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In Flanders Fields (by David)

by on August 2, 2013

As predicted, the good times around Belgium are causing us all to get to bed quite late, so there’s been no time to blog this week. Here’s a summary of our adventures:

(For the record, we’re in Flanders which is the north/western section of Belgium; the people speak Flemish which is a dialect of Dutch but there’s also a lot of French language so everything is spelled every which way)

Wednesday we toured Bruges (aka Brugge or Brugges), a very old city in Flanders that used to be at the center of Europe’s cloth and lace trade.

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There is a tall tower, so of course we climbed all 333 steps. We got to experience the 48-bell carrillon from in the middle of the bells… very loud!

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We enjoyed seeing and learning about a famous old convent called a Beguinage … we get to check off one more United Nations World Heritage Site.

We took our picture at the most popular picture taking spot in town…

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(Some of us) had a fun ride around town on horse carriages.  The rest of us (David and Renee) had a lovely coffee and apple pie in a cafe after taking pictures.

But our attempts to have Belgian waffles were foiled… the snack stores all closed after 6pm.

Thursday we went to the beach!  Belgium has 56 km of beautiful, flat, smooth beaches; it was 85 degrees and the water wasn’t much cooler than that.

The kids had fun in the boat …  (notice how wide and flat the beach is)

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… and it was super convenient that our friends have a condo right on the beach…. we didn’t have to ride back on the train all sandy.

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But we were once again foiled in trying to get Belgian waffles…. Perhaps tomorrow???

Today we went to Ieper (aka Ypres or “Wipers” if you were a British soldier in WW I.) Very important site in the war…. It was the place at which the German advance through Belgium toward France was stopped. Both sides dug in and over the next 4 years proceeded to kill over 500,000 of each other without moving the lines more than a mile either way. But as the Belgians say proudly, the “barbarians” were stopped. We learned a ton about WW I, (something none of us knew much about) at a great museum and on a wonderful private tour around the local sights.

We stopped at a British military cemetery where a Canadian doctor wrote the powerful poem “In Flanders Fields” …  it’s sort of the “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” of WW I, but with a bit more of a “let’s win this thing” spin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Flanders_Fields

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Key to the poem are the little red poppies that are now an important symbol of Rememberance to British and others; we actually saw one poking its nose up right by the poem’s plaque

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A special highlight was seeing the actual trenches, tunnels and artillery craters remaining from the war at a small forest called Sanctuary Wood… yes, the very same place that Renee’s software company in the 1990s was named for (through a complex chain of events).

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The kids had more fun in the trenches than the soldiers did and nobody got trench foot.

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It was also fun to stop at a farm and see this pile of artillery shells hand grenades and etc that a farmer has pulled out of his field in just the past year. Our friend Isla dropped a box of old shells on her toe, so she can say she was injured by World War 1 bombs!

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And best of all…. We finally got waffles! And little round donut balls and ice cream and all sorts of yummy things.

We ended the day seeing a very nice “sundown” ceremony that has been held by local volunteers every evening since the war ended.

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Good fun with friends. We’ll go to Brussels tomorrow maybe? And then to Iceland on Monday.

PS We saw a creepy guy who scared us!

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2 Comments
  1. Aunt Ginny permalink

    Everyone looks really happy. Fun to see friends along your travels. I am sure bummed today to not be going to Iceland. 50/50 our deal will make it through…will know next week.

  2. Sofie permalink

    Aunt Ginny, next time, come along. You are invited!
    All the best with ‘your deal’.

    And yes, finally,
    a Belgian waffle was enjoyed by most. For some, the waffle holes were filled with Nutella.
    For others, the nutella created the flat surface on which ice cream could be scooped.
    In addition to waffles, nutella, ice cream, there also was frieten and oliebollen.
    All Belgian staple foods.

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