Belgian History Day

Our last day in West Flanders was spent biking around the countryside seeing World War I cemeteries and museums.

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It was a beautiful day, and their cemeteries are gorgeous. They are meticulously cared for and very well kept. The grass was the most perfect lush green carpet I’ve ever seen. It made me want to take off my shoes and run around barefoot!

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We did not see any American graves though because by the time the US entered the war, the front had moved further south into France.

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Later we biked to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele in Zonnebeke. We had brought a picnic lunch and ate by the lake.

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Feeling quite refreshed we headed inside to learn more about the war in Belgium.

(I took this picture especially for Liz!). I was surprised to realize that horses were used in WW I. It wasn’t something I had thought about before.

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I also learned that chemical warfare was first used in WW I. The information provided at the museum was very vivid and painted a horrible picture of what life would have been in the trenches. It was amazing to see that evolution of gas masks, this room really creeped me out though.

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The best part of the museum was the downstairs. They had replica trenches and bunkers that you could walk through and see different scenes. The communication room, the pump room, the bunk room, the mess hall. Unfortunately the lighting was very dim and my little point and shoot camera just couldn’t capture the moment and do it justice, unfortunately there are no pictures. But they also had flickering lights, the sound of water trickling, and gunfire. I hardly wanted to go down into them, so I cant even begin to imagine how terrifying the real thing was.

After we emerged into the sunny day once more, we were off on the bikes again to Ieper and saw Menin Gate.

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Menin Gate was built by the British government and dedicated to the British soldiers and the unknown missing soldiers with no graves who were killed in the Ypres Salient during the war. It was built in 1927 and is situated at the eastern exit of the town by which the soldiers would have had to leave to get to the front line.

The sheer number of names that cover the inside of the memorial is overwhelming.

Since we were in town, we decided to find a place to eat.

I have to admit, I did have a bad beer on the trip. It was disappointing. On the menu it merely said Gueuze and didn’t mention a brewer. But we had had tons of gueuze by this time and it was all fantastic, so I thought it would be a good choice. Wrong!

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How can they call this a gueuze?? Very boring, not complex, hardly sour, acetic. Some sugary sweetness that was probably added later. You can taste too much of the pilsner malts used. Oh yeah, and its InBev. Enough said. I would definitely avoid this beer in the future.

Anyway, after dinner while walking around town, we noticed the sky was becoming menacing. We still had a good bike ride ahead of us so we began to furiously pedal back. The winds were picking up and bits were beginning to be blown in our eyes. We did stop long enough to grab this next picture, but we didn’t even go in to walk around because droplets were beginning to fall.

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Check out that sky. We really hauled ass to make it home before the sky exploded. Too bad though, we got a quick glimpse of a traditional windmill that I would have loved to see if it had been nicer.

But we made it home mostly dry, minus a few sprinkles.

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