Bruges Control

Last week I was in Bruges.

It’s Belgium’s only non food-related tourist attraction

and consists of little beyond a dense, immaculate spindle of medieval buildings.

From the cobblestones to the weathervanes, every square inch has been preserved and manicured for the explicit purpose of making every other world city feel inadequate.

The sign at the border reads ‘Welcome to Bruges. Damn right, it’s better than yours.’

No matter where you stand, you’re surrounded on all sides by an authoritarian dedication to scale, form and aesthetic pleasantry.

As if 1,000 years ago some wealthy, fastidious gay couple crammed all their taste into one facade

and filled in the rest of the city with the PhotoShop clone tool.

It is impossible and unfathomable to take a bad picture here.

In fact, it’s probably illegal.

The inscription on this statue reads ‘You’re not wearing shorts are you?’

Here’s the jail where they send people with asymmetrical faces.

Even the public art looks like you just interrupted it in the middle of brunch at the country club.

The city’s so rich, they have the weather imported from Italy.

And use their windmills to grind leftover waffles into dog food.

Walking around, I kept thinking of Tolstoy:

‘Happy families are all alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Whatever Bruges is, it’s happy. And Tolstoy wouldn’t last an hour.

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