Brugge (Bruges) is a beautiful city, there can be no doubt about that. It is one of those cities that one can be stunned into a standstill when staring at the architecture. “This is Europe” are the only words that come to mind. The Europe of Henry James, old world Europe in a word.
I had just three hours in the city, en route from Calais to Brussels. Not a big problem for me because I know I’ll be back, but I knew the first—and only—order of business was seeing the stadium. The fact that Club Brugge had a match that Sunday meant that I had a chance to grab a shirt so—I set out like I always do, armed only with a map and my own silly determination.
Tourist information was sadly a disappointment—they wanted me to take a number (which would have meant waiting at least twenty minutes at the rate of things). I decided to walk up to the counter instead, as I have done before.
“May I ask a quick question?”
“Sure . . .” She sounds unsure, which is never a good sign.
“Where is the stadium?” I ask, pushing the map forward.
“That’s not a quick question,” she says, frowning.
“Ok . . . Its close by though, I think?”
“Take a number,” She seems displeased.
“Look. Just tell me which direction to walk in,” I say it frankly—this isn’t my first rodeo.
“That way.” She says it with no emotion, pointing behind her. I eschew a thank you and head in that direction—what else can you do?
It turns out that I didn’t need her help anyway. The stadium is a straight shot—about forty minutes by foot—from a square just outside the historic center that the Brugge flea market is set up in on Sunday afternoons (and by the way, this is a flea market I highly recommend but that is for another time).
I crossed the river, complete with an enjoyable medieval gate that drops traffic down to one lane, necessitating a traffic light. The mix of old and new feels comical in this setting.
The walk is an enjoyable one however, through neighborhoods that feel so typically European. For a moment, I wonder what it would have been like if I myself had grown up here. What trajectory would my life have taken then? Its one of those uniquely valuable feelings travel gives you—the ability to empathize in the raw.
By the time I reach the stadium I realize that the shirt will be impossible. The place is literally abandoned, despite the fact that a match is due to start in four hours. The store is closed and it will only open two hours before kickoff . . . which means an hour after I have to leave. I try in vain to get someone to open the shop—which is unfortunate—but I get a consolation prize: pictures of the Jan Breydel Stadion, home to both Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge. There is no one in sight and I walk right through the gates and look down at the pitch—a lazy Sunday afternoon as groundskeepers mow the grass.
I suppose in Belgium people can relax, and I think back to passport control upon entering Belgium. The officer asked me how it was going, I said I was just going on vacation. When I returned the question, he said simply “another day at work”. I asked if he was living the dream and he said “not quite”. It was a far cry from the welcome I had received upon entering Uzbekistan, and my experience in the stadium is no different. Here I walked around freely—in Tashkent, I was chased out of a stadium because I was wearing shorts!
Since both the Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge stores were closed I can only share with you photos of the stadium. I do however have an old Cercle Brugge shirt that can be viewed here. The Jan Breydel Stadium was built in 1975 and has a capacity of 30,000 but it is usually limited to 29,472. Of course, judging by Wikipedia’s average attendance figures for both tenants—Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge—the extra seats don’t seem to be needed very often. There are busses that make it out to the stadium, but the walk is pleasant and easy—just head out of the city center towards the southeast.
The Stadium itself is colored in the colors of both Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge. Below are the ends for Cercle Brugge:
And below are the ends for Club Brugge:
Outside the stadium is no different. Below are the entrances for Cercle Brugge:
And below the entrances for Club Brugge: