Sunday, 19 November 2006

Brugge: Twin towned with Hobbiton

I sent the letter below to the Tolkien Society magazine Amon Hen a couple of months back. Hopefully, it will get published in the next edition, but I thought I'd share my thoughts on Brugge for the Tolkien-head anyway.

During a holiday in Brugge (Bruges) in Flanders earlier this summer, I was struck how much it felt like a place where Professor Tolkien could have found inspiration. To begin with, the Medieval/Renaissance architecture of Brugge’s centre makes it feel like somewhere built in the distant past (the Belfry Tower in the Central Markt looks like something the Numenoreans would have built to demonstrate their presence in Middle Earth). Furthermore, the way that the locals appreciate good food and drink would be heartily appreciated by the inhabitants of The Shire .

In addition, the names of various buildings in Brugge demonstrate clearly that, at the cultural level, the people there have been affected quite profoundly by Professor Tolkien’s writings on Middle Earth. To begin with, Brugge boasts a decent music store called Bilbo ( there are also branches in Antwerp and Gent) on Kuiperstraat, which is very popular with local people and tourists alike. Then there is the Khazad-Dum bar on Sint-Jaansstraat, which is dark and noisy with good beer: a place pre-Balrog Dwarves in Moria would have felt at home. There is also a very late night weekend snackery on Kuiperstraat called Baggins, which offers sandwiches by the names of Aragorn (ham and cheese), Boromir (Italian ham) and Frodo (salami), amongst others, until six in the morning!

Two other eateries worth finding out on Kemelstraat are the Hobbit and Bistro Tolkien ( run by three sisters: Valerie (at the Hobbit), Dominique and Laurence (at Bistro Tolkien).The Hobbit specialises in ribs, which is not exactly my cup of tea (but it was always crowded when I went past: a good sign!), but I ate regularly at Bistro Tolkien, which offers lots of good stuff, such as Prawns Middle Earth, Pasta Tolkien (chicken, prawn, curry), Pasta Frodo (bolognaise with bacon) and an aperitif called Hobbitief. There are also some excellent murals on the walls depicting the fun side of Shire life. Kemelstraat also has a pub called ‘t Brugs Beertje with over 300 different Belgian beers, which would impress even the most thirsty Hobbit.

In short, I would recommend Brugge as a place to visit for any Tolkien Society members fancying a break where people appreciate the works of the good Professor!

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