Back to Brussels–Day 18

In the quest to always move east, we took a week out to roll around Belgium.  We are now back in Brussels for a last look before boarding a plane again.

                                                                     Who’s this guy??

                                He is a statue.  He is dressed up in a uniform.  He is a fountain and he is….!!

AHHHHH!!  Don’t get wet.  I found out this is Manneken Pis.  A rather famous fountain to commemorate…there are several stories.  He has been standing there doing his bit since 1618 so his origins are faded.  The one I like best is the small boy who found a way to extinguish the fuse of a bomb and save the city.  This guy is famous.  He has a better wardrobe than most of us and his outfit is changed often.  There is even a special museum dedicated to his wardrobe and, of course, we visited. 

                                   Only some of his outfits are on display.  The rest are packed in drawers.

                                                     Do you like Elvis?  Well, Elvis is in the house.

            This is taken very seriously as he has been there for close to 500 years.  It is considered an honor for him to wear a costume and the submission process is quite complicated.  He has been given honors by several countries.

            He is a great hero among us short inanimate people. Who else can attract a crowd with umbrellas to watch him go about his 500-year business. 

                         Enough of this culture stuff.  Time to find an even more serious place to escape the rain.

            Kind of says it all.  Nothing better on a wet day than a tavern with many taps and an underground room.                                                                                           What could go wrong? 

            A couple of pints later and I’m ready to go back out and see the sights.  We stopped at a shopping arcade.

 

 

                                            Rick bought a snappy hat that looks like his other snappy hats.

            We then stopped by the Cathedral des Saints Michael et Gudule.  I think the guard may have detected the previous pints as he pointed the way out.  Or at least one way out.

                                                 Must be time to board the first plane out to the east.

                                                     I wonder where this place may be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 17 Waterloo

Bubba is on day 17 of his quest to go somewhere east.  Heading back from the Ypres area toward Brussels, we passed near the battlefield at Waterloo.

On June 18, 1815 The forces of France led by Napoleon Bonaparte met the European forces aligned against him led by Wellington and Blucher near the hamlet of Waterloo in Belgium.  We could not pass this area by without a stop.

            Battlefields generally look like an empty field and you have to use your imagination to reconstruct things.  Waterloo is a little different.  In spite of being 200 years ago, there are still some relics and, over the centuries, new sites have been laid out.  A little Bubba sized person like me has problems seeing such a vast area but I’m told there is a platform where I can get a better overall view.  It was easy to find, up by the big lion.

Waaaay Up

How do I get up there? Oh look, a staircase. Just a few steps to go.

But once you get to the top, you get a great overall view of the area with a chart showing the battlefield highlights.

The mound was put in about ten years after the battle, so things were still pretty fresh. Left on the site are a farm that figured prominently, another farmhouse where Napoleon spent the night prior to the battle. There is also a Panorama housed in a round building put in about 100 years ago and a great museum. They chose to build the museum mostly underground so as to not interfere with the views.

                We stopped off at the museum and there was the man himself. Kicked back in a chair checking the polish on his boots.

          I like the cut of those uniforms. The beats my shirt any day and they get some pretty cool hats instead of this peg thing on my head.

Hey guys!! Do you have a place for me? I’m looking for a laid back position, with maybe some built in nap time.

             It must be time to leave now. I’ll go look at the farmhouse where the Emperor spent the night prior to the big battle.
His bed and desk are still there.

He must have left in a hurry. He didn’t make the bed. One more stop to pay homage at the spot that was the last stand on Napoleon’s Old Guard.

Back to Brussels for a brief stop before boarding a plane and heading east again.
Travel tip: The world is so rich in history. With a little research, you can find some bit of history, a notable place, a tiny museum, near to anywhere you happen to be standing. Give yourself some time to hunt out these places so you can visit and enhance your trip that much more.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Day 11, 12 Belgium

My first for real Belgian waffle!!!

 In Amsterdam, I hopped on a train and headed to Brussels, Belgium.   Now I know I said I would always head east but I have to move a little bit west to go east.  The road takes you where the road wants you to go.

The train station in Brussels in in the basement of a building that houses the airport and the rental car places.  I could have hopped another train into the city center or points west but I talked Rick and Spider into getting a car instead.

The first stop in our quest to go west in order to go east was Bruges.  We parked the car and quickly forgot where we put it but that would be a problem for later.   Bruges became a place-to-come-back-to right from the start.   Knowing that our beds for the night still lay west of us, we were unable to fully explore this city.

In the few hours we had to spare, we saw a rich array of medieval buildings.

The churches have been around for a couple of years or centuries and have picked up a few monument and statues.

Sometimes I can’t tell if they belong together.  Is that supposed to look like that?

  A can’t miss is the Ghent Altarpiece.  Twelve fifteenth century panels painted by the brothers van Eyck.  It has a rich history of its own.  Looted by Nazis in WWII, the panels were found in a salt mine by the famous Monuments Men and were featured in the movie of the same name.  Sorry, no photos.   Bubba was properly humbled by the masterpieces.

 We found this place.   Maybe we could get a bite to eat here.

You can pick up a ham sandwich here, if you can reach the ham.   Even the butcher shop is an olde worlde building.

The medieval architecture here is amazing.  If it wasn’t for the banana on the bike, you wouldn’t know what century you were in.

This city is on the come back to list.   But now I must move on…  If we can find the car.

Yeah, well, we did do a little searching before we found it.  The problem occurs when you come to a place like this, you exit the car park, looking at all the buildings and not where you happen to be at that time.