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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
A Canadian commemoration stamp shows Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, Author of In Flanders Fields, circa 1968
The First World War has scarred Belgium like no other international conflict. The sheer magnitude and impact of The Great War is beyond imagination. In less than 4,5 years almost 10 million combatants were killed on the numerous battlefields around the continent. Entire regions were devastated by years and years of fierce and seemingly senseless battles. Gas attacks and mortar attacks killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians. Words can hardly describe what happened in West Flanders. One has to see and feel it for himself. One has to listen to the bone-chilling stories of a local expert who knows what happened here and visit the graveyards that are scattered all around these lands. If there is one Belgian place you must visit as an expat while living in Brussels, it would be Ypres. That is why Expat Club organises this tour for the 8th time this year. This edition is dedicated to the Centennial Anniversary of the end of the war.
Today we will go back over 100 years in history to the year 1914 at the start of the war and relive the horrors that happened in and around the town of Ypres in West Flanders (or Ieper as the town is officially called). In the morning we visit the In Flanders Field Museum that is housed in the Lakenhal in the heart of the old city. This museum is simply outstanding. It takes visitors through the history of the war in an incredible comprehensive and moving way. Note that this museum is virtually fully booked on each of the weekend days due to the massive media attention this centennial year, but Expat Club has reserved your entry already!
In the afternoon we welcome an official guide(s) into our coach for a 3-hour long battlefield tour. To really understand what happened in the “Westhoek” it is essential to visit a few of the most important landmarks (there are countless). We start with Essex Farm, where the Canadian doctor John McRae wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” and where we stand still at the grave of Valentine Strudwick. He died at the age of 15.
A professional guide explains the story of Valentine Strudwick
We continue to the Yorkshire Trench and Dug-Out, one of the few remaining trenches, the German Cemetery Langemark and Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery . During this tour you’ll learn all about the battles taking place around Ypres, and in particular about the tragic battlefields around Passchendaele.
After the tour we will have a few hours to walk around in Ypres. There is much to be seen in this town. We start at the Menin Gate. From there you can either walk into the center or follow the ramparts for a stroll along various monuments and cemeteries, including Lille Gate Cemetery. Of course we provide you with a map so you know what route to walk.
In the early evenig we enjoy a typical Flemish dinner in a nice restaurant, right next to In Flanders Fields Museum on the main square. From here it is only a 5-min walk to the Menin Gate. There is typical Flemish Beef Stew on the menu, complemented with fries and salad. Including a large glass of wine, water and a dessert (ice cream) this menu costs €24.
At 20h00 we will attend the Last Post that has been held every single evening since 1928 (see videos here). This also explains why we return relatively late, but we simply cannot leave without paying our respects to the fallen and attend this solemn ceremony.
This is a full day tour that cannot and should not be any shorter (despite it being on your well-deserved free Sunday). To really capture the essence of the war’s influence on Ypres and the surrounding area, we simply need to let history sink in by visiting the museum and several of the most important landmarks, and by attending the Last Post. We can guarantee you that this day will leave an indelible experience.
We depart from Place Schuman at 09h00 by 4* luxury coach and we also make a short stop at Metro Yser and could eventually also stop at Simonis, near the Basilique at the Koekelberg and the Basilix Shopping Center. We travel with a 4* luxury coach with an on-board toilet, AC, DVC and TV. The coach will stay with us the entire day. Our return is around 22h00.