On a one month trip there is a point where I stop being a visitor and start being a resident. I am still a visitor and a tourist- not even remotely a native- but my focus changes. I feel at home. I know where to find food and supplies and where the ATM’s are. I know the main landmarks and can navigate comfortably and keep my bearings while roaming. I don’t need my maps because instead of mysteries around each corner there are places I want to know better. In Brugge, today is that day.
Every day is exciting but the character of that excitement changes. I don’t know what causes the change. It’s just a feeling. By now I have walked over most of Brugge. I know the streets. Now it is a matter of becoming more familiar. This is where the difference between being a tourist and a One Month Traveler becomes clear. It is going beyond the appearance of the place you are visiting and beginning to understand it’s spirit. You notice the people and see what they are doing. You feel the rhythms and patterns of the days. You appreciate the subtle changes in light and activity. You develop more than just a superficial understanding of the place you are visiting. It becomes mulch-dimensional. You don’t get that on a whirlwind guided tour.
During our first days we focused on the tourist attractions: those world famous landmarks that lure tourists from thousands of miles away. We browse the store windows, wade through the crowds and play tourist; sometimes we even take tours. Gradually we discover the times when crowds are smaller, the best times to take pictures, the special events.
In Brugge, our center of reference is the Markt, the tourist center of Brugge. We don’t pay much attention to it as an attraction. It’s the place where the ATM’s are and a good place to watch the tourists go by. It’s not a check box on our ‘to do’ list any more. It’s part of our lives. We live just a few blocks from the Markt so it’s easy to visit but it isn’t our first thought whenever we leave the apartment. We can shop the fish market, the meat butcher down the street or one of the many bakeries. We even shop the supermarkets. On Wednesday’s we visit the Markt for the fantastic array of produce, meat and bread all in one place. At home we shop once a week. In Brugge, we shop more frequently. It’s what the locals do and we’re adjusting to their patterns.
From now on each day will dig deeper into Brugge. We will explore all it’s neighborhoods and learn more about it’s attractions close up and personal. We will visit places more than once. We have some favorite spots already.