My wife, Engogirl was interested to see the coast near Brugge so we looked at our map and saw that the coastal town Knokke was marked with a blue star which indicated that it was “nice”. We asked the landlady of the B&B we were staying at, about Knokke and she said it was very chic and then went on to suggest that nearby Damme was nicer. To me the word “chic”, when applied to a town, means a place with expensive stores with overly coiffed peopled wearing sunglasses with large vulgar golden logos showing how much money they’ve spent.
We took our landlady’s advice and went to Damme. I was O.K. but no big deal, but while we were there we saw a poster for a sculpture exhibition by the sea at Knokke, so we set aside our feelings about “chic” and went to check it out.
We were both expecting something like the “Sculpture by the Sea” that is held in Sydney each year but we were disappointed to see that there were only a few brightly decorated statues, all of a similar type. Sure enough, Knokke was what I had imagined chic to be, but it was also fascinating to see how the Belgians relate to the beach.
The beach of Knokke is lined with a promenade where the well heeled stroll up and down checking out each other and the shop windows of stores like Yves Saint Laurent. The beach itself is entirely covered with little shacks that served as storage and changing rooms.
I’m not sure what the deal with the booths was but they weren’t uniform in construction so I suppose they were privately owned. The little shacks were like little holiday homes. People would lay and play near them and the sea seemed to merely provide a backdrop for their activities.
The sea was dead flat and it looked like it was the sand that the Belgians were more interested in.
What also seemed odd to me as an Australian, who grew up at the beach, is that the Belgians don’t face the sea, they face inland and ignore it.
There were lots of places where those who didn’t have a shed of their own could go and feel like they had staked a claim of a small part of the beach for themselves.
The whole beach had been compartmentalised into different functions. There were areas for kids to play in.
There was even a place that had an inflatable pool with heated water to swim in (it was too ugly to photograph).
The whole town of Knokke may be chic but I have to admit, as interesting as it was, it wasn’t our cup of tea, even if its first aid station had wind socks which looked like old fashioned bathing suits.