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The International Writers Magazine: Bruges

Avoiding Couples in Bruges
• Paul-Christian Markovski
They have a tendency to cluster by the small chocolateries. With high pitched voices the girls will make a big fuss of the strawberries, neatly wrapped chocolate treats and whatnot. While the boyfriends stand there patiently holding hands, kissing their cheeks and working up the fervour needed for the busy body romantics.

You should avoid chocolateries as would you a mine field. If you get caught between several couples, expect nothing else than obstinate giggling and shouldering by boyfriends as you try to squeeze your way through to get your hands on one of those bloody chocolate treats.

If you really must trespass into one of these couple havens in Bruges, make sure you move fast and do not meet anyone's glances. By doing so, the lovers around you will simply think that you are heading towards your own partner and gently move aside for one 'of their own'. If they would identify you as a single amongst them, expect nothing less than more kissing, loudly so, with backs turned and blocking your way to demonstrate their deep profound love and importance.

Yeah, I'm Having Dinner Alone

Perhaps it's not the best reply to a waiter that glides up to your table and asks you where your partner is, after all, no partner means no one to impress and less tips for the poor fellow. But don't fret, order the appetizer, main course and dessert, and dig in with a hearty appetite. With a quick glance at the menu, which contained a healthy number of options, I could read out a wide range of Flemish dishes as well as the occasional burger for unimaginative folks. Now don't get me wrong, the atmosphere is perfectly set, that is, for romance. This is where you would have that romantic dinner on the terrace with tungsten light from street lamps reflecting off a lovely person in front of you. This is also one of the few times you will notice how couples in kitchy restaurants such as this one have very little time to eat. They have each other! You on the other hand will have time to dedicate yourself to your dessert, and order an extra portion. Whereas the poor souls who come in pairs will have to suffice with sharing their desserts, using one spoon, because that is what lovers do.

Such idling with a dessert is not for me. I dug into my strawberry icecream covered with chocolate cream with an ordinary tablespoon, quickly and efficiently to ensure that no one would notice if I ordered another portion, mind you, please go easy on the chocolate the second round as it does not really do justice to the Chardonnay. The typical Flemish food translates into potatoes with meat, fries and chocolate (yes, one can argue whether the latter is food). This is best had at the end of the day after having crisscrossed the medieval quarters in the town, and this serves as the grand finale my first evening in Bruges.

Fish Crowds of lovers by chocolateries
On the second day it was already clear that I should stay away from the main square, Markt, where restaurants are lining the house walls. One is better off trying the backstreets behind Markt. Also check out The Old Fish Market which is open from early morning until after lunch Tuesday-Saturday. In addition to fish there are plenty of stalls where crafts are sold. This is a place to make small talk with locals as find curiosities produced by the more artistic inhabitants. Needless to say, the main theme will be medieval. Having done my fair share of lounging about at the fish market, it is time to do some lover spotting around the chocolateries that abound in Bruges.
Do not fret though, it will be a simple chase. The chocolateries that line every cobble stone street in the old heart of Bruges. First off, get some chocolates of your own at Chocolatier Van Oost on Wollestraat 11, a renowned chocolaterie. As previously stated, keeping the distance from these ferocious couples is vital, as they are so in awe over the range of chocolate for sale and will not show much respect for any single idlers that occupy their couple's zone. chocolate
Canal Just another photo of a bridge
Growing weary of chocolate, I take my camera and little bag of remaining chocolate treats and skip along to the next place. As with all quaint small romantic villages in Europe, there are a few well-trodden paths. In Bruges there are a few spots where pretty much everyone take photos of themselves or of the  historical buildings and canals nearby.
Here's an experiment for you. With some water replenisments, I am ready to stand close to one of these spots, with the camera ready. During the course of an hour, can take photos of such as a landmark with couples aplenty who in turn take photos of the location and themselves. It makes for a gorgeous collage and you might be surprised. Next time you visit Bruges with a loved one you might just end up in such a collage yourself. Which is funny in itself.

Done with my photography and having stuffed myself with chocolates for the better part of two days, I pull my suitcase towards the train station.  High heels make the most funny sounds on cobblestones I tell myself as I observe a couple with the lady walking unsteadily in front of me. The staccato like sounds from my suitcase on wheels bouncing off the uneven stones make for a nice arrangement and I bid adieu to the couple's haven Bruges, The last Bruges' image on my retina is that of the same couple taking a right turn towards one of the typical canal views, camera at a ready.

© Paul-Christian Markovski August

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