Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"The Best of Belgium" & Flanders Fields" Tours

This moated Castle of Tillegem is now owned by the government of West Flanders & not open to the public but filled with beaurocrats 'working'.  There is water in the moat & believe it or not, they imported a pair of black swans from Western Australia & they now live very happily in the moat.

On to the Chateau of Loppem, privately owned & when the last of the line dies (he's now 91 & never married), the estate goes to a Trust that has been set up & this Trust will continue to look after the Chateau.  Even now, it is open to the public on certain days.

Belgian Blues - Belgium's own breed of cattle.  They have been bred to have very muscular legs & bodies.  The calfs are so big, each one is delivered by C-section.  It is the meat of Belgium.

A 12th Century Tithe Barn - the only building left on the the land that once housed a monastery.  It is a huge building, monster oak beams.  This barn is still used & is now owned by the Government & is slowly being restored as necessary.

Part of the tour was Beer tasting - Belgium lays claim to having over 750 different beers - Belgians are very proud of their beers.  Each beer has its own glass & they are not your regular beer glass - these ones were shaped like a chalice as the beer is made by Trappist monks.

Died & gone to heaven. A chocolate factory - we saw how to make some chocolates, got to taste a few - OK quite a few.  It was so dreamy.

Our Flanders Fields tour followed the day after the "Best of Belgium" tour & as you can imagine was quite different.  Our guide Philippe showed us an unexploded bomb dug up by a local farmer.  This happens all the time - the farmers put the bombs, hand grenades, other bits of ammunition they find out next to the electricity pole to be collected by Army bomb squad.  They make regular pick ups. These people live with the World Wars every day.

This is Tyne Cot Cemetery - a Commonwealth War Grave site - so many lost their lives - it was really hard to look around & see the number of young men who gave their lives.

A lot of the graves have the inscription "Known only to God" -sometimes it also says, an Australian/British/New Zealand etc soldier.

Hill 60 has been made famous through a recent Aussie film.  This site has been left untouched after the war.  Only the trees, shrubs & grass have grown over the ground.  They have sheep to keep the grass down.

This is what Hill 60 looked like at the end of the war.

This is what it is like now.  We were all standing inside a crater that had been left by a massive explosion.

Ieper (Ypres) was totally destroyed in WW1 - pictures show just rubble. The city has been rebuilt just as it was prior to 1914.  This cathedral was finished in the 1960's. Hard to believe.  On a lot of buildings you can see that the first meter or so is the original blocks & then the new stuff follows. The city still has the look of a medieval city, particularly around the market square.

This was the end of our "Flanders Fields" tour - a dressing station where John McCrae worked.  He was a doctor - he wrote the poem "In Flanders Fields" during his time there & lost his life too.  It was certainly a sombre day but one I would not have missed.  The futility of war -the numbers of lives lost -those identified & those unknown.

1 comment:

  1. A time to pause & be grateful for what we have.