May 20, Thursday. Up early and off to the train, we had to take the bus part of the way and walk the remaining 700meters. We bought our tickets to Brugge for the Holy Day procession.
We had to decide which train to take, the stop train (which stops at all the towns in between Ghent and Brugge) or the express that goes direct to Brugge. After some discussion it was decided that we would take the stop train. So off we go !! It was a very nice train, plush seats for comfort and so smooth and quiet you really couldn’t tell we were moving. When the conductor arrived to take our tickets, we were in first class. Unfortunately we had paid for second soooo…. At the next stop we had to move to the second class car. It was very nice as well, but a bit more noisy and bumpy. When we arrived in Brugge, the St. Salvador’s bell was ringing. A very persistent ring but it still sounded great. Following the sound and we made our way to the church. They were getting ready for mass and the church was packed. Standing room only. After waiting awhile we soon heard what sounded like trumpets coming from a distance. The sound drew closer and then entered the church. It was a honor guard carrying the Relic of the Sacred Blood. There were dignitaries both from the church and the city. The smell of incense was everywhere. Sometimes words are not enough to describe the events of the day, and this is one of those days. The sounds and smells are overwhelming. The ceremony was in Dutch, so we couldn’t understand much. When leaving the church, we saw hundreds of chairs set out in front of the shops along the street. We were told that these chairs were for viewing the Parade later in the day. For 7 euros you could reserve one for the day. We decided that was for us. There were already thousands of people milling around and we wanted to be sure we would have good views of the procession. It was 11:00am at this time and the procession stated at 3:00 so we headed out to St. Jans and the internet café. We had our trusty map but still lost our way. Tired and hungry we spotted a lovely little hotel and café on the canal and had ourselves a treat and some coffee before heading back.
This time we found the internet café and got some emails sent. The whole city was now teaming with people and it was getting hard to move around. So we found a wonderful French deli, bought a baguette sandwich, a wonderful apple raspberry tart, and headed for our reserved seats. We had a great lunch while watching the people. It was so interesting. At 3:00 the street was still filled with people. What? Well they do not clear the streets until the procession is upon them and then they have to dart off wherever they can. Interesting to say the least. The parade started with much heraldry, trumpets, horns and drums. The costumes were rich and colorful. They started with Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses , Pharaohs to the Birth of Christ and his life
It was all very colorful and dramatic with herds of sheep, camels, donkeys and lots of magnificent horses. Many bands, all dressed in medieval costumes. And the Relic of the Sacred Blood came toward the end with all the church bells in the city ringing. Wow!!!
We headed back to get the train to Ghent. This time we took the extra train. Extra is for; flying back to Ghent. Very fast!! We walked back to camp, had some wine, and a dinner of Schnitzel. What a day!!!!