this year the beer festival was in the modern beurshalle instead of the market halls under the belfort. apparently it had outgrown the old location - it was still pretty crowded in the new one. saturday was like a difficult day on the tube. on sunday there were less foreigners and more locals. we spent four hours or so there each afternoon. it works like this: your entry fee buys you a festival glass and some beer tokens, each of which is exchanged for 15cl [about half a glass] of beer. you can buy more tokens. you also get a catalogue.
this year there were 367 beers available, so there are plenty of descriptions to pore over while sipping your current choice. it's hard to scratch more than the surface, so we tried to cover the range of types, white to dark, fruity to bitter, and tasted one another's choices. it was also advisable to balance the strong beers with weaker ones. the most essential thing, of course, was to get our taste of westvleteren 12, its quality exceeded only by its scarcity. it was also necessary to try the 26% double black, the strongest beer by a factor of two. they only gave half-portions of that. after that we could experiment, based on half-understood catalogue descriptions in dutch, or in everett's case whether the logo was cool. obviously it was forbidden to try anything we could get anywhere else. i wish i'd bought bottles of one or two things at the festival now.
there were nine of us, eight in a very nice house right in the middle of bruges and one billeted elsewhere. this made things easy - five minutes walk from Onze Lieve Vrouwekirk and the museums, ten minutes from Markt or the beer festival. the weather was cold, but sunny at least half the time - perfect for exploring. we bought museum passes and visited most of the major attractions in the centre of town, aided by not having to leave until mid monday afternoon.
of course bruges is beautiful, both in extravagant set-pieces and the winding cobbled streets. i am intrigued by the madonna and child statues everywhere, in niches on houses or on street corners. add in other religious street furniture - the scallop shell, the blessed sacrament image etc - and it begins to look like an old catholic version of my musings around shoreditch urban golf [or vice versa]. i wonder what story or pilgrimage ties these items together, or could do? marian devotions, certainly. are they linked into the procession of the relic of the holy blood? urban fabric as story field.