Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Around the World: Belfrys and Boredom

April 17, 1992

I am on the train to Ghent.  To amuse myself, I am trying to see how long I can keep a small tuft of lint airborne over the vent.  Eventually, it catches a current of air and floats over the seats in front of me, landing in another passenger's hair.  My amusement is gone and I have officially become a nuisance.

The treaty that officially ended the war of 1812 between Britain and the United States was signed in Ghent.  The belfry, one of the city's notorious three towers, has been used since the late 1300's to warn residents of an approaching enemy or to announce victory.  The gilded dragon on the top was brought from Bruges.  The upper portion of the tower has been rebuilt several times over the years as bells were added.

The Belfry of Ghent.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons

Bruges is just a short trip west toward the coast. Referred to as "the Venice of the North", the small city has struggled for survival throughout it's 1000 year history.  After a storm in 1134 re-established access to the sea, Bruges became home to a thriving wool and cloth industry. It was here, in 1473 that William Caxton translated and published "Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye", the first book printed in English. In the early 1500's, the floor of the Zwin channel started to rise.  Without access to the sea, the population of Bruges dwindled until a new port was constructed in 1907.   Bruges is now one of Europe's busiest and most important ports. 

Belfry of Bruges.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons

One of the city's most famous landmarks, the 13th century Belfry of Bruges, employs a carillonneur who plays the tower's 48 bells at regularly scheduled performances.

On the train back to Namur, I find another amusing piece of fluff to entertain me for the trip, this time using extra care to not to lose my toy.  When I arrive at the hostel, I'm told that someone broke in last night and stole the VCR.  I didn't even know we had a VCR.  

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"The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity."
~Dorothy Parker

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