Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ypres, Beligum

We headed to Ypres or Ieper Belgium depending on what langue you speak. It is Northwest of Brussels about 2 hour’s away.

Our day started out a little rough. An hour into the drive we came across a snow storm. This is not a problem in the Midwest but in Belgium on a hightway it is a major problem. We were going 25 km and passed an 8 car pile up with a car flipped upside down all the windows broken out and a person covered up on the ground.

Once we made it to Ypres we were swarmed by a pack of teenagers wanting us to put our radio station to “Studio Brussels”. Then they took a walkie talkie and let someone hear it followed by taking our photo. Crayz Kids!

Finally we made it to the Flanders Fields Museum. If you are like me and have no idea about the history of Flanders. It is a major area in the First World War 1914 -1918. It is also the first place where the chemical weapon mustard gas was used also known as “yperite”.

The most memoriable part of the museam for me was called the Christmas truce. This is an letter written by Josef Wenzl, R.I.R on 12/28/1914 to his parents.

“One Englishman was playing on the harmonica of a German lad, some were dancing, while others were proud as peacocks to wear German helmets on their heads. The British burst into song with a carol, to which we replied with ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’. It was a very moving moment- hated and embittered enemies were singing carols around the Christmas tree. All my life I will never forget the sight. We saw the men carried on living, even when they are reduced to killing and butchery…Christmas 1914 will remain unforgettable for me.”

The fields are also known for poppies which have been the symbol since 1915. Poppie wreaths at the Menin Gate - you can hardly see the names behind them.

There are cemeteries and monuments from the U.K., Belgium, France, Germany and many other countries in this small area. Ypres area was mainly defended by the British Commonwealth, more than 250,000 soldiers died in and around Ypres.

After the museum we visited the Menin Gate. It is like the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. full of the names of soldiers who fought in the war. It was built by the British as a memorial to the 54,896 solders whose bodies where never found.

What we didn’t see and will go back ands see is “the last post” is played on bugles under the Menin Gate. Since July 1, 1928 @ 8:00 every evening it has continued only silent durning the Second World War and stated again on Sept. 6 1944. The Sunday we were there was the 27,349 time they played. Here is the website to check out the impressive list of people who have attended this amazing event.

The next stop was Tyne Cot Cemetery; originally ‘tyne cot’ was a bunker on the German Flandern 1 line. It became a small cemetery in 1917 by Australian soldiers. Then 12,000 dead were brought from the surrounding battle fields. Most of their names are unknown. It is the largest cemetery for the common wealth forces in the world.

I almost forget to show & tell you about the crazy art outside the Flanders Museum.

How crazy are these fish?? Inside there were singing stingrays with legs.

1 comment:

Gray Moon Gallery said...

Yperite is a painting by Belgian artist Jan Theuninck : it depicts the terror, caused by chemical warfare, and the thousands of deaths on the battlefields. The painting is also an anti-war statement and a symbol of peace.
It has been made in 2004 in acrylic on canvas, measures are 70 x 100 cm.