Sunday, 19 February 2017

A trip to Ypres, Belgium


I was lucky enough to go on a university trip to Belgium; the aim of the trip was to teach us how we can teach children about WW1.

Over the past couple of days I stayed in Ypres, a lovely town close to the French/ Belgium border. A little bit of background history on Ypres, before WW1 Ypres was famous for its cloth trade. However, during the war Ypres was destroyed and reduced to a pile of rubble. Since then the town has been rebuilt.

Here’s what I got up to in Ypres!

Day 1

The first day was mainly spent travelling to Ypres, it took about 9 hours in total! When we arrived in Belgium we went straight to Lijssenthoeke Cemetery, about 10 minutes away from Ypres. 

Of all the soldiers buried at Lijssenthoeke Cemetery, there are 30 different nationalities and several religions. One of the first things we learnt was not to see the cemeteries as lots of different graves, but rather that each grave tells a different story.

In the evening we went to a ceremony at Meinengate. Meinengate is a large memorial as you enter Ypres. The memorial is filled with names of soldiers who’s body were never recovered from the war. Every night at 8pm there is a ceremony at Meinengate to remember those who fought during WW1 and gave their lives.

PS, here’s a fun fact for you. When we went to Meinengate you could see the international space station just above the memorial!

Day 2

The second day was a mixture of visiting old battlegrounds, cemeteries and a museum!

Before we left for the day, I nipped into a bakery opposite the hotel. This bakery sells the yummiest and beautiful pastries I’ve ever seen. When I’m in France I usually visit the bakeries, but this bakery was on a whole new level!

Fun Fact: I was able to climb  crawl through the gap and into the German Bunker!
The first place we visited was Hill 60 and Caterpillar Crate. Hill 60 used to be a battlefield during WW1; it was also seized by both German and British forces between 1914-1917. Although the land has recovered, you can still see the remains of the war, such as the German bunkers and the land is all bumpy. There’s a boardwalk running through Hill 60 and on the boardwalk it shows you how close the German and the British frontlines were to each other (about a room’s width)

In order to seize Hill 60, the British, Australian and French forces used mines to literally “blow up” the Germans and this is how Caterpillar Crate was formed. Today Caterpillar Crate is a beautiful piece of landscape, but it’s important to remember that something so beautiful was created out of mass destruction.

We then went on the visit the Passschendaele museum which talks all about WW1 and the history surrounding the war. The museum itself is about a 2 minutes’ walk from the town centre of Passschendaele (where we found a supermarket and I discovered the best double chocolate mousse ever!)

After the museum we visited the Tyne Cott cemetery and a German cemetery.

Tyne Cott is the largest war cemetery in Belgium with 11,000 headstones. However Tyne Cott is also the largest cemetery for unknown soldiers being buried, out of the 11,000 headstones, 8,000 are unknown soldiers. 

The German cemetery was quite a contrast to Tyne Cott. The headstones were flat, dark coloured, multiply soldiers buried in one grave and there’s even a mass grave.

We were taught that some people believe that this cemetery is disrespectful to the German’s, however from a German perspective the cemetery is respectful. This is because in Germany it was honourable to be buried with your comrades, hence why there are multiply soldiers in one grave.

Day 3

This was our final day in Belgium! In the morning we had “free time” to explore Ypres.

A group of us decided to visit the In Flanders Field museum. This museum talks all about Belgium before the war and how the war affected Belgium and surrounding countries. Compared to Passschendaele, this museum felt very eerie!

Inside the museum you can also climb to the top of the clock tower. I did this (even though I’m not keen on heights and the stairs were really steep and narrow!). It was a foggy day so you couldn’t really see a lot, but it was still impressive.

After we finished looking round the museum we wandered round the town and looked in all the various shops (mainly the chocolate shops!). It was then time to get on the coach and head back to England!

I had such a wonderful time in Belgium and the weather was lovely whilst we were there. I learnt so much on the trip, from the history of Ypres to how I can teach children all about WW1.

Have you ever visited Ypres in Belgium?


abbeylouisarose said...

This sounds like a truly memorable and really educational trip, I'm sure you learned a lot! Your photos are gorgeous too! Thanks for sharing with us! I visited some War graves in Germany on an RAF Air Cadet trip about 5/6 years ago now and it made such a profound impact on me, it's so important that people visit places like this and hear the stories!

Abbey. 💓

Marc Lamberts said...

I love your photography, they really do the place justice. I've been to Ypres around 10 times and although we Dutch have nothing to do with that worldwar, it's incredibly impressive to be their and I felt very emotional. It's about paying respect, remembering the past and to make sure the future will be without that bloodshed. You wrote an incredible blogpost and I'm so proud of you!

Marc |