About 5 years ago, when I was an undergrad who spent her days burying her head in books (ahh literature degrees), I developed a love of modernist writing, and T.S. Eliot and E.M. Forster forever. Less keen on Virginia Woolf though. For one class I read two short stories by New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield – Journey to Bruges and Being a Truthful Adventure. The first is pretty self explanatory, but the second describes Mansfield’s time discovering Bruges. Seduced by the poetic description of her guidebook and her own fantasy of how it will be, when she experienced it herself she was so disappointed she goes from planning a month long stay to one day. This came from mostly, it would appear, having to interact with others. Girl, I can relate.
Despite her rather unfavourable opinion of Bruges, for some reason I was sold anyway and always desired to visit. Finally, I did so on Easter Sunday. I had been told about the Go Pass 10 for under 26s – 52 euros for 10 journeys anywhere in Belgium aka 5 cities to visit. It is also valid for a year (people 26 years old and above can buy the Belgian Rail Pass for 77 euros). It was forecast to rain all day in Brussels but not in Bruges so that also sold me. I was ready to experience my own truthful adventure.
After a delayed train journey filled with loud Brits (my Mansfield experience had begun), I arrived feeling excited as I had the day unplanned and free to do as I pleased. With little to expect I could enjoy discovering somewhere new. There were far more people than I expected using their Easter Sunday to visit the city (so many Brits), so the cafes that were open were full, the centre was packed, and there were lengthy queues for waffles and fries. The churches and museums were open, but that day I was only interested in wandering around, getting lost, and eating fries.
I can relate to Mansfield’s desire to be a lonesome traveller – crowds and people can be overwhelming. Luckily there were plenty of pretty quiet streets to escape to with my camera. Also like Mansfield, I ended up bumping into someone I know. I didn’t make up any “urgent letter calling me back home” excuses to leave though. (Although that sounds like a fun one to try in the 21st century).
Unlike Mansfield, I could have stayed longer than a day. It’s the kind of place to visit when you want a short getaway to unwind. A month is excessive, but then again 100 years ago the upper class seemed to have had far too much free time on their hands. I, however, just had the Easter break.