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Bruges ...

Bruges (Brugge) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium.  Bruges became important due to the tidal inlet that was important to local commerce; this inlet was then known as the "Golden Inlet". Bruges received its city charter in 1128, and new walls and canals were built. In 1089 Bruges became the capital of the County of Flanders.  Bruges had a strategic location at the crossroads of the northern and the southern trade routes.  Starting around 1500, the Zwin channel, (the Golden Inlet) which had given the city its prosperity, also started silting and the Golden Era had ended. The city soon fell behind Antwerp as the economic flagship of the Low Countries.  
In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world's first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists.  In World War I German forces occupied Bruges but the city suffered virtually no damage. From 1940 in World War II the city again was occupied by the Germans and again spared destruction.   Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. After 1965 the original medieval city experienced a renaissance.  International tourism has boomed, and new efforts have resulted in Bruges being designated 'European Capital of Culture' in 2002. It attracts some 2 million tourists annually.

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