Belgium
Ieper

Here you’ll find travel reports about Ieper. Discover travel destinations in Belgium of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

31 travelers at this place:

  • Day513

    Ypres

    November 21, 2017 in Belgium

    After successfully taking Poppy to the vet at Tournai, we headed towards Ypres and the Flemish speaking area of Belgium. It had gone lunch time so we stopped along the way for our last trip to a Belgian frituur before returning to the UK. The standard of frites across the country really is excellent, Belgian expectations must be very exacting!

    As we drew closer to Ypres we passed a number of war cemeteries, their identical oblong or crucifix shaped gravestones standing erect in neat rows. Our parking place for the night was in a communal car park near a swimming pool, skate park and sports stadium. Regular groups of school kids trooped along on the other side of the hedge to access the facilities. Will met another British couple travelling in their motorhome who told him they used to park on the quiet residential street every time they came over from Calais, but now signs had been put up to prohibit this.

    Crossing a footbridge over the moat and ducking through a tunnel in the town wall we made our way up Ypres' narrow residential streets, lined with terraced houses of different types of brick. Grote Markt square suddenly revealed itself as we rounded a corner. We were taken aback by the large open space dominated by the towering Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall), that appeared rather like a massive cathedral with its sculpted stone facade and gothic steeples. It was really refreshing to see an old building of such grandeur that was built for something other than religious worship.

    The square was surrounded by tea rooms, bars, chocolate and souvenir shops. We'd not seen many poppies in the rest of Belgium, but there were plenty of them here, where so many tourists come to remember the war. They even had chocolate poppies. Despite having the feeling of a big city at its core, Ypres is only a large town. On streets leading away from the centre, the shops soon turn to homes or offices and we looped back to the compact central area several times.

    This being our last full day in Belgium, we were on a mission to buy chocolate amd Trappist beer to take home. Two chocolate shops standing side by side offered free tastings, so we sampled each and chose the better, where we happened to come accross a fellow Brit and an Australian couple standing in line. We found it a little strange to have so many people talking English as their first language, we hope we acclimatise quickly when we get back to the UK! The chocolatier was very friendly, as was the owner of the beer shop we visited, who helped us pick out some good bottles from their wide selection. She told us she had found the sudden deluge of customers around 11th November, then the quiet afterwards, difficult to deal with. We are glad we got to see the town in one of its subdued periods.

    Walking back to the van we passed Menin Gate, the large stone archway that bears the names of British and Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never recovered.

    We liked Ypres for its quiet square, magnificent Cloth Hall and the green belt of land running alongside its moat. We did however find its huge focus on the pointless loss of foreign lives a century ago, quashed organic local culture, which is one of the things we most enjoy experiencing when we travel.
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  • Day7

    Bedford House Cemetery - Charles Duncan

    September 2, 2017 in Belgium

    And the final war memorial of this trip was to Bedford House Cemetery where my grandfather's brother is buried. Charles Duncan was killed at age 21. His and the other 3 soldiers he was fighting with had their remains exhumed and moved to this location.

    Of the 5,075 soldiers buried here, 275 are Australia and my great uncle is among those. He is buried in Enclosure 4 and with nothing more than that information, it took some time to find him. Kate placed a poppy on his grave and Craig had brought along the guitar so he played Amazing Grace. It had been so cold and windy as we were trying to find the grave, but then we sat down and the wind died down and the sun came out. The cemetery itself was beautiful. Charles has a great view in his final resting place!Read more

  • Day7

    Hill 60

    September 2, 2017 in Belgium

    Whistle stop to wander around Hill 60. The concrete bunker was used by both German and British Armies. This was another site riddled with underground tunnels which were used by both sides. They would try to dig close to the other side, listen in and once confirmed it was the enemy would set of explosives to try and cave in their tunnel network. The Australian soldiers were known to dig as low as 8 metres to try and get right under the Germans without detection - they would occasionally die from carbon monoxide poisoning or the tunnels would collapse.

    The site was purchased by a British family after the war in order to preserve it as is. There were so many fallen soldiers whose bodies had sunk into the mud during the battle that they could not be retrieved and buried properly.
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  • Day7

    Ypres and Menin Gate

    September 2, 2017 in Belgium

    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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  • Day7

    Sanctuary Wood Museum (Hill 62)

    September 2, 2017 in Belgium

    We stopped here for a bit of fun for the kids. The farmer who owned this farm during WWI returned to his farm after the war to find it riddled with trenches as it had been the site of the battle at Hill 62 which was mostly a Canadian forces offensive. The museum at this farm is privately maintained by the grandson of the original farmer who elected to preserve a number of the trenches.

    So, the kids went wild! Apparently running around in here was like all their dreams had come true. Who knew we only needed to dig and connect some holes in the back yard! As could be expected in this part of the world though, it was muddy and wet and I get the impression that this is the norm. Light drizzly rain stops anything from drying out much. Kate said she didn't want to get trench foot. Through this place you can still see evidence of the craters formed by shells.
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  • Day32

    While relaxing in Wannegem has certainly been pleasant, Nancy and I felt the need to move. We took daily bike rides through the countryside and a couple of side trips to western Flanders.

    A couple of months ago we had dinner with our friend Alexander at the Avanti pizza place. They served a Belgian ale by de Dolle Brewers called Oerbier. It hit all the right notes for a good belgian, so I looked up the brewery and we visited. De Dolle means 'mad brewers'. The brewery was started by a few college friends back in 1980 and they've been brewing ever since. They still have no employees. Every few weeks the families gather to bottle and crate together. They now turn out 500,000 bottles per year with no plans for expansion. Chris showed me around the place and we were able to enjoy a great beer from the tap before heading back 'home'.

    Another day we accompanied Manu and Katelijn to the area around Ypres to visit a recent art installation located in a regional park that was once a notorious WW1 battlefield. The artist, Koen Vanmechelen, puts chickens at the center of most of his works. The eggs represent the lives of the soldiers lost in that conflict. The large egg at the center represents rebirth. Afterwards we dropped by our old haunt on the Kemmelberg for refreshment.
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  • Day174

    Day 175: In Flanders Fields

    August 8, 2017 in Belgium

    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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  • Day391

    Groom's suit fitting

    May 20, 2017 in Belgium

    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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  • Day42

    Belgium - Ypres

    August 14, 2017 in Belgium

    Snapshot
    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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  • Day7

    Day Six

    July 19, 2016 in Belgium

    Today we started with a visit to Passchendaele. This town was involved in one of the battles for the Ypres Salient in 1917. This offensive involved British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian troops. We went through the war museum which was very impressive. They had a great display of relics and you could actually walk through recreated trenches. I couldn't get over how narrow and small the trenches were, even in some underground trenches I had to crouch down to get through!
    After that we visited Hooge Crater Cemetery. Here we were told the story of Patrick Bugden. He recieved the VC for his continued heroic efforts during the battle of Polygon Wood in 1917. He used machine gun fire and grenade launches to clear the way for his fellow soldiers. In doing so he saved wounded soldiers and continued going back in until he was killed in action.
    Following this we walked through Polygon Wood. This area was one of the main offensives where the Australian 5th Division pushed back the Germans from Menin Road. Although this is a heavily wooded area now, it was totally cleared by heavy artillery in 1917. On the other side of the wood is a beautiful cemetery.
    In the afternoon we walked the craters and what is left of the tunnels at Hill 60. I was amazed at how small an area this is. In one spot the distance between the Allied front and the German front was only 25 steps! I walked it twice to measure it as i found it ridiculous that they were so close!
    Finally today we visited Langemark German Cemetery. It was really good to hear about the German side of the war. The cemetery itself has a dark and bleak outlook to it compared to the Allied cemeteries, which are bright and look like a cottage garden. The entrance has two small rooms attached where all the names of the German Student Reserve are listed. These students were recruited as German troops were being killed at an alarming rate. The problem was that these poor boys were not fully prepared for what awaited them. They were easily and quickly disposed of by the Allies. We were told that the room we stood in today was the exact same spot where Aldof Hitler laid a wreath in the 1940's. It was quite a freaky feeling to know that I had stood in the same place as him!
    💡Things I learnt today.....
    1. Aldof Hitler was a soldier in the German Army during the battles of the Ypres Salient and that the Allied soldiers had numerous chances to kill him, although he didn't have the same reputation then. Imagine how different history would have been🤔
    2. Although the summer temperature here is mid to high 20's, the humidity is a bitch!😥
    3. It is amazing how much laundry you can do in a bathroom sink. 👕👖👗
    4. Belgium has their own version of a 'Cruiser' drink called 'Finley'🍸
    5. How determined a German pilot named Werner Voss was.
    During 1917 when the Red Baron Manfred Von Richthofen was doing his thing, when he amassed 50 kills he was awarded the Knights Cross (German version of the VC). Voss decided that he too wanted the Knights Cross and set his goal to get 50 kills before he went on RnR. On his last day before leave he had 48 kills in the bank, but he was determined to get his last two. So he took to the skies again and came across five British planes. A heavy dog fight ensued, with Voss fully in control as his plane manouvoured more easily than the British planes. Voss finally defeated all five planes, but while he was preoccupied with these five planes he failed to notice the other ninety planes which were heading his way. He was shot down and killed. Maybe he should have called it a day?
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Ieper, Ypres

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