It was so nice to be staying in one place for two nights and not having to put our packs on! Monday morning we wandered into the old city again in search of some waffels. We passed by the Church of our Lady and stopped in our tracks. Yesterday, we were upset to learn that the church would be closed on Monday and we would not be able to see Michelangelo's 'Madonna with Child;' however, people were walking in! We, of course, followed them in and each paid 1,00 EUR to see the beautiful church and incredible sculpture. It is the only sculpture to leave Italy in Michelangelo's lifetime and we just happened to stumble upon it - we did not have to wait in line, we could take our time and enjoy it, rather than being rushed along by crowds. Talk about getting lucky! I'm still not sure why the church was even open! (Sorry, no pictures were allowed in the church)
We returned to our waffel mission after seeing the sculpture and wound up dining in the beautiful Markt square. The waffels, like everything else in town, were delicious! After such healthy meal, we decided to climb the 366 steps to the top of the crooked Belfry tower to get a better view of the city. We were extremely lucky to arrive at the bell room right as the bells were chiming. It was like watching a giant music box! I have a great video to share later because unfortunately, my iPad is not liking my videos. I cannot begin to explain how narrow and winding the steps were to the top of the tower. At one point, it felt like it turned from stairs to ladder the steps were so steep. If you have any sort of fear of confined places or heights, this is not the place for you! Luckily, it was totally worth it, as the view is beyond all others. I'll let you judge for yourself. Just see below!
After our tower experience, we made our way to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which is famous for its relic of the blood of Christ. This blood was brought to Bruges in 1150 after the second crusade and now lives in a vial that is kept in safe when not resting safely on a pillow to be worshipped. Another lucky moment, the vial was out when we were in the basilica. We individually climbed the steps of the altar to present ourselves before the priest (who vigilantly wipes the vial after each person touches the relic) and rested our hands on the vial resting on a pillow. I, of course, was fearful of bursting into flames upon coming into contact with this vial of Christ's blood, but all went smoothly. It was really one of the most disgusting things I have seen in my lifetime. It looked like it could have been a part of bloody cartilage or, I don't know, a part of an intestine. Thank God my hand was protected by what I am sure is layers of the most protective glass in the universe.
After our visit with Jesus, we strolled around the city for quite a bit in search of a 'Romantic Courtyard' that was listed in our map with this description: "Don't be afraid to ring the bell, one of the nuns living here at Hof Bladelin will come and open the door for you. Behind this door lies a beautiful small medieval courtyard, that used to be the property of the rich and famous Italian family De Medici in the 15th century." We found two huge blue doors and hesitantly rang the bell. The latch unlocked and we pushed it open. An old woman beckoned us to come into the courtyard. It was gorgeous but unfortunately, a huge foreign tour group saw us enter and followed us in. I glared at them until they left us in our peaceful setting. I dreamed about sitting and reading a book for hours but there is just too much exploring to do. What a wonderful secret courtyard though!
While exploring the city more we ran into Federico, our Argentinian friend from the hostel, who was enjoying some hot chocolate on a park bench in a courtyard. This city is so small that you see the same people over and over again on the streets, including the couple next to us at dinner the night before and our 11 year old waiter. We invited Federico to join us for some drinks and dinner. After abandoning a touristy restaurant because of a horrible waiter, we searched for a darling restaurant we saw the previous day. We were lost for quite some time and eventually found the restaurant. It was closed. Boy was Federico glad that he came along with us just to get lost! We finally found a suitable restaurant that served mussels (another food Bruges is known for) and frites. After dinner we grabbed drinks at the same pub we visited the day before. I'm sad to report that I still did not make it through all of the beers. Who would like to return to Belgium with me?