Bruges and Damme // Cycling the Belgian Countryside

Get me a coffee and a book, I'll be here until further notice

July 18-21


Bruges is a beautiful town, many of you reading will likely already be familiar with it or have been. While I had been warned Bruges is touristy, it was not at all off-putting. I hear touristy and I think one or both of two directions: overcrowded and miserable, shops selling soulless and unnecessary knick-knacks. Bruges was in festival and holiday mode, so it certainly was busy but not suffocating. It did have a lot of shopping, but there were plenty of cute and original shops and restaurants to visit.

Besides venturing out for a fun night with the local revelers for the Belgian holiday and listening to funny cover bands and their dedicated and emotive fans, we also met a Hamilton family friend, Lilly. Lilly had lived in Hawaii for some time with her late husband. They spent a lifetime sailing the world together and were in Hawaii until her husband’s declining health forced them to move back to Belgium for affordable healthcare.

I cannot recall the question now, but I do remember one of Lilly’s answers. I thought it wonderfully encapsulated the change, daring, risk, safety, unknown, and more that love and marriage can do to us. Her answer was in reflecting upon her life, and how it all took place, and some specific events she shared with us that now make me look at her as if she is a daredevil. Lilly remarked, rather plainly, “that’s what you get when you marry an adventurer.” Then she smiled.

Lilly took the train in from Brussels and brought us some of her favorite chocolates and treated us all to a dinner at a place she likes in Bruges, Bistro ‘t Minnewater. It was a delicious meal, and the charcoal fired grill is quite literally amongst the tables.

Cycling to Damme and Blankenburg

From Bruges, we rented bicycles to take for a ride out of town. First, we hit Damme, which is quaint and beautiful. There were lots of swallows, some with nests easily visible from the street. One photographer had a very intense lens to reach right up to the nest for pictures of the lighting fast birds.

We biked through fields, beautiful farmhouses, lots of modern windmills, and some new drawbridge construction that was really impressive. Then we reached Blankenberg. Back in Damme we had stopped for an espresso and asked our server some questions about where to go. He gave us two towns we could bike to, but Blankenberg put a funny quiver on his face. He used the word suburban, but it was clear he didn’t have the word he wanted in English. Our friends in Ghent would later find it hilarious that we went to Blankenberg, and I’d laugh if I were them too. Despite all this, it was a fine stop for us. We avoided a rain storm, got to touch the North Sea, and fill up on a needed lunch before we rode back to Bruges.

If you’re in the region, take the time to get out there and cycle the friendly and quiet paths through the countryside.

Thanks for reading.

Our street in Bruges
Intermission in the main square
After dinner group shot with Lilly
Farmers market was busy and abundant
From produce to baked goods to meats
My favorite breakfast

Get me a coffee and a book, I’ll be here until further notice
Where the Holy Grail is…
Our neighbor laughed, and said everyone does this
Belgian countryside
A Damme good time…..

Found in Damme
Still a sucker for cars, especially the old romantic ones
The beach was cold and harsh, the sand here causes some consternation to my shins as the exfoliation happens.
So, the huts make sense
Blankenberg – I reckon it’s their Little 500

By Daniel Hatke

The author was born and raised in Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University he worked in the asset management industry in New York City. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship. Currently, he is fueling his curiosities through taking time off for extended travel and experiences in Europe and Asia, as chronicled here.