These Streets

“I’m on the road of least resistance;

I’d rather give up

Than give in to this.”

– Promises, Promises, Incubus

BRUGGE

BRUGGE

Brugge/Bruges/Bruge: True to what I’d been told by various individuals prior to arriving in this quaint little Flemish town, Bruges indeed does have an antique museum-like quality to it. The cobblestoned streets and the ancient buildings date back to the 17th century, but the shops operating in these buildings are contemporary, newly-refurbished, with a surprisingly modern interior.

Sometimes it still amazes me how people could still live and work in 300-year old buildings; in my mind, anything (buildings included) older than a hundred year old is nearing its expiration date and should therefore (ideally) should be treated like a museum, preserved with special care. In Malaysia, I have yet to step foot in a building older than a century and a half old, so the fact that so many buildings here in Europe are simply ancient, yet well adapted to contemporary living, is still a concept I have yet to slowly grasp.

Although we were in Bruges last weekend for only a few hours, it was still more than enough to get a deeper than just a brief introduction to this city, and, quite frankly speaking, I could feel this city calling, trying to pull me back into its warm embrace. Sometime in the future, I know I will respond to its calling and come back — this time, for more than just a few hours.

Bruges, being an absolutely charming city, is basically formed of a network of canals and ancient cobblestoned streets lined with buildings from as far back as the 16th-17th century built in classical (well, I’m sure back then it must have been ‘contemporary’) Flemish architecture, which has strong resemblance to Dutch architecture if I’m not mistaken (though what do I know about European architecture? I’m no architect…).

THE STREETS OF BRUGES.

THE STREETS OF BRUGES.

From the canal.

From the canal.

From the canal.

A school built in the 17th century, still used as a school today.

A school built in the 17th century, still used as a school today.

I find that the highlights of my travels are usually when I’ve packed my map, guidebook, and camera in my bag and suddenly decided to take a chance to explore the small hidden cobblestoned streets that branch away from the main streets. I never know what to expect whenever I do embark on these impromptu hidden-streets exploration missions; sometimes I might reach a dead end, oftentimes I come across a quaint shop selling quaint souvenirs (like that scarf shop in Brussels I stumbled upon on my last day) or a warm cafe serving some of the best hot chocolates in town.

Of course, we mustn’t romanticize things too much, and it is also important to remember that sometimes these hidden alleyways can contain unpleasant surprises too — particularly at night — so we should always be wary. Having said that, these streets are very much like life itself: at every turn, there’s always a new surprise waiting for you, which is why it is important to take chances.

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