Belgium
Westhoek

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25 travelers at this place

  • Day51

    Day 51 - Waterloo I Was Defeated

    September 23 in Belgium ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    Woke up to a cool misty morning & we were back on the road by 8.10am. 30 minutes later we approached Belgium with our passports & itinerary to hand. There was no border, just a sign telling us we were now in Belgium.

    First stop was Spa and to the Formula 1 race track. We were able to drive right up to the grandstand, but everything was all locked up. We then drove into & around the town of Spa, which wasn’t overly exciting.

    We set the SatNav for Waterloo and due to diversions we ended up passing through an attractive little town called Sougné-Remouchamps, which is the home of cycling champion, Philippe Gilbert. We spotted a cafe that seemed ideal for a late breakfast.

    We parked up outside the 251 year old Royal Hotel Bonhomie & walked to the cafe. It was now when we first discovered that Belgium is far stricter than other countries with it’s mask requirements. It is compulsory around town.

    We entered the cafe & ordered two coffees, then Jackie ordered a tuna salad baguette. I then asked for the same, but with sliced egg. The lady returned with two tuna baguettes, but mine with egg as well. Horror of horrors, I tried to explain that I don’t eat fish, she couldn’t understand & took both away in a huff. I chased after her & relieved her of Jackie’s & somehow managed to order an egg & rocket baguette. Everything turned out ok, but just felt a bit awkward.

    Next stop was Waterloo & the Memorial of Waterloo 1815 museum located on the site of the Battle of Waterloo. We paid our €16 each which was reasonable & followed the designated route with our masks on. It was an interactive museum with lots of exhibits & culminated in a 15 minute 3D video depicting the events of the 18th June 1815, when 300,000 soldiers clashed. 40,000 men died or were wounded & Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated.

    We then entered the Rotunda, which had a 360 degree Panorama of the events, then climbed the 226 steps to the top of Lion’s Mound for our panoramic view of the battlefield below. The Lion’s Mound was erected in 1826 to commemorate the exact spot where the Prince of Orange was wounded.

    It was over 2 hours well spent, then we hit the road for Ypres (Leper). Around 4.30pm we arrived at B&B Inga in the heart of Ypres old town. We have the run of the whole place, including a well stocked kitchen, as there are no other guests.

    Before going anywhere we set about completing our Public Health Passenger Locator Forms & submitting them. About 6.30pm we walked out into the rain & hotfooted it to the Ypra Inn next to the Menin Gate. The barman confirmed that the Last Post ceremony was still place, but with a restricted audience of just 200 persons instead of the usual 1000s.

    Jackie & I sat in the bar with a Belgian beer & watched a small crowd gather. With 20 minutes still to go, we took up two of the last few remaining allocated spots under Menin Gate. At 8.00pm sharp, three buglers appeared & played the Last Post. As always it was a very moving experience.

    It was still pouring with rain, so we ducked into a bar in the main square across from St Martin’s Cathedral & had another beer. It was all a bit damp & miserable so we called it a night, without lunch or dinner!

    Song of the Day : Waterloo by ABBA.

    Bonus Song : Last Post by The Central Band of the Royal British Legion.
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  • Day1

    Übernachtung in Ieper

    July 17 in Belgium ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Wie hübsch doch das kleine Städtchen Ieper ist. Hier können wir unseren ersten halben Tag TET fahren ausklingen lassen.

  • Day7

    Day Six

    July 19, 2016 in Belgium ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    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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  • Day4

    Day Four

    July 16, 2016 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    This morning we left Paris behind and started our trek to the north. Our historian Mike Peters, outlined what to expect over the next few days as we explore and pay our respects to the brave men who fought on the Western Front.
    First we visited the town of Riems, which is the home of G.H Mumm champagne🍾We did a tour of the premises and the underground caves where they make and store the champagne. Then we got to sample the product! Boy it went down real well. Pity it is so expensive! 💶💶💶💶💶💶💶💶💶💶
    We have made our way to the town of Ypres (pronounced 'eeps' or as the Aussie soldiers called it 'Wipers')in Belgium. It is a beautiful old tiny village with cobblestone laneways for roads and a large open plaza in the centre.
    We visited our first war cemetery 'Tincourt New British Cemetery', here we learnt about what each headstone can tell us and about the Commonwealth War Commission. Each country pays to be part of this organisation and they pay for the upkeep of every headstone, garden and lawn area in each cemetery across all places where Aussies have fought.
    Many members of our tour party have relatives that they are looking to locate. The historians and tour guide have worked tirelessly to locate them all. So as we travel to each war cemetery these family members conduct a graveside memorial. This is where they tell us the war story of their loved one. Today we had our first graveside memorial and it was very emotional for all as I suspect all the rest to be.
    Next we travelled to Mon St Quentin, where there were two major offences in 1918. Here three Aussies named McTier, Towers and Lowanson showed extreme bravery to outwit and take back high ground from the Germans on The Somme. All three of these men were awarded the Victoria Cross.
    Things I Learnt today.....
    1. There are such things as a 5⭐️ coach! 🚌
    2. The Monuments and cemeteries are located in all different areas, between houses, in townships or out in the middle of no where. There is no rhyme or reason, I guess life has just grown up around them.
    3. The people on this tour have amazing stories about the love ones they are looking for.
    4. Most roadside public toilets are unisex 🚽well they were today as everytime we stopped the male toilets 🚹were being cleaned, it is weird seeing men in the female 🚺 loos! Conspiracy maybe? 😝
    5. Glad I brought dark sunglasses 🕶and plenty of tissues I Think I'm going to need them! 😢
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  • Day7

    Day Seven

    July 19, 2016 in Belgium ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    Today I attended the Centenary service at Fromelles. This service was to commemorate the 100 years since the battle of Fromelles in 1916. On the 1st July 1916, the Germans began bringing in reinforcements from other fronts. Battalions from Lille we reported to be rallying for a push on The Somme. So the British devised a plan to attack them at Fromelles, in the hope that would persuade the Germans to keep there men there. This plan involved the 5th Australian Division and the 61st British Division. Both these Divisions were inexperienced as they had spent less than a month on The Somme. By the next morning over 2000 soldiers were dead. The attack was hastily planned and poorly executed, as the Germans were already well entrenched. But the attack went ahead anyway.
    Today I witnessed the unveiling of six more brave young souls being recognised and finally identified for their efforts. They now rest in a beautiful part of the world and their descendants now have a place to come and remember them. Until today they were known unto God.
    On our way back to Ypres today we visited Essex Farm Cemetery. This area was an Advanced Dressing Station during this war. It was located only 3km from the front and received the wounded and assessed their injuries. It was here that an American John McCrae penned the famous poem 'In Flanders Field'. McCrae was a Brigade Surgeon with the First Canadian Field Artillery. He was at the dressing station at Essex Farm on 3rd May 1915.
    💡Things I learnt today.....
    1. The Australian Veterans Affairs really know who to commemorate our fallen. Wonderful ceremony.
    2. It is bloody hot over here!☀️
    3. It is days like this that you are proud to be an Aussie!🇦🇺
    4. You can quite easily skull 7 bottles of water in a few hours!
    5. Portable toilets at large events in France are very bizzare. Outside urinals for women? Are the French for real!🚽
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  • Day9

    Day Eight

    July 21, 2016 in Belgium ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    This morning I got to visit the beautiful town of Brugge in Belgium. This town has a medievil feel with cobblestone streets, canals and ancient buildings. Some of these buildings were built as far back as the 13th century. Brugge was lucky enough to have no damage during the WW1, this was due to the Germans taking over the town early in their invasion of Belgium and the front line was established closer to Ypres.

    Our next stop was the New Zealand Memorial on Messine Ridge. There is one main difference between an Australian cemetery and a New Zealand memorial. Australia repatriated their war dead and created war cemeteries under the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). New Zealand soldiers buried their fallen where they were killed. So they built memorials and placed the names of these soldiers on the memorial.

    Not far from the New Zealand memorial, only a short walk though a paddock with Belgium Blue cattle we found our way to the Irish Peace Park. The memorial to the Irish soldiers that were lost on Messine Ridge was a large bluestone pillar tower. Each county of Ireland that sent men to the Western Front is named here. Along one side of the park are some bluestone tiles that have the thoughts of irish soldiers from their personal diaries. These are written as poems and they are very honest and depict a gloomy state that they found themselves in.

    Lastly today we visited Tine Cot Cemetery. This is the largest cemetery on the Ypres Salient. It has 12,500 headstones for the fallen from Britain, Australia, Canada and even some from Germany. New Zealand has a memorial wall here also. Most of the grave stones here are for Unknown soldiers. As you enter the cemetery you can't help notice the enormous wall. On this wall are the names of dead soldiers that they could not fit onto the Menin Gate. The enormity of this place really puts this war in perspective. The place is beautiful but disturbing at the same time. You are instantly overwhelmed with how many men were killed in just this part of the war. This is the first time on this trip that my heart and soul has been touched by what I've seen and the stories I've heard.
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  • Day6

    Day Five

    July 18, 2016 in Belgium ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    We started today with a walking tour of our home town for the next few nights, Ypres. We learnt about the thousands and thousands of names listed on the Menin Gate. These are the names of the fallen soldiers who do not have a final resting place from the three battles that were conducted on the Ypres Salient. The Salient was a 'bulge' in the front line from 1914-1918. During this time the Germans held all the high ground and the British, Australian and Canadian forces were fighting to push them back off this high ground. This Salient's topography was more like a 'soup bowl', with the allied troops along the bottom of the bowl and the Germans sitting along the ridge/edge of the bowl. No wonder so many soldiers were killed, they didn't have a chance. But although it looked hopeless there were many heroic feats to push back the German front.
    Next we visited Rampart Cemetery in the town of Ypres. Here lies fallen gunners mainly from allied forces, there are only five Aussies buried here. It is a beautiful resting place as all the headstones have a beautiful view of the lake and its surroundings.
    This afternoon we visited the Flanders Field Museum. This contains many relics, photos and interactive video of the three battles fought here from 1914-1918. On entry to the museum you receive a rubber wristband with a raised poppy on one side. The poppy contains a microchip, so as you walk around the museum you touch the poppy against the wifi logos and it will bring the interactive sections to life. Very cool and engaging!
    Tonight we attended the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate. The local fire brigade conduct the Last Post and wreath laying ceremony EVERY night at 8pm. This is the town's way of paying their respect to those that lost their lives fighting to help save Belgium. This ceremony had been happening every night since WW1, the only time it didn't go ahead was during WW2.
    💡Things I learnt today.....
    1. I am quite humbled to be amongst current veterans who have served in our armed services. Their willingness to share their stories both positive and negative is amazing.❤️
    2. The coffee over here is NOT like home! 😩
    3. You need REALLY good shoes!👞👟 My feet are taking a pounding, walking is fine but the standing around listening to the great knowledge of our historian, Mike, is very draining on your feet!
    4. The Belgians really know how to make a great bagette sandwich! There is no limit to what you can have in it!🍴
    5. The ANZAC spirit is very much alive and kicking. The number of people over here at the moment is unbelievable! 💞
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  • Day13

    Tongerlo Restaurant, Ypres

    July 3, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    This restaurant was located in the Grande Place. We are in the Flemish part of Belgium. This is reflected in the fact that French is no longer the prominent language. The foods are different here as well. Doug enjoyed his pizza but it wasn't what he expected on it. My dinner was the ingredients I expected but a unique format. Everything was very good though.Read more

  • Day13

    Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium

    July 3, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    The couple we ate dinner beside warned us to arrive early for the ceremony. They weren't kidding. Even though we were 45 minutes early we were down towards the end and there were many British soldiers in front of us. We could hear what was going on but not see it.Read more

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