fivemack (fivemack) wrote,


The trains to and from Bruges exhibited a logistic failure of public transport that I hadn't seen before: four second-class carriages without a free seat, and two first-class carriages without a soul.

For some reason, Bruges reminds me of King's Lynn or Bury St Edmund's as they would look with more canals and with contemporary wealth; cobbled streets with tall merchants' houses almost overhanging onto them, a fantastic variety of roof styles, and a great multitude of churches crammed into the sides of roads and squares, to make one wish for a wider-angle lens.

The churches are very old, and accordingly tend to be great brick piles: the Sint-Salvator-Kerk reminded me of the mighty fortress of the Teutonic Knights at Marienburg more than anything else.

When I got back to Brussels, I saw an interesting-looking dome out of the train window and resolved to walk over and have a look. This turned out to be the Basilica, a church started around the same time as Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral in a similar style and to a similar scale, and finished, thanks to the various distractions which afflicted the Belgians in the first half of the C20, around the same time as Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral. Rather than being round the corner and large, it was three kilometres away on the top of a hill and enormous; the path there took me across the docks of Brussels-Haven and past an enormous, beautifully-restored and spectacularly uninhabited warehouse-turned-mall named for Thurn-und-Taxis. I'm sure they can afford that kind of folly.

The Basilica is the centrepiece of a bit of urban planning which reminds one why Leopold the Second of Belgium is rarely dubbed the Subtle, the Restrained, the Conservationist, the Decentralised ... the boulevard looked longer than even Ceacescu's monumental work in central Bucharest. The real oddity was the way the cathedral was equipped with star-point-shaped buttresses at every corner, an architectural style normally associated with proofing against car-bomb explosions or with providing overlapping fields of fire for the defenders of post-Napoleonic fortresses. A restaurant at the Simonis roundabout at the bottom provided good steak.
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