The summer solstice arrives, days and life become infinite, courses end, farewells are made present to us, what remains of them, the we who we were and continue to be, we want to continue being ... It has made me especially present this week, when contemplating on the twitter of the College of Europe the end-of-year ceremony of the Mario Soares promotion, the 1985-86 end-of-year ceremony of the Columbus promotion, to which I belong.

          The buildings of the European construction are inspired by the spirit, the desire of the Congress of The Hague in 1948; and those of the European Union are not only ones built, even though public opinion often tends to see as the only incarnation of that desire. The building, the buildings of the European Union, are based, as I have said on other occasions, on the foundations of the Council of Europe. European construction has also among its buildings a College, the College of Europe, with its founding headquarters in Bruges (Belgium), and later, after the fall of the wall, another campus in Natolin (Poland). It was one of the creatures, of the constructions conceived at the Congress of The Hague, at the proposal of one of its conveners and factotums, Salvador de Madariaga, who gives us Spaniards the honour of telling, despite the sad time we lived then , with one of the founding fathers of Europe, and with the first Rector of the College of Europe.

          Europe has a College of Europe. Its founders considered that Europe was something to educate, teach, learn, build on the persons, to live in coexistence and mutual knowledge among Europeans. It has been creating and has its traditions, such as the inaugural lesson by one of the builders of Europe of the present time, or that of giving each promotion the name of one of the personalities who have contributed to make Europeans who we are today, who have left their mark and reference, their exemplarity, in the soul of Europe. In that academic year, when Spain and Portugal made effective, on the first January 1986 their adhesion to the then European Communities, in which the Spaniards and Portuguese were especially numerous among the one hundred and twenty students of twenty different nationalities, the inaugural lecture was delivered by the President of the Government Felipe González, and our named was called Christopher Columbus. It is an honour and a responsibility, a commitment to have passed through its classrooms. One of the satisfactions and gifts that life has brought me to be part of it, to share that satisfaction, that feeling, that joy with my colleagues in it, with whom as part of it since then we have travelled the path of life and of History, we build Europe outwards and inwards.

          The College of Europe teaches Law, Economics, Administration, Politics, International Relations and History of Europe. Part of it can be forgotten or become outdated, since it is not in vain that Europe evolves and transforms itself during the lives of its alumni, and also because of them. Oblivion does not dwell in the soul of Bruges; but rather the soul of Bruges grows and lives among those of us who studied at the College of Europe, among those who walk through life as part of the Christopher Columbus promotion.Since we have not passed through Bruges; but Bruges through us, to us, and in us forever dwells. The soul of Europe feeds the soul of Bruges. We feed the soul of Europe. The common soul feeds the individual soul. The individual soul feeds the common soul. Each one of us is inhabited by a fallen piece of the universal soul that seeks to reunite with the others. Europe is built on the soul, it is built with the soul. We are Bruges. We are Europe.

          I was a student in Bruges, and also a poet. Since, among the channels of Bruges, at that juncture leading up to integration in the labour market, at a crossroads towards professional definition - which in my case chose to confirm a vocation towards diplomacy that, together with writing, had caught my attention since my early youth - the water of poetry flowed, intense and continuous, especially in the first months of 1986, embodied in the books of poems Los paraísos perdidos (The lost paradises), Los trabajos de Hércules (The Works of Hercules), Poemas del Sueño de Iberia (Poems of Iberia’s dream) and Brujas (Bruges), which are part of my book Mundo. Una geografía poética (World. A poetic geography). This includes a good part of my poetic work, gathered as a world, a poetic geography, which we illuminate in our passage through life in our interior space, in which Bruges is especially present

          One of the poems written there in the spring of 1986 - included in the Brujas poetry book published in Mundo - saying that "Algún día nadie creerá / que estuvimos en Brujas…" ("Someday no one will believe / that we were in Bruges ..."). After the 25th anniversary dinner of our promotion, in which many of us met again in Brussels, I added a third to the two original stanzas that said that “Someday no one will believe / that twenty-five years / later / Bruges was still / inside / us ”. On the afternoon and evening of May 21, 2016, the ceremony and dinner of the thirtieth anniversary took place at the headquarters of the College in Bruges, experience and verification that thirty years had not passed through us, but we had passed through them, that a common soul of Bruges inhabited us and lives above and below the passage of time. Capturing it and answering the questions it asks us thirty years later is due to its continuation in Alma de Brujas (Soul of Bruges), which I began to write the following day at Brussels airport during the long hours I had to stay there when my flight was cancelled for a security issue, and I finished in the days after. It is dedicated to my colleagues from the Christopher Columbus promotion, and constitutes above all a celebration of friendship and time, the commitment and the questions, about Europe and about life, which do not pass, or through time pass, of the soul that through it we find in the other, in the others with whom we are.



          I shared Alma de Brujas with my promotion colleagues - with whom we keep in touch, first through an email group, then through the WhatsApp group that we created at that dinner - first in Spanish; and then, at the requests of many, in English, a language in which I also decided to write it, so that everyone could understand it, so that all of us could share it. It is precisely now the thirty-fifth anniversary of our promotion, and I and the reader could well - should in any case every year counting the years elapsed since 1986 - write a new verse saying thirty-five or whatever years later instead of thirty, when it was written, or more precisely continued to be written. We, the colleagues of the Christopher Columbus promotion could well also, if the pandemic had not led to the cancellation of the alumni dinners this year, celebrate, as is tradition, our thirty-fifth anniversary with a dinner at the College of Europe in Bruges, like five years ago the one that inspired the writing of Soul of Bruges. Because I do not resign myself, we do not resign ourselves, to this anniversary happening as if nothing happened, to celebrate it and celebrate life, to illuminate it and share it, as a letter in the bottle I launch this Soul of Bruges to the sea of the web, with the hope of may it reach your shore, that it may nourish and inspire the soul of Europe in you and in everyone.


Manuel Montobbio

Summer Solstice
for the soul of Bruges
of two thousand twenty-one







To my colleagues

and companions

of the Columbus Promotion,

and to the soul

of Bruges

which inhabits

in ours



         One day nobody will believe

that we were in Bruges

that only an Army of solitude

and seaguls

greeted our descent to the channels

at dawn

that we read a million sentences

and nobody asked for justice

that even the sky cried

full of mercy

the tears we did not have.

Nobody will believe either that, tired,

the gods

abandoned us

and went

on hunger strike

of blood in the veins

of stares at the eyes

of untold words

and poetry

that they accepted at last

that there was nothing to be done

with us

and, resigned, they asked for

the unemployment benefit.

         Some day nobody will believe

that twenty five years


Bruges remained



         One day nobody will neither believe

that thirty years


thirty years

had not passed

                                                                           through us:


had passed

through them


had passed

to them.

That thirty

years later,

when we celebrated

the Thirtieth Anniversary

of the Columbus Promotion,

we realized

that thirty

years had not

passed since

we were

in Bruges,

but it is already

for thirty

years that we are

in Bruges,

in the Bruges

which is



the Bruges


                                                                           we are.



         The blood

of the Bruges

which inhabits

in us

does not flow

through its channels,

neither can be seen

its soul

with the eyes,

nor be heard

its voice

with the ears;

but with the soul.

         Since the Bruges

which inhabits

in each one

                                                                           of us

is a piece

of the fallen


                                                                           of Bruges

when thirty

years ago

we were

                                                                           in Bruges

we were

                                                                           in us

we were


heart that ever since


in the soul

the blood

                                                                           of Bruges

so that we may be

we continue to be


the self

                                                                           and the us

that we were

and are

                                                                           in Bruges.

         Bruges lives

in each piece

of its soul


in ours,

but only when

these scattered pieces

joint together

is its soul


As one soul

cannot fully be

but in another


and neither can


fully be


without being

in the soul

                                                                           of Bruges,

the soul

                                                                           of Bruges.


and each

                                                                           of us


the key

of the soul

of Bruges,

since it



when the fallen


which in each one

of us


looks for

the ohers

calls them

or remembers

or yearns

                                                                           for them.



         When, as tonight

                                                                           in Bruges,

it smily has posed

with all

                                                                           of us

for the family

or promotion


we have made

before beginning

the Thirtieth Anniversary


or when it peeps

in the conversations

around the table

which continue

at the point

we had left them

in “pause”,

as if nothing

or everything

had happened


or it wishes

to dance again

as always

its music,

and it moves our bodies

that don’t get tired

- …Sweet dreams are made of this… -


they dance


- …Everybody is looking for something… -

by its breath

which blows

until bursting out

fulls us

of life

wich overflown evaporates

in the movement

of the dance

and the eternity

of instants;

or we take

the last drink

for the umpteenth time

in the day

(rather in the night)

at L’Estaminet,

which so many memories


of old conversations

we would like

to continue

till the eternity

in which the night

loses its hours,

until the channels

call us

to walk by them

and hear in their waters

the silence and the dreams

of the sleeping


until only an Army

of solitude

and seagulls

as always greets

our steps

at dawn.



         The soul of Bruges

is young,

and so we


When right now,

thirty years after,

or whenever,

at any moment

in which may become present

that evening

of poetry

and music

and surprises of reality

and magic

and illusion

to slowly savor

like a juicy fruit


till getting drunk

of it

to give birth

to the Sun

in the night of the brightness

of the candles

shock smile

and freedom

to be you

and joy of having been born

in the Mediterranean

which took place

at the imperial appartments

of Patricia Barreto

at Ridderstraat, Bruges

that night of the day of Venus

of the Crescent

of February,

to enter in which it was only


to show the passport

of your smile

and an old empty envelope


full of one hundred grams of imagination

and dreams

and a handful of salt

from the Earth,

and in which in premiere

for those present

for the first time I recited

the verses

of The Works of Hercules

I had just


I had just

brought to light

to lift the World

with them;


at any moment

in which may become present

the dream

                                                                           of Europe

which dreams


and in


is dreamt;

or in which we receive

an e-mail

or a postcard

or a journal

from Malachy;

or call each other

or meet

at any place

where we are

                                                                           in Bruges;

or become present

so many moments

worth to have


which have made life

worth to live


illuminating the sky

of our inner


water of the river

of time

which flows

inside us

and crosses

our poetical


         (Sometimes we strangely


that our name is not


Manuel Montobbio

Malachy Hargadon

María Luisa Silva

Catarina Marques de Almeida Vaz Pinto

Maria Patricia Simoes de Carvalho Salvaçao Barreto

Begoña Lasagabaster Olazabal

Margaritis Schinas

Paola Puoti

Ana Paula Ramalho de Mesquita

Paola Borrachini

Marina Averani

Jaap Verraes

Chris Hoonaert

Mikel Landabaso

Valentí Llagostera

Irene Van Affelen

Christina Vatsos

Donato Attubato

Mirari Barrena Longarte

Leyre Barrena Longarte

Kenty Richardson

Pedro Cymbron

Rui Nuno Baleiras

Isabel Molina Roig

Francina Esteve García

Luis Padilla Macabeo

Carlos Canino Díaz

Mercedes Alonso Frayle

Antonio de Castro

Juan Manuel Pérez Dorao

Luc Bool

Maria Joao Da Cunha y Da Silva

Fuensanta Candela

Catherine Le Page

Jorge Martí Moreno

Mercedes Alvargonzález

Nicolás Díaz de Lezcano Múxica-León

Marianne Bakker

Isabel Fortuna de Oliveira

Pedro Dias Capucho

Conor Maguire…

(please add your name

after the ellipsis

in case it was not

in the list).

Sometimes we strangely


that our name is


Cristopher Columbus).

         One day nobody will believe neither

that thirty years later

the gods were satiated

of blood in the veins

of stares at the eyes

of told words

and of poetry

they had even forgotten

how hunger

                                                                           of them

was like

since they had settled to live

                                                                           with us

in the Bruges

which inhabits

                                                                           inside us

and felt at home

as if it were the Olympus

when the pieces

of the soul

                                                                           of Bruges

join together.

         The soul

                                                                           of Bruges

is fed

of the dreams

                                                                           of Bruges

the dreams

of each one

of us

the dream

to be


the dream

to be

                                                                           in Bruges

the dream

to be


         We are


and the dream

                                                                           of Bruges

is fed

by the dream

                                                                           of Europe,

which is the dream

which at night

the College

                                                                           of Europe

dreamt to teach us,

although at day

it made us read a million


and nobody asked for justice.

And thirty years later

it asks us

what have we done of the argument

of our hope



have we written

with our life

in the world

and in life



do we dream

for our daughters

and our sons

what do we want that about


they will be taught

at the College

                                                                           of Europe

what are we going to do

                                                                           for Europe

that so much

and all

                                                                           for us

has done

with what dreams

what facts

are we going to feed

the soul

                                                                           of Europe

that feeds

the soul

                                                                           of Bruges.

         Bruges is a gun loaded

of future:

to the heart it shoots us

its questions.

To answer them we do have

thirty years

and all life

ahead of us

to write with it

how we would like

that this poem

may continue

till the Sixtieth Anniversary

of the Columbus Promotion

and beyond,



and the life

of life.

Until the day

in which nobody will believe

that in another life

we were

                                                                           in Bruges,

where life was more


and the gods stayed to live

with us,

and that

                                                                            in Bruges

we are yet,

we are always

                                                                           in Bruges,

and with us

                                                                           in us

we carry it,

in and through any

of the lives

of life.

As we are


         One day, definitively, nobody will believe

that we were not

in Bruges.



Manuel Montobbio

moons inspired
by the Thirtieth Anniversary
of the Columbus Promotion.