The story of the Bruges swan (Brugsch Swaentje)

Brugsch Zwaentje

As befits a chocolate city of high standing, Bruges is proud to boast its own official city chocolate, the Bruges swan (Brugsch Swaentje). The exact recipe remains a secret, but amongst the key ingredients are almond paste, ‘gruut’ (a local type of spiced flour) and ‘kletsekoppen’ (a local Bruges biscuit). Hardly surprising that this essentially local combination should most appeal to the taste-buds of the city’s inhabitants! Since its first creation in January 2006, the Bruges swan has been sold in the shops of the city’s officially recognised confectioners, all of whom are members of the Bruges Chocolate Guild. The chocolate itself might be relatively young, but the legend on which it is based is centuries old. At the end of the 15th century, the oppressed people of Bruges rose in revolt against the unpopular Emperor Maximilian of Austria. They captured Maximilian and imprisoned him in the Craenenburg House on the Market Square, together with his equally unpopular adviser, Pieter Lanckhals. Lanckhals was condemned to death and Maximilian was forced to watch the execution. The Emperor eventually escaped and later took his revenge: he decreed that ‘until the end of time’ the city should be required at its own expense to keep swans on all its lakes and canals. And why swans? Because swans have long necks – and the Dutch for ‘long neck’ is ‘lange hals’ – or ‘lanckhals’! And so a city legend was born…

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