Friday, June 26, 2020

Day 11--In Flanders Fields

Today we visited Flanders Fields.  I frankly knew only the basics about WWI, so found this day trip especially interesting (and sobering).  

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We stopped at the German cemetery in Langemark first. The graves were low granite grey under tall oak trees. 

Next we stopped at the Brooding soldier, a Canadian memorial for the troops that stayed their line while being gassed. This was the second time the Germans used gas (chlorine).

The tour guide stopped briefly at a friend's farm to show a shell the farmer recently uncovered on his farm. 

 The guide told us a bit about the pick up service that comes around periodically and picks up what is left along the road for them to dispose of them (by putting it in a reinforced room and burning gas ones at very high temperatures).  So the repercussions of the technology used in the first World War is felt even 100 years later to the people living where the battles were found.

Next to the Commonwealth cemetery in Passendale, called Tyne Cot because the British bunkers had been disguised to look a bit like cottages. 
 The cemetery was built on these bunkers. 

 when known, the graves showed where the soldier was from and his division, including soldiers from England,



(the Black Watch of the Royal Highlanders)


New Zealand, 



and South Africa. 

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Next to the Polygon Wood cemetery with the Australian and New Zealand memorials and graveyards for that battle.

Our next stop was Hooge, 

where we went into replicas of German and British trenches 

(German trenches with wooden sides)

(British trenches with metal sides)

and visited the museum after an included lunch break (a sandwich) in the attached restaurant. 

The museum was an interesting assortment of artifacts.

As you may have guessed, I was particularly interested in the different uniforms on display. 

 We even had time to run across the street to the Hooge cemetery.

Next on to Hill 60, with its memorials.  

This was the first time we really saw the craters left from the war. 

Hill 60 is where the "underground war" occurred. The British tunneled for months (with the Germans trying to find them by also tunneling underground) and left mines. 19 were later blown.

A quick stop nearby to view the Kemmel American Monument to American soldiers that fought nearby in 1918 alongside the British.

Next on Ypres, the biggest town in the area, which had been reduced to rubble. It was rebuilt to look like it was before the war, and the Menin gate erected.

 I saw so many graves of unknown soldiers in just this short day.  Here their names, and so many more, were listed.  These were the soldiers with no known graves. 

 We had a small bit of time to walk to the town center, 

(unfortunately, not enough time to go in the Flanders Fields museum)

stop to get an afternoon snack of chocolates, 

and briskly walk back to the bus.

Our last stop was at the Essex Farm cemetery and Dressing station. 

 We saw the concrete bunker of the station. This is where Canadian Dr. John McCrae wrote the famous poem In Flanders Fields about a deceased soldier that he had known.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Sadly Dr. McCrae did not himself survive the war.  He died of pneumonia in France in 1918.  

Next we were dropped off in Bruges, and walk up into town

through the Markt,

until we got to the restaurant we wanted to try for dinner (we had tried for a table at this place the day before actually, but were turned away)--again in Huidevettersplein.

(Picture taken from our table by the window)

I got the three course special, a shrimp croquette with salad as a starter, 

sole and a salad for main course, 

and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert.

Just a short bit of wandering this evening--we had to pack up for our second move the next day.  I was sad to leave Bruges.

Trip Tip:  We used Rick Steves' recommendation and went with QuasiMundo Tours, for about 75 if I remember correctly (which included lunch and the museum entrance fee).  We reserved a spot on the tour a couple months before our trip and paid the day of. We were gone pretty much all day. The tour was really good, they even sent a taxi to pick us up (although we walked back into town from a dropoff, though it wasn't hard). The bus picked us up at the same place flixbus had dropped us when we first got to town (which was just down the street and around the corner from the train station we learned). 

1 comment:

  1. I'm finally back to commenting after my insane end-of-the-quarter work-related stress, yay! But I'm still going to limit myself to one post per day because I want to savor these as I don't know what other vacations you are planning to document in the future. :-P.

    • However, this day was actually very somber and we were carted around on a bus and so I probably won't have a ton of ~*HILARIOUS*~ food- and exhaustion-related meltdown anecdotes to share. I'm sure you're sad, haha.
    • Anyway, this little daytrip was basically the whole reason that I wanted to go to Belgium in the first place and I really enjoyed it, even if parts of it did feel a little bit rushed. I thought the guide did a really great job.
    • I really like Photo No. 8. It's super atmospheric, with the statue and the sky. Not really something uplifting to frame, though.
    • Actually, all of the photos of the various cemeteries are really good. I thought it was really moving how completely pristine all of the cemetery grounds are.
    • The included lunch could have been better, though. :-P. Wasn't it like a white-bread turkey sandwich? LOL.
    • Obviously, I made the prior comment before scrolling further because OF COURSE you have a photo. So I guess it was ham instead of turkey but my original dissatisfaction stands, haha.
    • I would have liked more time in Ypres. Didn't we spend most of the time looking for a bathroom or something deeply uninteresting?
    • That chocolate cat was amazing, though.
    • I'm pretty sure that, during our walk back into Bruge, we contemplated going BACK to that tearoom for a third round of hot chocolate and giant desserts but it was closed. Probably a necessary cosmic intervention at that point.
    • Pretty sure I also had that shrimp croquette-- it looks familiar (and delicious) now that I'm seeing your photo, haha. And did we share that dessert?

    Ah, Bruges. I'm kind of sad to be moving on to the Brussels posts because as you know I was not a fan of Brussels. And I loveddddd Bruges (because, really, who wouldn't?).


Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you have a wonderful day :)