the street outside your window

i can't say that i knew a whole lot about belgium before buying a plane ticket to brussels, but isn't that the best reason to visit a place?

belgium is quintessentially european; bikers, cobblestone streets, small cars, castle and cathedral inspired buildings, cottage style houses etc. it's an innocuous country, yet being central in northern europe it draws a lot of visitors and people passing through. i am constantly astounded at the vast amount of languages being spoken around me, and more impressed at the amount of people that manage to understand each other.

the day that i visited brugge [pronounced similar to brooch, but with a softer ending...bruuzh. get it? me neither] was a rare day for northern europe in the winter: it was bright, sunny, and almost warm [don't worry, it didn't last].

the bridge in this picture was constructed exclusively for bikes. also note the terrible traffic. bikes are the way to go around here. 

bruuge--like lots of europe and most of belgium--is a culturally rich city with breathtaking churches and stately towers. i would have thought that at this point they'd start to run together or start to look alike, but that hasn't been the case. every time i would round a corner and see another one it would take my breath away. pictures do them absolutely no justice. cameras of any fashion are unable to capture and convey how sumptuous and imposing they are. they can't capture the awe and reverence that just emanate from these buildings.

one church in particular really blew me away. i've always disliked stained glass in churches--they just plain creep me out. i've never liked the gaudy colors or the distorted pictures of biblical figures. this church, my friends, was so much the exception.

it was just everything. looking at the church from far away was impressive. looking closely at the detail inside was more impressive. looking at it closely and then looking at it from far away was staggering. i felt mildly uncomfortable taking pictures of the interior [even though everyone else was doing it...] but you know me...i did anyway.

after exiting the building i felt silent. not for any religious reason, i was just so awestruck at the detail and work that went into that building. i can't imagine the time, money, effort, and manpower that went into creating that building, but the care, love, and passion that went into it was obvious.

one of the things i love about this region is the way people are alive. despite the frigid temperatures and sometimes-less-than-ideal weather conditions, they don coats and gloves and get outside. i realize that this should be attributed to the holidays, but there were festivals in every city square i've set foot in. celebrations, laughter, bubbles and fire and street dancers and, of course, the food. i have been constantly overwhelmed by the massive amounts of people that are out milling about. and i don't blame them, because it is just perfect here.

the buildings are so eclectic here [and i use that word with the most positive connotation]. buildings aren't mass produced in a 'business park'. they're occasionally not build on even levels. business and restaurants and stores are all haphazardly thrown together [although that's because there's virtually no zoning in this country, a baffling fact i've come to learn firsthand]. i've done a lot of double takes as i make my way through a dingy little door only to have it open up into a seemingly spacious, elegantly decorated shop or restaurant. i do have to say though, there has been some inappropriate architecture, what with phallic-y buildings and that one strung up in middle finger lights, but that's neither here nor there.

despite all of its quirks, or perhaps because of them, it's a fascinating city, one that i could be impressed by forever. i mean, the insane asylum is nicer than my local city hall:
this was an action shot, as brick buildings have a tendency to rapidly move around from time to time.


at any rate, because i am in belgium, i'd be remiss if i didn't mention the two very culturally important things:


and alcohol:

all the alcohol.

[title from crossfire by brandon flowers]

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