Given the title of this post, the little story that follows is going to sound like a complete non-sequitor, but bear with me.
Some time ago, I walked into a jewelry store while on a business trip (to some anonymous US city — I really don’t remember where), saw a small bracelet I thought would make a nice gift and asked the clerk for a price. He casually replied, “Oh, that’s 18,” turned his back and walked away. Now, I know almost enough about jewelry to be dangerous, but in this instance I had absolutely no idea whether the item in question was $18, $1,800 or $18,000. Really. I was so pissed off at his pretentious answer that I walked out of the store.
So what could this possibly have to do with the photo below?
Just this…the title for this post is Bruges, Belgium, ’04. Since this is my blog, you’d probably assume that I took this shot (and you’d be right). You’d also then assume it was 2004 (right again). But here’s the thing: this scene could just as easily be 1904, or, what the hell, Rembrandt van Rijn could be sitting just inside one of those garret windows in 1604. (Okay, Rembrandt was born in 1606 and lived 150 miles from here. But let’s not quibble.) Clearly, little has changed.
We love Bruges. It’s often called “the Venice of the North,” crisscrossed as it is with quaint canals and ancient buildings. For all it’s charm, I always find it sad that the best-preserved European villages and towns are often still intact only because they lacked major industry or strategic location. That’s ultimately their (and our) good fortune. But I just wish that for once, the reason would simply be “too lovely to destroy” or better yet, “Hey, people live there!”
p.s., And who says lace and chocolate aren’t strategic industries?