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  • Day7

    Ypres and Menin Gate

    September 2, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We ended our foray into Flanders with dinner in Ypres and then the Last Post Ceremony which has been held under Menin Gate every night at 8pm since 1928 (save a few years of WWII) as the local way of honouring those who fell in WWI. People travel from around the world to attend, play or lay wreaths. On our visit we were lucky enough to witness an extended ceremony and hear the Norwich Pipe Band from the UK and a local bugle band of cadets of some sort. There were around 1,000 people attending which, for a ceremony that happens every night of the year regardless of the weather, is rather amazing.

    The kids were on the hunt for Belgium waffles afterward, but the places had either closed or sold out, so they had to settle for Belgium ice cream in a waffle cone instead.
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    Sheridan Dean

    I can't believe they do that every night. Beautiful tradition

    Gabrielle Ingram

    I know. It is pretty astounding.

  • Day174

    Day 175: In Flanders Fields

    August 8, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    Time for some non-UNESCO exploration today! After another delicious home-cooked breakfast from our hosts, we walked over to the rental car office about 15 minutes away where we picked up our car, and headed off into the countryside. The car is great - a VW Golf "Supervan" which basically means it's slightly longer and slightly taller than the regular Golf. A little bit more room inside, but it's got some great feature upgrades too over the Golf I used to have in Sydney. This one has a full built-in navigation system which means Shandos can relax rather than give directions, and it's got auto-parking as well so I can just let it park itself! Good stuff.

    Off we went into the south-west countryside, heading towards the town of Ypres (EYE-Per) and the World War I battlefields area. Although most of the trenches in WWI were in France, the most northern sections went through Belgium, and many many people died in this area.

    We decided to do our own self-guided tour of the area, starting at Tyne Cot cemetery, which is the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in the world. I think there were around 12,000 headstones here, though about 80% of them were unidentified, and then another 35,000 names running around the walls of soldiers KIA or MIA whose remains were never found/identified. It's built on a small hill that was the site of vicious fighting at several points, and three German bunkers are still on the site. Also interested to find that it's called Tyne Cot because the houses in the area reminded the British soldiers of cottages near Newcastle-upon-Tyne!

    Next stop was the Buttes New British Cemetery, not as big but with a nice obelisk standing on a hill. Again this was the site of heavy fighting, the hill itself was a rifle range before the war and was basically the only terrain feature worth noting for miles around, so it became strategically important.

    We also visited the nearby Duitse Begraafplaats Langemark (German Students Cemetery), which was mostly German soldiers. These had mostly been buried in a mass grave as they were unidentifiable, and it's the Student's cemetery because the brigades that fought and died here were mostly student volunteers.

    Also nearby was a Canadian cemetery and memorial, marking the spot where poison gas was used for the first time in warfare (22 April 1915). Lots of people died, and though WWI is in many ways synonymous with the use of gas, it was actually surprisingly ineffective as a weapon and accounted for relatively few casualties.

    Quick pitstop at a rural supermarket for some takeaway lunch before heading to the John McRae memorial. He's the man who wrote the famous In Flanders Fields poem while fighting in the area, and the bunkers where he was working as a surgeon at the time are still preserved. Interesting to look at!

    After this we drove into the town of Ypres to visit the In Flanders Fields museum, which was excellent. We also paid a little extra for our tickets as the belfry attached to the museum building (originally a market hall) was part of the UNESCO listing for Belgian belfries. So of course we had a look! The museum was great; very modern and very detailed with lots of stuff to look at and absorb. Unfortunately we had to hurry through the last parts of the museum as our parking was running out!

    Back outside, we topped up the parking meter and checked out Menin Gate, a huge memorial archway at the entrance to the city. Around it is the name of every service man and woman who perished in the area during WWI - so it's pretty big as you'd expect! Decided not to wait around for 8pm when they play the Last Post, but instead grabbed a quick drink at a local cafe.

    Back to Bruges where we managed to find a decent parking spot and headed into town for dinner. Went to another one of the tourist restaurants on the main square, but this one didn't have quite as good food, sadly. Off to bed ahead of another move tomorrow!
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    Joel Baldwin

    Tyne Cot cemetery

    Joel Baldwin

    Australian memorial

    Joel Baldwin

    German memorial (grass in background is a mass grave)

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  • Day42

    Belgium - Ypres

    August 14, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Where - Ypres, Belgium
    Weather - nice

    We have been underestimating not so much the distance but more the time it takes to get from point A to point B, mainly due to the sheer volume of traffic on the roads (and the amount of roadworks, but the funny thing is, we never actually see any work being done? ). Brad thought we would have time to visit Bruges the afternoon that we arrived in Belgium but I thought we would be pushing it so we have put that off until we come back into France from the UK. So we booked a 2pm ferry from Dunkirk giving us time in the morning to head for Ypres, an area of the Western Front where Australian soldiers fought (and died) during WW1.

    The Menin Gate was where the troops passed through to go to the front, and it now stands as a memorial to all the soldiers that died in that area. There are over 54,000 names on the gate with over 9,000 of these being Australian. The statues of lions were originally in front of the Menin Gate and were gifted to the Australian War Memorial in 1936 and they are currently on loan from Australia as it is the centenary of the Ypres Salient Battle.

    We also visited In Flanders Fields Museum which contains a lot of artifacts in the area and they are still finding them today. It was very interesting but Brad did not seem to take any photos.

    Only a 45 minute drive to Dunkirk to catch the ferry (so we thought) but the traffic was horrendous and Brad is panicking thinking we were going to miss the ferry. We got to Dunkirk OK but finding the port was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Tiny little signs indicating 'Car ferry' - not great big street signs like we expected. It will be good to get to England where at least we will understand the road signs. However, we found the ferry in plenty of time so all is well. Next stop...England!
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  • Day391

    Groom's suit fitting

    May 20, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Finally! Time to find the perfect groom's suit! 😁
    When it comes to our wedding day, the groom need to look gooooooood. After all, he's 50% of the subject matter in a bride and groom photo, and I want my future kiddos to see the man I married as the sweet, wonderful and handsome man that he is. 😍

    Yves, I make one promise to you, you’ll look so handsome that your bride won’t be able to take her eyes – or her hands – off of you. 😉😘
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