Author: Ines Marinho
Belgium: the land of waffles, fries, and chocolate. Every time you visit this country, no matter where you go, all the corners smell deliciously good. Belgium has as well the most amazing beers of the world, counted as around 1600. Among this huge number, they come from all over the country, produced at monasteries and breweries.
Additionally, Belgium has a not so long past history, but an important one. The European country was one of the most important stages of the First and Second World War. Soldiers from all over the world fought in Belgium in both wars, especially in the First one. As remarks of the not so long-ago history, Belgium has an infinite trace of these wars. Graveyards, monuments and even still trenches and ruins of buildings that served both sides of the war.
Ypres, also known as Ieper in Dutch, is a city in West Flanders that doesn’t let anyone forget the tracks of the war, with its haunting past. It is believed that 300,000 soldiers lost their lives on the front line of the war, known as the Salient. Due to its close location to France, around 20 kilometers, Ypres occupied a strategic position during the First World War, standing in the path of Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of the Belgian country. The city resisted the occupation of the Germans, with the help of the British troops, fighting for the Allied forces.
Regarding this brief explanation about the city of Ypres, if you are a lover of history and you want to find more about two wars that are no older than 105 years, this is the place for you.
Flanders fields museum
The Flanders fields museum is one of the city’s top attractions. The museum explores all the aspects of the WWI, using several media and sensory experiences, audio, sounds and smells to fully involve the visitors. In the building, there are also interactive experiences, such as selecting a wartime persona and following their path throughout the war. The museum is open every day from 10.00 am to 18.00 pm.
Menin Gate Memorial
This monument is another landmark related to the First World War. The Menin Gate is a memorial to the 55,000 soldiers who went missing in action during this conflict. The structure itself is a colossal stone archway that crosses the city moat at the east part of the city. The names of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were never found are inscribed in the monument and they look like they have no end.
In this monument, every day at 8.00 pm, there is a ceremony called ‘The Last Post’ in honor to all of the soldiers inscribed in the wall. It doesn’t matter which day of the year it is or the meteorological conditions: ‘The Last Post’ happens every day in the evening and it is a ceremony watched by many of tourists, in a massive respect feeling and silence.
This is so far the most impressive building in Ypres. It is located in the Grote Markt, the market square, and it has been restored almost entirely in the 14th century. The standout features of the building design include the whopping 70-meter high belfry tower and the large central windows. It is possible to visit this tower and have a panoramic view of the city. Furthermore, this building has also a rich history.
One of the most famous ones is that, back in medieval times, people threw cats from the tower, due to the increasing number of these animals in the city. Nowadays, it is not allowed anymore but there is still a celebration where a plushie cat is thrown from the tower.
The Belle Almhouse
The Belle Almhouse is a tiny chapel that is not easy to spot. However, its inside contains artwork dating back as far as medieval times and mainly religious. The building is plain and nestled between other buildings on Rijelstraat. A hidden gem for tourists.
Local food, happy belly
Enjoying some local cuisine is part of every travelers’ plans. Ypres is a great place to taste true Flemish food. An option is De Ruyffelaer, a restaurant that offers pâté, pork dishes and coziness. Don’t forget to try the beer as well! Any option will make you pleased if you are a beer lover. If not, remember that you still have chocolate. So, be prepared to eat like a horse!
Tour of the Flanders battlefields
To have a better look up at the battlefields of Flanders, which are still a lot, there are organized tours that also take people through the museums and military cemeteries around the city. The tour guides aim to balance giving information and facts whilst remaining respectful and remembering the sacrifice made by the soldiers who lost their lives.
The world-class beer! The Kazematten brewery is housed in a historic building which dates back to the 18th Century and was used for ammunition storage during the First World War. It is open to the public every Saturday from 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm. It is also possible to make a tour to know better the building. Private tours can be arranged by appointment.