The historic centre of Bruges was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site — but we Irish still like to think it was Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell who put it back on the map, writes Geoff Power
Gaze up at the Belfort (Belfry tower) and one cannot help but recall Colin Farrell’s insensitive allusion to ‘elephants’ in In Bruges. But he’s right: it is a tight climb.
Make it to the top of all 366 steps and you are rewarded with a view of rust-coloured roof tops and beautifully maintained, medieval squares. No inferior reconstructions or modern carbuncles to be found here. No, central Bruges, an area the size of Longford town, is a feast of preservation.
The modern-day tourist is indeed fortunate that Bruges experienced 400 years of decline; in the early 1500s the city pressed ‘snooze’ and disappeared off the map.
Prior to that, Bruges had established itself as one of the most prosperous cities in Europe, its wealth resulting from its trade in furs, silk, Asian carpets, exotic pets, and the expansion of its canal network.