The last time I was at the Brugge (Bruges) Christmas fair, in 2007, it was a short visit. It was raining and cold. The skating rink in the middle of the main town square was more slush than ice and, while the city is one of the prettiest in Belgium, I didn’t really enjoy the visit.
This year was completely different. It was a clear night with a little bite in the air. The skaters were out in force, the lights twinkled, the old buildings along the square (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) were outlined in lights and the crowd in a good mood. We enjoyed a walk through two squares worth of decorations, lights, booths, many with local handicrafts and art, and, of course with a lot of good food.
Brugge is an old Hanseatic trading town known for its lace making industry. It, like Amsterdam, is a town of canals. It housed the exiled court of King Charles II of England during the Cromwell Commonwealth. In about 1500 its access to the sea silted up and the town went from 200,000 to 50,000 people. It was mainly deserted for a few hundred years. George Rodenbach wrote a novel, Bruges the Dead about the deserted city and Erich Korngold adapted the novel into an Opera “The Dead City.” In 1900 the town looked much like it had in 1500, except, of course, more rundown. In the late 1800s it became attractive for tourists drawn by Renaissance architecture, Renaissance fairs and, of course, the Christmas Market. The city’s population has bounced back to 117,000, with the old town home to around 20,000 people. This is still not the size it was in its Hanseatic days but it makes for a nice place to visit.