand in the river. Now that’s a helping hand… Thus, the city carries the name derived from the Flemish word (Antwerpen) and Dutch (hand werpen) for hand throwing. Which a statue on the main square commemorates.

Considering Romans settled here in the 2nd and 3rd centuries you can see how this could be true, right? Right.

Skipping ahead 12+ centuries Antwerp became a Spanish enclave after the Netherlands won their independence from the Spanish King Philip II

whose father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, bequeathed him the Low Countries. Catholicism remained the official religion; yet, today similar to many Western European capitals, the city’s population features multiple religious affiliations.

Antwerp’s strength grew out of its opportunistic location of being where three rivers–the Scheldt, Meuse and Rhine–flow together into the North Sea, forming the largest estuary of Western Europe. Its growth as a shipping port, second today only to Rotterdam, began when Bruges’ water access began to silt up in the 15th century. This loss of watery transportation caused merchants and businesses to relocate east to Antwerp (reason for the title of this post). Add in the increased trade due to colonization and Spain’s exploitation of the Americas and you have a booming commercial city. Population grew five-fold from 20,000 at the end of the 14th century to 100,00 in the mid-16th century.

During this economic growth the city’s Golden Age blossomed with the Flemish School of painting. And, for those, like moi, who need a definition of this style, here it is: “Flemish painting is characterized by extraordinary subtlety, attention to detail, vivid colours, and inspired technique.” (

With such a rich history during the 15th and 16th centuries, it’s not surprising two of the museums we targeted featured amazing feats by two local sons:  a printer and an artist.

But, before we began our cultural experiences we were on the hunt for a good breakfast while walking towards our first site. We reached a small plaza where the museum stood but no cafes seemed to be open with the exception of one, only because he was waiting for a repairman. And, he only served alcohol… He did point us to the other side of the square and down a block, and, voila! the perfect spot for an excellent cup of coffee (or two) and a healthy breakfast of fruit and bread items (my type of meal). Although, Max wasn’t too keen on being the photo subject…

After satisfying our stomachs, on to food for the mind:  MUSEUM PLANTIN-MORETUS.

Two friends had told us about this museum: Seppe, one of our Belgian Family members who visited it with his school group, and Deborah, one of our Dutch Family members who knew it from her touring. Two good recommend-ers.

The name comes from the founding printer, Christophe Plantin (1520-89), a Frenchman who began as a bookbinder and leather maker, and emigrated to Antwerp around 1500, Antwerp’s Golden Age.

He opened his printing shop, Officina Plantiniana, and within 20 years had expanded his business to Frankfurt, Leiden (actually he printed marine charts there), and Paris garnering the distinction of being among Europe’s industrial leaders. He operated 16 printing presses, and the museum’s collection included two of the oldest in the world (Max and I assume ‘Western’ may need to be added as a qualifier)

and employed 50 operators as well as shop assistants.

But, he definitely established a family business which included Plantin and his wife Jeanne Rivière (not the happiest looking creature) and five daughters.

During their childhood he ensured they could contribute to the family enterprise, which also included making lace, with an education in reading and writing and languages. What I found pretty wonderful was the involvement of these women in the business world. One daughter, Martine (1550-1616), begins working in the lace shop and eventually is put in charge.

Another daughter, Madeleine  (1557-99), holds an important position as a proofreader for one of his major achievements, the polyglot Bible (the proofreaders’ room is pictured below and an actual sample of proofing work)

If you’re wondering about the second name of the museum, Moretus, it’s Plantin’s successor:  Jan Moretus (1543-1610). He began work here at the age of 14 and became the boss’ right-hand man partly due to his language ability (he knew Dutch, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French and German) as well as his managerial skills. He also married Martine, the boss’s daughter, with whom he fathered 11 children.

Delightfully, we literally stepped and explored where these families had lived and worked. Over two floors and several hours we walked through this history.

The ground floor included a portrait gallery featuring family faces, many of which were painted by family friend Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). I tired to keep who was who straight but after awhile I gave up and just enjoyed gazing at the actual founders seen above, as well as influential friends, one being Justis Lipsius (1547-1606), a humanist who favored the Roman stoic Seneca (4 B.C.E.-65 C.E.).

In the painting below Lipsius (in the fur collar) is explaining a classic text with a bust of Seneca in the background and Rubens looking on.

The family kept a study for this guy, which attests to Plantin and Moretus’ honoring intellectual pursuits. Balthasar I Moretus (1547-1641), considered the intellectual of the family, printed Lipsius’ collected works of Seneca with illustrations by Rubens.

Plantin’s belief was ‘With hard work, perseverance and patience one is able to surmount any hardship.’ He did experience hardships throughout his career (one being when he had all his possessions auctioned off due to a run-in with the authorities). Yet, he lived by his motto and continued to build his business with the bulk of the Plantin’s printing featured religion (35%), Humanism and Literation (35%), Science (10%), Governmental publications (8.5%), Pamphlets (4.5%), and Other (7%).

He also knew how to network, acquiring the lucrative contract as the appointed typographer royal to King Philip II of Spain (the one who fought William I of the Netherlands at the beginning of the Eighty Years War). It was with the death of Philip II’s father, Charles V, that helped Plantin establish his reputation with a book covering the 1558 funeral procession (also sold as a 12-meter roll). It was printed in the five languages (Dutch, French, German, Spanish, and Italian) spoken in the Holy Roman Empire.

Although he printed for the Catholic King, including the church’s Index of Prohibited Books in 1569*,

he also was a businessman who would print competing religious teachings, such as Hendrik Barrefelt’s preaching of tolerance in 1584. But, Plantin wasn’t stupid:  he did so using the pseudonym Jacobus Villanus.

* This listing of banned books began in 1559 and didn’t end until 1966 (!).

In addition to the humanist and religious works the company published atlases by Abraham Ortelius (1527-98). Ortelius first atlas contained 53 maps, growing to 117 eight years later. Because maps were printed individually one could build their own atlas based on which maps they collected.

‘Atlas’, by the way, is a term first coined by Gerard Mercator whose maps would eventually be seen as more accurate than Ortelius’.

Plantin and his successors kept a competitive edge by constantly improving the printed word. He would use engravings over woodcuts to ensure a better quality of illustration.

And, typography was another of the company’s key strengths. He used the best designers for his typefaces (for example, Robert Granjon’s modern Times New Roman and Claude Garamont’s Garamond), and he ensured no other printer could use them because Plantin literally owned the metal type. Eventually, the company had 90 fonts enabling them to print in a variety of languages, which they did:  Latin (62%), Dutch (14%), French (14%), Greek (5%), Spanish (2%), Hebrew (2%), and ‘Other’ comprised of German, Italian, English, Old Syriac, and Aramaic (1.8%). The typefaces were stored in large wall drawers.

Balthasar, mentioned earlier, went one step further by building a foundry which operated between 1622-60 and 1736-60.

A staff member–who saw us peering at minute type with quizzical expressionswondering how the hell did they do that?!–

kindly explained some of the printing and fonts. He asked us why capital letters were called ‘upper case’? It’s because they stored those less-frequently-used letters in the upper case of the cabinet holding the alphabet of a particular font.

To ease the arm movement of the typesetters they placed the most commonly used letters in the lower center to avoid unnecessary movements.

Plantin’s masterpiece was the Biblia polyglotta or Biblia regia. Under the sponsorship of King Phillip II (who sent theologian Benedictus Arias Montanus to overseer it), this work composed of eight volumes gained international fame. An original set shows the interesting clasps used to bind them.

During our wanderings I discovered quite a few business women assisted in running this business, such as Anna Good (1624-1691)… Anna Maria de Neuf (1654-1714) who grows the business during difficult times… and, Maria Theresa Borrekens (1728-1797) who married François-Jean Moretus.

Nine generations of this family managed to produce amazing work. Edward Moretus (1804-80), grandson of Maria and François-Jean mentioned above, publishing the last book, the breviary of Saint Francis. He sold the house and contents, including a rare musical instrument–a combination of  a harpsichord and virginal (one of the only four known in the world),

to the city who, thankfully, turns it into a museum.

By now my eyes are rolling sloppily in my head and I’m feeling very, very uneducated and, definitely, not very linguistic. But, wow, did this museum exceed all expectations.

It wasn’t all serious pondering. We managed to get into the spirit of it all when I persuaded Max (didn’t take much) to don an outfit of the time…

After lunch at a laundromat (great idea and one my sister and a friend almost started),

we headed for our second museum of the day, RUEBENSHUIS. In actuality, a mansion.

Unlike Plantin’s abode, Peter Paul Rubens’ home didn’t survive the four centuries without major renovations by subsequent owners. The only remaining parts are those Rubens, himself, commissioned:  the garden portico and the garden pavilion, heavily influenced by his study in Rome.

Yet, the ‘house’ Rubens inhabited beginning in 1610 until his death 30 years later definitely felt like he’d been there.

Although he was born to a Calvinist father who fled with his family from the Southern Netherlands to avoid religious persecution, Rubens was raised a Catholic (his mother’s religion) after his father’s death in 1587. With a classical education and apprenticeship to Antwerp’s leading artist, Otto van Veen (1557-1629)– one of Ruben’s earliest paintings (of Adam and Eve) reflects van Veen’s influence with the use of cool blue and green color hues as well as a more static background –

Rubens eventually left for Italy in 1600 where he continued to perfect his talent, marrying the styles of Renaissance to Baroque.

When he returned to Antwerp in 1608 he gained local fame with his 1609 commission Adoration of the Magi for the Town Hall, which found its way to the King of Spain in Madrid in 1628 (now in Madrid’s Prada Museum).

Like Plantin, Rubens obtained the patronage of royalty, the Hapsburg regents Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, enabling him to amass even more wealth. At the time of his death he owned this mansion and several country properties.

His studio became the largest and best known in Europe, helping him to become a superstar at the time of his death.

We learned apprentices would use Rubens’ preliminary oil sketches to do the large scale versions. Then Rubens would fine-tune the most important elements–people and flesh tones. Yet, the master painted the entire piece of his most important commissions.

One of his most successful apprentices was Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) who became more of a collaborator with Rubens as opposed to pupil. Later considered a rival to his teacher, Van Dyck became a court painter to Charles I in London, who knighted him in 1632. Below is a portrait by van Dyck.

Royalty is definitely one’s ticket to success…

We meandered with a small booklet through rooms showcasing a variety of paintings, Rubens’ as well as his contemporaries’.

Later, in reading about this artist it’s not surprising he became a friend of Plantin and other famous residents of the city. Rubens spoke five languages, was a scholar, a humanist, a diplomat and possessed extraordinary energy.

Speaking of energy, ours was flagging. We had filled our heads with the art of printing and of oil painting, both fields represented by two genuises, one I had heard of and one I hadn’t. Time for that full plate of spaghetti, bed, and home to JUANONA.

With a stop for a libation

in the shadow of the cathedral,

we slowly strolled back to our B&B stopping to gaze at some art along the way.

Unfortunately, we missed touring a third site on our list, the Red Star Line Museum covering the emigration of several million folks to Canada and the United States between 1837 and 1934. We learned afterwards what a mistake this was when two friends told us how rewarding their visit thad been.

Next time, for Antwerp along with Bruges and other historical, thriving places are on our list for repeat visits.

Now, back to JUANONA and prepping her for summer cruising… and a visitor!







The Venice of the North

BRUGES in French, BRUGGE in Flemish

Sunday-Monday, April 14-15, 2019

To make the most of our out-of-town boat errands we sandwiched between the tasks two Belgium cities we wanted to explore:  Bruges and Antwerp. We had visited the former when visiting with our Belgium family (Ta, Koen, Seppe, Frieke, & Wannes and pup Cuba) in 2002. But, Max didn’t feel well, it was cold, and early Christmas shoppers packed the streets. And, we had missed Antwerp in our previous travels, making it now a prime destination before starting summer cruising.

So, off we drove early Sunday morning, first dropping off Scandinavian cruising guides to some friends in Blankenberge, Belgium then to Bruges.

This once-fortified city was one of the richest in Europe during the Middle Ages thanks to the trade of cloth. And, the city wears this mantle of medieval entitlement well, starting with its stately buildings

and scenic canals, which give Bruges its well-earned descriptor Venice of the North*.

*Another nickname this city earned is Brugse Zotten (The Bruges’ Crazies) from the time of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). Due to his having been held captive here for four months, he denied Bruges the right to hold fairs. The residents tried to appease him with a huge party in his honor. In addition to being allowed to have fairs again as well as levy taxes, the townsmen requested the right to build a madhouse. Reportedly he replied, “Close all the city gates and it is a madhouse”. By the way, the local beer is called Brugse Zot and, since the early 2000s, is sent by pipe out of the city to be bottled, as we saw in the Brewery’s floor.

For an excellent background of Bruges during its medieval period read Dorothy Dunnett’s eight-book series THE HOUSE OF NICCOLIÒ. I hated reaching the last page of the final book. Frankly, I think it would rival “The Game of Thrones” if someone managed to translate her story into a TV show.

But, you can see Bruges on the screen in the film noir “In Bruges” with Colin Farrell. Definitely another worthwhile view of this town, although we later met two travelers who hated it, so consider my recommendations as very subjective.

The history of Bruges and the province of Flanders becomes clear as mud when you start reading about the power struggles between various rulers and wanna-be-rulers over control of this European territory. So, below are excerpts providing a glimpse of this city’s past:

  • The site began as a landing on the Zwijn estuary of the Reie River (Bruges’ name is derived from a Roman bridge over the river). Later flooding of the area created channels as well as a link to the North Sea and an opportunity to increase trade.
  • The town later served as the fortification of Baldwin the Iron Arm (love these names), the count of Flanders, against Vikings/Norman invaders in the 9th century.
  • The House of Burgundy entered into the picture when Count Louis II of Flanders’s heiress Margaret III (1350-1405), the last Countess of Flanders, married Philip the Bold (1342-1404), the youngest son of French King John II and Duke of Burgundy.
  • Due to its monopoly on English wool (considered the finest grade) used in the weaving of Flemish cloth, Bruges became one of the richest European cities during the 13th- and 14th-centuries, along with nearby Ghent and Ypres.  With such a reputation, it’s not surprising to hear of the royals purchasing Flemish tapestries to warm their damp and chilly castles. Some of the most famous and stunning ones- black & white as well as full color -are the Jagiellonian tapestries ordered by Polish Kings Sigismund I & II in the mid-1500s for their Krakow royal residence, the Wawel Castle. Out of the approximately 170 made, miraculously over 100 still remain.
  • The city’s wealth led to internal struggles including one between the guilds and the governing power, resulting in the Brugse Metten (Bruges Matins) May 18, 1302:  guildsmen murdered anyone who couldn’t pronounce the Flemish phrase ’schild en friend’ (shield and friend). A statue in the main square memorializes the two leaders of this revolt, Pieter de Doninck (head of the Weavers Guild) and Jan Breeder (head of the Butchers Guild).

  • Bruges, whose status in the cloth trade attracted the attention of the economic powerhouse, the german Hanseatic League, joined this commercial organization in the 14th century.
  • In the 15th century the Dukes of Burgundy helped foster Bruges’ trade dominance. Not only aristocrats and merchants prospered but also artists, such as  Jan van Eyck (1370-1441) who became the court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467) (not sure why he acquired the nickname ‘the good’ but I did read he had at least 18 illegitimate kids so he was obviously good at something besides begetting riches).
  • But, just as water positioned Bruges as a vital trading port on the North Sea, it also took this gift away when the Zwijn waterway began silting up. The Hanseatic League moved to Antwerp with merchants soon following, and by the end of the 15th century Bruges slipped into dormancy.
  • The Eighty Years War (1566-1646) between the Spanish rulers and the Dutch created a split between a Protestant secular governance in the Netherlands and a Catholic royal rule in the Spanish Netherlands (basically, present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and a part of northern France).
  • Bruges began its revitalization in the 1800s when wealthy tourists discovered this idyllic city wreathed by canals.

  • Spared during German occupations in WWI and II Bruges became a UNESCO site in 2000 and was designated the European City of Culture in 2002.
  • In 2015 the city hosted 7.8 million tourists. A bit overwhelming considering only 20,000 of the just under 120,000 residents inhabit the city center.

Okay, I’m finished with the history lesson, now off to explore.

With less than 24 hours to see the sights we booked a room within easy walking distances of the sites, which isn’t difficult since one can cover the whole area within two hours of walking. We quickly stashed our luggage and exited into medieval times.

Believe it or not, we didn’t tour many museums because we wanted to simply soak up the ambiance during our short stay here. Which meant we strolled the streets in spring sun beginning in the Markt, (the main square) where the Halle with its famous, 83-meter (272 feet) belfry stands.

The belfry was added in 1282 with the octagonal upper section completed 200 years later.

With 366 steps to climb we opted out of that exertion but did peek into the courtyard

and snapped a photo of a photo showing the view if we had climbed all those steps.

Similar to other cities we’ve toured a small carnival plopped itself on the main square flashing colorful lights advertising kiddie rides and games.

All a bit surreal against a backdrop of imposing buildings; yet the modern fair added a light-hearted touch to the surroundings dominated not only by the 13th-century Belfry but also the late 19th-century, Neo-Gothic Provinciall Hof (seat of the provincial government).

Spotting a city tour bus

we hopped on for 50 minutes of a bored driver who would pull up to a site, point his arm and let the multi-lingual headphones provide their limited commentary. The only time he smiled occurred as we were exiting next to the tip jar.

Just to give you an idea of the throngs milling about this spring day (foretelling the mob scenes to come as spring turns into summer), I took a photo out of the window:

Not too informative of a ride but it did provide an opportunity for our picking out where we’d want to go next.

And, two sites we selected centered on the importance of religion (not unusual since churches seem to sprout like mushrooms in these medieval towns), the first being Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (aka O.L.V.-Kerk, aka The Church of Our Lady)

Built on a plot inhabited by previous churches (first from the 9th-century, followed by a Romanesque one in the 12th-century) the current structure began 1210 in the Gothic style and continued birthing additional parts (steeple tower, chapels, etc.) into the 16th and 17th centuries. Bizarrely (to me) in the 18th century, after the French Revolution, the church was for sale resulting in the parishioners buying it back.

During the centuries saintly relics, those pilgrim magnets, i.e., money-makers, pumped up attendance and the church’s coffers insuring O.L.V.’s religious importance. But, entering structures of this magnitude with their soaring ceilings and impressive decor, such as the 12 apostles lining the main aisle of the nave, one doesn’t need dead people’s organs to feel spirituality hovering in the air.

Today the church serves as a museum with one of its most notable pieces being the statue ‘Madonna and Child’ by Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564). Commissioned by a Cardinal who later became Pope Pius III for the main alter of Siena, Italy’s cathedral, it ended up as a gift by Bruges merchant Jan Mouscron to O.L.V.

Because you can’t get within less than 20 feet of this guarded piece of art (I zoomed in to capture the image above), there’s an unimpressive duplicate, although, that, too, is encased in a glass box. When I noticed Max peering at it, I pointed to the real one. He was happy to hear it wasn’t the original as he didn’t think the copy looked too great. (Nor did this statue replace Michelangelo’s Pieta as his all-time favorite.)

The need for security is understandable considering the statue was stolen in 1794 during the French Occupation, returned in 1816 following the Peace of Vienna, only to be seized by the Nazis in 1945, then found along other priceless pieces of art in an Austrian salt mine. And, it was placed back in its original site for paying visitors to now see.

Other notable work catching my eye included:

two elaborate oaken confessionals carved over two years in High Baroque style (1697-98)…

two ceremonial tombs of Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) who died falling off her horse and whose husband, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian of Austria (1459-1519), commissioned this tomb in 1502 with her son, Philip the Fair (1478-1506), adding the gilt-work,

all on top of her bricked-in remains (empty burial tomb seen below through glass floor)

and lying nearby is Charles the Bold (1433-1477), Duke of Burgundy who died at the Battle of Nancy, in the other glittery tomb after Charles V brought his remains to Bruges in 1558 and his son,  Philip II (who fought William I of the Netherlands for control of the Low Countries during the 80-year war) commissioned this one in 1562.

Unlike Michelangelo’s statue these monuments were safely squirreled away during the French Revolution only to be returned in 1806, and you could get with ten feet of them…

The pulpit created in the mid-1700s features a woman (‘Faith’) sitting on a globe who’s proclaiming the ‘Good News’ while holding the proverb “Understand what is wise, O ye of little wisdom; listen, and I will tell you many great things; for what passes my lips is righteous and true”, obviously what’s true has something to do with Jesus or God and not advertising Burger King’s Impossible Whopper…

finally, lots of paintings hung on the walls with one, to me, of the most striking being ‘The Crucifixion’ attributed to Antoon van Djick (1599-1641).


Of course, we can not not tour something with even a whisper of an MDT (Max Disaster Tour ), and we found one of those in The Basilica of the Precious Blood (a 19th-century photo of this building appears earlier in this post)

The Chapel sits on the 9th-century fortification occupied by the first count of Flanders, Baldwin Iron Arm.

Crusading Count Thierry of Alsace (1099-1168) built a Romanesque, two-story chapel. Dedicated to St. Basil, the lower chapel creates a sombre and muted atmosphere with its unadorned stone walls and dim lighting,

while the upper story, added in 1530’s, matches the exterior with regards to ornate architectual elements. With no flash allowed some of my photos, as you’ll see, are unfortunately blurry but will give you a hint of the richness within these walls.

And, it’s in the Upper Chapel where one can witness and partake of the bizarre, daily ritual of parading past a cylindrical vial holding some of Jesus’ blood; and, those who know me can probably imagine my eye roll at that bit of ‘truth’. But, hearing this event would occur in 15 minutes we decided to take one of the seats in a small area (seen below) off to the right of the main altar (seen above) to get our dose of sacredness.

Supposedly the Patriarch of Jerusalem bestowed this valuable bit of Jesus to Count Thierry, a fanatical crusader, to thank him for his bravery during the Second Crusade (1147-49).

However, later research indicates the relic most likely came to Bruges from Constantinople in the early 13th century. Oh well, at least the Jesus’ blood part is true…

By the time the relic made its appearance on the altar, a guard motioned people, by now standing as well as sitting in front of the altar, to begin lining up one by one. When my turn came I climbed the eight steps or so, approached the relic, smiled at the woman overseeing it, then dropped my eyes to see a stained bit of cloth.

A bit anti-climatic for me but I can only imagine how powerful this must be for those who believe in it.

However, for me, all I can imagine is the power of the all-mighty coin; yet, to be fair, surprisingly we were not charged extra to see the relic.

When not being brought out for 30 minutes of homage by tourists such as ourselves, the encapsulated blood resides in a gold and silver, gem-encrusted reliquary.

The highlight of this worship occurs every Ascension Day (when Christ finally goes to Heaven 40 days after his resurrection).

After our holy episode, it was time to leave Bruge, but not without gazing once more at this sumptuous jewel of a Medieval city and saying to one another, we’d love to come back. Only this time I can skip the blood.

And, that ends our 24-hour stroll through this medieval treasure.

Next, Antwerp!




Wintery Holiday: Finale


December 26, 2018 – January 2, 2019

Deciding to extend our time in the Baltic we researched the best way to reach Tallinn (Estonian for ‘Danish Town/Fortress’), Estonia’s capital and another Old Town jewel. A bus seemed to be the fastest and the easiest, so we purchased tickets and the next day experienced an extremely comfortable, four-hour ride outfitted with reclining seats, plenty of legroom, and individual screens with Wifi.

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Wintery Holiday: Part II

Baltic States (continued)

December 20, 2018 – January 2, 2019



Estonia shares a similar history with Latvia, one we saw at the recently expanded and rebranded Vabamu Museum of Occupation. (Vabamu is comprised of the Estonian words for freedom, ‘vadabus’, and museum, ‘muuseum’)

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