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A month ago, one evening at home, watching “In Bruges” on HBO quietly and visiting Bruges has been voted as our Xmas plan, by her (The voting process has been similar to the last presidential vote, lost by a narrow (!!) margin)…
A 2.5 hours flight throws you to Brussels from Bucharest and you may reach Bruges by a 1-hour drive mixing with a flow of French, Belgian, Dutch and German speed maniacs. The city, as also mentioned several times during the film, is the best conserved medieval town in Europe. Here “to conserve” has been utilized excessively, the city itself is a historical pickle.
Hotel Prinsenhof, on Prinsenhof Street, is a boutique hotel owned and managed by a local family. The luxury of reception hall and the stylish architecture of the building is turning into a sour smile, when you enter the room and see that the toilet is separate from the bathroom. It seems that during 1800’s Belgians didn’t need to turn on water to envelop undesirable sounds, or they even didn’t need to wash their hands after.
When the nature calls (and after 5 hours of driving, waiting, flying, waiting and driving, it definitely called), you have to enter a small cabinet, as big as a phone boot and once seated, your nose touches the door (I have a proportional and small nose, for your reference). The place might have been handy for Superman, but not comfortable for OrdinaryMan in need.
After unloading biologically processed Romanian food on Belgian soil and unpacking the luggage of 4 days filled personally with enough clothes to open up a store, we took the narrow roads in search for a restaurant.
A line of 3-4 floor buildings, each looking like a colored and fresh cake, surrounds “The Markt”, the main square. We have chosen one of the places and entered; the greeting has been “Buna Ziua! Bine ati venit! (Good Morrow! Welcome!)” by Virgil (from Certeze).. We were back at home…Virgil was kind of a supervisor, monitoring the waiters, talking to the guests and serving the bills; perfect job for the man of Balkans. Staying since 1993 in Belgium changed his accent towards French but he was very talkative.
While he was asking about Romania and current events, one of the waiters, a young, tall, blond, athletic type, left the menu on the table and turned to missus,
“Mademoiselle, I have very good muscles; you wanna try?”, smiling kinky.
I was caught unprepared by the approach of this local Adonis, looking desperately to Virgil for a sign of disapproval but he was also shaking his head in agreement and saying “yes, really good muscles, good muscles. Pleasure...”
OK, we arrived to the land of free minds… The final blow came from the missus herself, “Aaaaa, I really want to try, would you like to give it a shot also?”
I just wanted to cry loud, a romantic trip to Flanders turning into an orgy…
The question marks blinking on my face alerted the waiter, he rushed to the next table showing a full bowl of mussels…”YES! Yes!” I shouted, exhaling strongly, I wanted to eat mussels, we all wanted to eat mussels, no?
A quick charge of food helped with blood sugar, relieved and in peace we have decided to visit some points of interest of the city; Chocolate Museum, Fries Museum (yep, they have a museum for French fries), The Burg, Beer Market, Linen Market… The freaky thing about the city is that except tourists’ kids, you do not see much of children, teens or youngsters around; as if the population under 20 years is used as slave labor to produce beer, chocolate and linens behind hidden doors… All café’s, restaurants, shops are filled with retirement age senior citizens, happily enjoying beer and fries. Even the cue in front of McDonalds stalls looks like a casting line for Benjamin Buttons (Can I have one Cardio Meal Menu please?)…
Too much fries and chocolate makes one hungry, so we entered another food-hole early evening. The place was fully packed and waiters were obviously tired. One of them threw two menu sheets to the table and passed by. Another one came to ask about the drinks but while we were searching the beverage section on the menu, she decided that beer is a fine choice for everyone. Once she left, a third waiter approached the table,
You what? Again the missus saves the moment, the waiter was saying “Oui? (Yes?)”, as an indicative remark for us to order and to order fast… I wasn’t ready for this speed test and asked, “What do you recommend?”
“Maybe some poisons for you, Monsieur?”pushing his French accent on every English word.
Should each encounter with a waiter be a challenge here? I might be slow but not suicidal. But still, we are in a foreign country and I do not want to have anyone filing an aggression complaint against me, so I took it as a joke, polite and jolly “Haha, anything that would keep me alive until tomorrow morning?”
“Our portions are standard, but I can get two poisons at once for you”. The celebrity chef Harry Potter should be working in their kitchen.
In order to hide my anger, I looked down to the menu and saw a section of “Poisson”, catching the word “Tuna” I got the point. He was recommending fish (“Poisson” in French) … I had the fish, two fishes on a plate….
The first day in Bruges, marked by offers of sex and death by waiters, ended silently on the comfortable bed of Prinsenhof mansion…
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More to come about Bruges… watch the movie (In Bruges) and you will understand…