Bruges aka The Venice of the North, Belgium

Bruges (Brugge) is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe. Often referred to as the “Venice of the North“, it is criss-crossed by canals, the main ring of which encloses the historic centre. It is a wonderful city with cobbled streets and lovely gabled houses that cast their reflections onto the water.

In the eleventh century Bruges was a major commercial centre for the wood industry, and by the late thirteenth century was the main link to Mediterranean trade. It soon became a major financial centre too, and in 1309 the Bourse opened, making the city more sophisticated money market in the entire region. By the sixteenth century, however, Bruges had split from the Netherlands and the port of Antwerp had taken over much of its trade, leaving Bruges to decline into a provincial backwater.   Continue reading Bruges aka The Venice of the North, Belgium

Fès aka Fez el Bali, Morocco

Fès is the “symbolic heart” of Morocco – its intellectual, historical and spiritual capital. As you wander through its labyrinthine  shady streets, exotic smells of mint and spices waft through the air, dappled light falls on the whitewashed, crumbing grandeur of the old city and you can feel the tangible mystery and intrigue of this, the oldest of the four imperial cities.

Unlike many walled cities, Old Fès hasn’t burst its banks, and its gates and walls remain intact. The population expanded out of the city, flowing towards the south-west and arching towards the hillsides that stretch north and south of the new city. The towering Medesa Bou Inania, a theological college built in 1350, dominates the old city in the Fez  River‘s fertile basin. Continue reading Fès aka Fez el Bali, Morocco