Zeebrugge, Belgium

2109 HAL World Cruise

Thursday, April 25, 2019

 

Zeebrugge is home to a huge commercial port on the North Sea.  This is the port of Brugge.  And Brugge is an ancient city of great historic and current economic importance.  Favored with a tidal inlet (the Golden Inlet), Brugge gained its importance as a center of trade in its early days.  Unfortunately, since about 1050, the gradual silting of the inlet caused Brugge to lose its direct access to the sea.  So, when Brugge received its city charter in 1128, it immediately began building walls and canals, many that still exist today.  Then, in 1134, a storm re-established access by creating a natural channel.  And so, the city expanded and thus, established Zeebrugge.  Today’s modern port began in 1907.  It survived both WWI and WWII even though the Germans occupied Brugge and used Zeebrugge for their naval operations.  At the end of both wars, Brugge was liberated (by the Americans in WWI and by the Canadians in WWII) and structural damage was minimal.  After 1965, the original medieval city experienced a renaissance.  Residential and commercial buildings, historic monuments and churches were all restored.  This generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the ancient downtown area.  Tourism boomed and Brugge was designated “European Capital of Culture” in 2002.  The port was greatly expanded in the 1970s and by the early 1980s had become one of the most important and modern ports in Europe.

Pedestrian traffic within the port is not allowed, so our ship provided shuttle service directly to the train station in Blankenberge.  Blankenberge itself appeared to be a charming and prosperous community.  As did Zeebrugge.  Today, Zeebrugge is a popular resort area boasting one of the widest beaches on the Belgian coast.  However, Rog and I tend to think of Zeebrugge mostly as a gateway to Brugge or Brussels.  The first time we came here was on a ferry from England.  We drove directly to Brussels.  We didn’t see much of the town on this visit either as we opted to take the train into Brugge.  But shipmates informed us that the town was charming with many cafes and shops.  So was Blankenberge.  Upon our return from Brugge, we stopped for our afternoon libation at the Mercure Hotel adjacent to the Blankenberge Train Station.  It was pleasant.

So, having given you this bit of history, let me now confess, our only goal for the day was buy some chocolate!  For us, the main attraction in Zeebrugge, today, was its proximity to Brugge and the chocolate shops!!!  Brugge may have retained the medieval feel of its origins; the Gothic architecture; and its canal system, but we were on the hunt for luscious Belgian chocolate!  So, enough of the background stuff.  Here are the photos:

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We docked at Zeebrugge and quickly boarded a shuttle bus to the Blankenberge Train Station.
We had a minimal windshield tour of Zeebrugge as we drove to Blankenberge.
We had a minimal windshield tour of Zeebrugge as we drove to Blankenberge.
We thought Blankenberge looked like a very prosperous community.
We thought Blankenberge looked like a very prosperous community.
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Ahh, arrival at the station. The train leaves at 54 minutes after the hour. We bought our round-trip tickets and were told to hurry–the train was leaving in 2 minutes!!!
We made it!!!
We made it!!!
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A short while later, we were in Brugge ready to explore and do a little shopping.
We started out along one of the canals and set out to Markt Square.
We started out along one of the canals and set out to Markt Square.
I can't be sure, but I think this is one of the city gates.
I can’t be sure, but I think this is one of the city gates.
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Saint Salvator Cathedral, the main church of Brugge, has survived the onslaught of the ages.
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Across from Saint Salvator’s is the Laurent Tea Room. A stop was deemed essential!!! Please note the tower of The Belfry in the far distance. The Belfry houses a carillon with 47 bells. It’s an imposing structure in Markt Square, our destination.
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As we continue to Markt Square, we pass a truly amazing McDonald’s!!! Have you ever seen one like this???
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We also pass the Chocolate factory called the Chocolate Line. They may very well be the smallest chocolate factory ever!!!
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But then we find “Finest Belgian Chocolates” a little further up the street. this is where I went crazy buying CHOCOLATE!!!
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They make candy that looks like tools! What guy wouldn’t love that! Gotta have it!!!
And then we arrive in Markt Square!
And then we arrive in Markt Square!
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European restaurants just intuitively know haw to make their businesses look appealing. Someone should tell Burger King that umbrellas make a difference!!!
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And here is The Belfry. Not only do those 47 bells produce a lovely sound, but the clock is historic and distinctive, too!!!
This impressive building is the Provincial Court.
This impressive building is the Provincial Court.
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Having accomplished our goal of buying chocolate, we started to make our way back to the train station for our return to the ship.
We pass diorama of The Belfry.
We pass a diorama of The Belfry.
It is explained in Braille!!!  How cool is that.
It is explained in Braille!!! How cool is that.
We come across the smallest street in Bruge.
We come across the smallest street in Brugge.
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We make our way back to the train station to return to Blankenberge and the shuttle to Zeebrugge.
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When we get back to Blankenberge, we remember spotting the Mercure Hotel directly across the street from the shuttle pick-up point.
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It’s a no-brainer! We stopped at the Mercure Hotel for the afternoon libations.
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Rog is enjoying the local brew, Jupiter beer. And the chips and wine are pretty good, too!

 

Our nest port will be Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

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