Day 15? 16? Ypres, Belgium

The next part was pretty serious.  Bubba didn’t come out much because we spent several days in WWI battlefields.  The scope of the slaughter was stunning and the cemeteries dotted here and there, filled with fallen youth was sobering and a real eye opener of the extent of the loss of life from that war.

Tyne Cot Graves

     There are nearly 12,000 graves in this cemetery, named Tyne Cot, alone. The cemetery is located on the battlefield and some of the fortifications were incorporated into the memorial.   Remains are still being unearthed in the area and are reburied with honors.  If they can be identified, their names are removed from the ranks of the missing.

     The names of the missing just from this area have been inscribed on a memorial at the Menin Gate but they ran out of room.  Tyne Cot’s walls are inscribed with a further 35,000 names of missing from the battles held near here.   

Wall of the Missing

     100 years on and the families of those lost still visit and leave reminders that these were real people with families and descendants they never knew.

     There are several places where the trenches have been preserved.  You can get a tiny taste of what life on the battlefield was like.  

     At the time, the trees were all blown away and during the height of the fighting, the trenches would be filled with water and deep mud.  

     The Menin Gate, located in the city of Ypres, was the medieval entrance to the city.   During the war, it was a strategically contested area and the city was devastated. The gate was restored as a memorial to the missing from the battles held here.  Over 54,000 names were inscribed before they ran out of space. 

     Since the opening of the gate as a memorial a ceremony has been held at 8:00 PM every evening. When the area was occupied by Germans in WWII, the ceremony was suspended until it was liberated.  The ceremony was continued with the sounds of the second world war in the background. 

     Shortly before eight every night, the street is closed and the crowds begin to gather.  At eight sharp silence descends and a bugler sounds the last post as a group of veterans dips their flags. Families lay wreaths and units are honored.  When we were there, a family from Australia, escorted by soldiers from the lost soldier’s Australian unit, laid down their wreath.  

 

     The missing and the lost and their families to this day, made their sacrifices in the “War to End All Wars”, so their decedents would know only peace.  We must not forget the sacrifices they made for our sake.

 

 

 

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Day 13 Or so Bruges, Belgium

Bubba started from Sacramento California 13 days ago.  He vowed to go east as far as he could.  He is now going west in order to go east again.  It made sense at the time.

I parked the rental car in the square next to the truck.  It won’t stand out.  Nobody will figure out I’m an American.  Just a couple of Belgian cars, right?

I wish this was the rental!

We were welcomed by this stylish, sinister gent and his two ladies.  The guy on the far right seems to have his doubts about this group.

Monsieur Sinister and his ladies seem to be watching me.  Maybe not.  I’m sure they are just local citizens out for a stroll.

Bruges is another city where the old buts up against the really old.

  The art and architecture blend into a space where you walk around with your head back and your mouth open.

I feel like someone unusual is watching me.   Wait, no, nobody unusual here.

I found this guy and shook his hand.  He looked like a good guide I asked if he would be my friend and he said it looked like the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

He said his name was Rick Blaine and he had a little café in Casablanca.  He showed me some of the old and new and new old buildings.  Plenty of light, plenty of windows.

Whoa! Sometimes you shouldn’t look in the windows.  Are we back in Amsterdam??

Bruges has its own set of canals that give you a good view of some it the city’s finest buildings.

I still have that feeling of being followed.   Are peacocks waterfowl?

I mentioned the movie “Monuments Men” in the last post.  Bruges too has a work of art that was recovered by those WWII heroes.  The Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo.

No joking to do here.  This is a work of art that truly leaves you standing still in front of it with no words to utter.   Its mere presence compels you to walk quietly and with reverence.

Straying into too much culture again.  I finally found a museum I like, The Bruges Beer Museum.  And I have a token!!

Now this is the stuff.  The Beer Museum gives you an iPad to guide you through and at the end you exchange it for three drink tokens or six if your companion doesn’t drink.

Properly beered up with for real Belgian Ale, it is time to put my earlier paranoia away about strangely garbed people following me away and get back to the hotel.

I sense a move to the east would be in order.