787-788: Going, Going, Gent

787 – Monday 24th July 2017:  Ieper and onto Gent

The Lone Tree cemetery included Irish graves – we were nominally neutral but thousands enlisted in Irish regiments. The Pool of Peace was mad from a large crater – best use….

Onwards to Ghent (Gent in Flemish) and a convenient riverside free parking. Short reccce into town – and coffee of course!

Lovely evening – sans alcohol (!) and some rain overnight. The forecast for all this week was dire – but it’s improving as we speak.   

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A final cemetery – The Lone Tree with mostly Irish graves.

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The Pool of Peace created in a … crater.

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Wall art – wonder if this lad attended this school ….

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… I’d like to have taught there!

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More wall art – possibly with live inhabitants.

788 – Tuesday 25th July 2017:  Walking Gent

Am – no running – slept a bit late – and a full visit to Gent – our tour guide (unpaid – except for lunch and ice cream – lots) was K.  Quite similar to Bruges but bigger (third largest city in Belgium) and much more to see.  A definite good visit.  The TIC turned up trumps as usual and self guided walking tour commenced. O was the normal focus of attention (can I disguise myself as a Welshie – I could learn to bark?).  We are now getting used to dodging bikes – O will take a bit longer to train….

Lots of photos – and I do know about babies, K – mine were all delivered after 9 months by the stork and placed carefully under a medium sized cabbage leaf – so there!!!   

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Gent is a low motorised zone, except for bikes.

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St Michael’s Bridge with views whichever direction you face.  

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Selfie on the bridge, but my arms are not on enough and I will NOT buy a selfie stick!

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A massive stage straddling the water is just coming down after the Gent Festival.  Every street has tents, stages and litter being cleared away – must have been some party!

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The Belfry and the Cloth Hall … much smaller than the one in Ieper.

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Statue of Jacob van Artevelde in Vrijdagmarkt:  leader and politician 1290-1345 he led the insurgents and undid the boycott of English wool imports.  He is not testing for rain but pointing to his ally England.  Despite his popularity, he was murdered in his home by the head of one of the rich weavers.  The square has been a market place and place of executions; the last being in 1822.

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The lamp post lights up every time there is a birth in Gent … J wanted to wait – he has no idea how long labour may take, despite 4 children!

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Looking across to Graslei – originally warehouses and wharves.  Some of the buildings lean in to aid the hosting of grain and wool.

785-786: Ieper – Their Name Liveth Forever

785 – Saturday 22nd July 2017:  Walking Tour and Menin Gate

A nice walk took us to Ypres centre – we booked on a 5:30 pm guided tour on foot. K explored the excellent Flanders Field Museum whilst O and I supped juice and coffee and the passing Ypresians admired our noble “Hund” (in Flemish).  K returned from Outer Space (Oscar says).  The walking tour was amazing “Ypres Mysteries” and the photos show his itinerary – he told good stories – including when a group of tourists had to crawl through a small tunnel (150 metres) to appreciate the Ipresian river – and the lights failed!!!  The lights failure has now become local folklore and has been incorporated into the tours!  At the end, we visited the “Ice House” below the city ramparts – to demonstrate the acoustic our host sang “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.

The “Last Post” ceremony at the Menin Gate was the most emotional moment for us since we visited the Normandy Landings sites 3 years ago – not a dry eye in the house of hundreds..Wreaths were laid by people including a soldier – veteran of WW2 – another “War to end all Wars”.  Have we learned – again – from history?  There’s no answer, really…

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In Flanders Field Museum:  Traces the events of WW1 well.  Explains horses to mechanisation, trench and tunnel construction,  use of new of ‘weapons’ such as flame throwers and gas, medical developments such as blood transfusions and of course the lack of effective movement of the front line.

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Oscar’s a la carte dinner …. off the ground … he did not seem to mind!

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Entrance to the Fish Market.  The sculptor took the theme of the old sculpture, but used the chap from the local swimming baths for his Neptune model and a placid horse which became quite feisty after a bucket of beer.

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During the re-modelling of the town in the late C19, the tax collector could only have a tiny office, so doors and stairs took up most of this space.

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The signs for military cemeteries everywhere, in town and out.  Most have British names as this was the mostly British Front; the Belgians being north and the French south.

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Part of the Menin Gate.  55,000 names of missing in combat engraved on the walls.  I spotted a Leslie (my maiden name).

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The Last Post came from the right hand side.  Whilst a choir sang, families (front bottom) walked up and laid wreaths on the opposite steps.

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Whilst we had supper, we were blest with a rainbow.  A beautiful end to a mixed emotion day.

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Our lap dog being fed water.

786 – Sunday 23rd July:  Cycling WW1 Sites

“The time has come – the walrus said – to speak of things – and cabbages and kings”  Well, the time had come to go family cycling with our ‘king Oscar!  Bikes at the ready – my back tyre was as flat as –  canbake…  Our pump was banjaxed – but a Welsh speaking family came to the rescue – and off we set…After some initial O-wobbling did not manage to unseat K, we sallied forth.  To a WW1 crater site – good museum but too much to take in.  Lovely lunch at the cafe though and to an open air museum with original trenches and a pill box.  Hills 60 and 62 are all stark reminders of the little advances and withdrawals…   

So many soldiers graves without names but “Soldiers of the Great War – Known to God”.  

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Hooghe Crater.

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Hooghe Crater Cemetery.

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In the region of 3,600 men buried here with no named grave, I saw one grave stone with 4 soldiers, then 5 and then 6.

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A Canadian memorial on top of Hill 62.  Even thought Flanders is largely flat, it is not until you are on top of one of the rises, you realise how strategically important they were.

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Hill 60 was bought up by a British family just after the war and kept as it was … the ground was uneven from the mortars and thousands of men are still buried underneath.  

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Back from our bike ride and I got the twin tub out again and the sun shone on the laundry 🙂