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Old June 2nd, 2012, 11:45 AM   #201
openlyJane
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Great tour. Lille looks very attractive and characterful.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 11:47 AM   #202
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Beautiful, very nice photos form northern France and Belgium
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 12:06 PM   #203
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Lovely country side pictures! You captured that pretty good
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 01:29 PM   #204
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About those power lines, there is a big nuclear power plant in Gravelines, about 5-10km east from Dunkerque, so that's probably why you saw that many.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 02:43 PM   #205
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Interesting pictures of this beautiful region! Thanks!
I hope that if you like canals and battles you've seen this places:

Old boat lifts at Canal du Centre (1888-1917), not far from Charleroi, the oldest still functionning boat lifts in the world (UNESCO site):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifts_o...****_du_Centre

And the new lift on a parallel canal, the biggest completed one at the moment in the world:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Str%C3%...hieu_boat_lift

And for battles, the "Lion Hill" at Waterloo (Battle of Waterloo, where a coalition of English, Prussians and others beated the French Emperor Napoleon, 1815), not far from Brussels:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo,_Belgium
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Waterloo

You have also the Dodengang/Boyeau de la mort/Trench of dead, the last remainings of the "trenchs" where soldiers fight during the 1st world war, in the city of Dixmuide, not far from the Belgian Coast:

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodengang
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o43BFYUOMT8

But anyway there are a lot of things to see in this part of Europe, difficult to do everything in one trip, you did a lot yet !

And if you come back once, something that can interest you, it's in Ličge, you can visit a world reputed crystal glassware factory (Val St-Lambert, since 1826!) where you can see on live workers blowing the glass to make decorative items:

http://www.val-saint-lambert.com/#/index/html/lang/en
http://www.cristaldiscovery.com/inde...covery/factory
video (in dutch): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Llj5bj04y4I

And finally if you like railway stations, you have both extremes in Belgium:
The central station of Antwerp ("Steel Cathedral", a really big one from 1905 and considered as one of the most beautiful stations in the world)

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Station_Antwerpen-Centraal

And Ličge modern station (by Santiago Calatrava, one of the biggest of Europe, 2009):

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_de...8ge-Guillemins

It's maybe a bit late to give you all these informations but if you're interested in battles sites/industry/canals/beautiful cities, then England/North France/Belgium/West Germany is definitely the place to be, where industry is born and where important battles took place in a not so far past !

Another thing, you certainly noticed them but from Lille to the Ruhr region you can see a long range of Terrils/Coal mountains resulting from the metal extraction industry made in high furnaces (a high furnace, you certainly saw some still in activity in Charleroi, is a kind of big oven where for example, in case of Steel industry, Iron is extracted from Iron ores thanks to the combustion of coke/coal by air). These terrils are still in slow combustion nowadays (even if they are "abandoned" since 50 years ago), which allows to a mediterranean flore and faune to settle on it.
The biggest terril of Europe is in Loos-en-Gohelle (186m), not far from Lille:

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loos-en-Gohelle

Not far from Ličge you can visit the last closed Coal mine in Belgium, the Blegny Mine (closed in 1980), where Coal was extracted from the earth, you can still visit underground galleries let exactly as they where at the closing in 1980.

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blegny-Mine

haha if you come back you have already a lot of things to see, you couldn't do everything in two weeks!, the industrial past is really present in our region, and hopefully the idea to protect this heritage gets stronger with time.

And last but not least, there is not only the industrial past, today the port of Antwerp is the second biggest of Europe after Rotterdam, you can see there one of the biggest Petrochemical reffineries of the world, it's the biggest of the Total group and the second biggest of Europe (Total Raffinaderij Antwerpen, which I was lucky to visit it not long ago). Petrochemistry is a very important sector in Belgium; the country of chemistry. There are some boat visits of the port.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_Antwerp

As you can see, the old industrial remainings are more in Wallonia; Wallonia is an old industrial region (Wallonia is the second oldest region of the world to have known the industrial revolution after England. Belgium thanks to Wallonia was before 1900 the second world industrial power after England and Wallonia the most technically advanced region of the world at that time) but from the 60's it went on decline, today Wallonia still suffers from post-industrialisation while Flander (belgian flemish flander) is one of the richest regions of Europe, a very propere region with the second biggest harbour of Europe. You add on it a linguistic shift (French in Wallonia, Flemish in Flander) and political shift (a more socialist Wallonia and a more liberal Flander) and you can understand the tensions here (that you maybe heard about). But the presence of Brussels (an initially flemish city which became heavily french-speaking and now more and more international with most of European institutions "Brussels, The European Capital", the HQ of NATO and other institutions) make IMO hopefully the separation impossible . This last paragraph is not to rise political discussion here but it was a good oportunity to explain it as you seems to like further information .

Last edited by Pitchoune; June 2nd, 2012 at 07:36 PM.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 03:19 PM   #206
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WC_EEND View Post
About those power lines, there is a big nuclear power plant in Gravelines, about 5-10km east from Dunkerque, so that's probably why you saw that many.
There are 3 on the French/ Belgian border. I think Belgium also buys most of that that power too dispite having two plants of our own. So much for the dream of closing Nuclear power down. (wich I think is very stupid) Europe is full of nuclear power compaired to the next continent with the most nuclear power (N-America) http://maptd.com/wp-content/uploads/...-locations.jpg
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 03:30 PM   #207
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@ pitchoune. I think 600 west had to make choices but most of those things where said in the BE- subforum I think he visited some of those.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 03:43 PM   #208
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@Joshsam, ah Ok, i didn't know that , thanks, anyway i'll let it for those who are interested.

Edit: Indeed I just saw it, i almost never log in, it's while i didn't see it, thanks!

Last edited by Pitchoune; June 2nd, 2012 at 04:22 PM.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 06:34 PM   #209
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Thanks for the extensive information Pitchoune. Some of those things I did, in fact some were highlights of the trip. You'll see that in future posts.

I can tell you though I didn't go to those WWI trenches. Wish I had. You'll see the contrast between those and what I saw when I post on my visit to Ypres later.

The amount of things to see in Belgium, not to even mention northern France, is amazing. I think if I were to visit only Belgium and try to see everything I would consider worth seeing it would take 5 or 6 weeks of traveling. In this trip I dedicated maybe 6 or 7 days to Belgium - way too little as it turns out.

But what can I say, if you are the kind of person who likes history, which I am, Europe just doesn't end. You could spend a lifetime exploring it.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 07:05 PM   #210
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Continueing down the cost we stopped at a small seaside town both to walk on the beach and get lunch.

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This is a Atlantic Wall bunker that someone made into their house!

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The massive concrete block on the left is what is someones home.

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The tide was coming in and boy did it some in fast. It seemed that with every wave it would advance a foot or so. Not sure why but the tides in Europe seem much bigger and faster than they do in the Americas.

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Like, ah, hurry up and take the picture before the next wave washes over me and my little island.

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Another huge bunker. Of course, the bricks were put there later for structural support.

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Nicely painted seaside homes.

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Yet another use for tractors, pulling fishing boats up onto shore.

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They sold seafood right out of the boat, which my hosts bought.

The lunch he had was great, and pretty inexpensive.

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Note the fries on the top of the plate. Always remember which side of the border you are on before deciding what to call them. Exclaiming happily “Belgian Fries!!!” when on the French side of the border doesn’t win you friends.

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We then went up to the Cap Gris-Nez

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They have the European Union flag flying on, what else, a WWII bunker.

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I found the sheep to be friendlier here than in England.

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There is some uncertainty about what these radars are. My hosts thought they are weather radar. I think they might be radar to monitor shipping in the channel so that ship traffic can be monitored in low visibility conditions. Anyone know which it is?

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We were pretty high up on a bluff.

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Sheep grazing amongst bunkers.

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Those are mainly bunkers, not rock outcroppings.

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Lots and lots of natural beauty here.

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Finally, I got a picture of this. Recall in England the “allotments” where urban dwellers are given plots of land to grow small gardens? Well, I saw the same thing all over Belgium and northern France. But this was the only time I got my camera out in time to get a clear picture.

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Heading north up the coast to return to Lille.

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The transmission lines agan.

BTW, I also saw what looked to be like a lot of train tracks and a decent sized train station. I thought it might be the entrance to the “Chunnel” between France and England. Does anyone know if that is around here?

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There was a lot of industry, especially around Dunkirk.

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A rest stop on the highway.

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We then had a very nice dinner at the home of some friends just outside Lille. This was the local church.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 08:28 PM   #211
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Great photos!
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 08:54 PM   #212
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Yes the chunnel starts in Calais. Trains going through the chunnel are only highspeed trains of wich you can board only in cities like Paris, Lille, Brussels....

You might have seen a freigth train station a station for loading vehicules and classification yards. Even the freight and shuttle trains for the cars is highspeed I think.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 09:09 PM   #213
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@600West218: You probably saw this. It's indeed the entrance of the Channel Tunnel. The thing is quite huge. Here you can see the entire complex seen from space.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 10:20 PM   #214
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France is something else, isn't it. Lille looks stunning. Just before visiting this superb thread I was looking at pics of Bordeaux and was blown away. It just never ends with that country, there are so many beautiful places to see...

I can't wait to see the rest of your trip!
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 10:50 PM   #215
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@600West218, indeed we are lucky overhere!

I'm looking forward to the rest of your pictures
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 06:24 AM   #216
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The third day in Lille I made a trip to the famous WW1 battle field, Ypres, which is not far away, in Belgium. It was a small escorted tour with a guide who explained things.

I had really been hoping to see a significant World War 1 battle field, and by that I mean see some of the actual WW1 items still there - trenches, artillery, etc. As it turned out, things aren’t quite like that.

First we were taken to the site of a field hospital and cemetery that is famous for being where John McCrea, a Canadian physician wrote a famous poem, In Flanders Fields.

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This is the monument to it:

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The poem, which I had never heard of before, seemed to be very well known in England and in parts of what were the British Empire at that time such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The other people on the tour were from Canada and Australia and they seemed to know it by heart.

It goes:

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.

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The bunker above was a Canadian field hospital - that is, it was the hospital located closest to the front lines. The quarter were very cramped.

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The above was the cemetery of the field hospital (most of what we saw on this tour were cemeteries). All field hospitals had cemeteries where the people who died in that hospital were buried. So when you see small cemeteries around Flanders, and you do see lots of them, it generally means that was the location of a hospital. At these hospitals they would provide rudimentary care and triage the patients. If they thought they couldn’t help you they would set you on a stretcher outside the hospital and give you a cigarette or alcohol to have until you died. You would then be buried in that cemetery with your grave marked by a small cross.

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Another thing to note is that there are many empty spaces in the cemetery - not all the graves are together. Those are spots where German artillery would have landed and blown up the graves. They wouldn’t rebury people in those spots, they would just leave them empty.

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These tombstones came well after the war was over. During the war they just put up small wooden crosses with a name written on it. Often they were destroyed so they didn’t know who was buried where. Also, the death rate was so high and people were so scattered that often they only knew they had a body, they didn’t know who it was. A very high proportion of the graves don’t have names they only say “A British ( or whichever country) of the Great War.... Known unto God”

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Next we went to the German cemetery at Langemark. In this cemetery 44,000 German soldiers are buried including 3,000 German students who charged British and French lines early in the war and were slaughtered.

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Most are buried in mass graves

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15 unknown German soldiers

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World War 1 bunkers.

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It says 20 unknown German soldiers twice so I guess it is 40 unknown soldiers.

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In one room are carved into the wooden walls the names of the German students who were killed.

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According to the tour guide, who was Canadian, virtually no Germans ever come to visit this cemetery. I find that sad and inappropriate. Even though Germany today rejects militarism and the wars of its past, it shouldn’t forget those who died. Whatever the politics were, those who fought in this war had little or nothing to do with that. Further, it could be said that their suffering and extreme sacrifice helped totally discredit war in Europe and lead to the unified continent that exists today. They shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored.

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An allied memorial that marks for the spot of the first gas attack in military history. It was highly effective in incapacitating the allied soldiers but the Germans didn’t take advantage. When the Germans who charged into allied lines saw all the dead and suffering allied soldiers they panicked, thinking that the gas was still around and would effect them to. So they retreated to their own lines even though the way was open for their advance.

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The rural roads in this part of Flanders are very narrow.

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A pond from an artillery barrage. In this area many New Zealanders were killed.

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During the war this would have been completely denuded of vegitation. Also, the it rained so much during the height of this battle that the fields became very deep mud in which people sometimes sank and drowned.

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A massive Allied cemetery. Bones are still found with regularity by local farmers. If they find enough for it to constitute a body they bury them in these cemeteries.

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There are also some Germans buried here.

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Next we went to a small outdoor museum which had artifacts from the war and some recreated (poorly) trenches.

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This twisted steel pole was used to hold up barbed wire. The same company in Sweden, which was not involved in the wary, sold to both sides.

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That concluded the tour. To be honest, it wasn’t very good. The guide was decent but his business practices weren’t good. He changed prices on me and didn’t do some things he said he was going to do. So I wouldn’t recommend his company, Salient Tours, or really anything about the Ypres site. There simply isn’t much to see. There are some military museums close to Lille that I would have been better off visiting.

We were taken back to Ypres, where I would have to catch a train back to Lille, and I explored the city a bit.

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This is a memorial arch to those who died defending Ypres, and particularly those who were never identified.

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The Canadian presence here is huge.

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The square in the center of town.

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The town hall and Belfry were spectacular.

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This is stunning. Look at the damage to the Belfry. It is almost entirely destroyed. That they were able to rebuild is is amazing.

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A cemetery passed on the train. We passed numerous cemeteries.

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Sorry for the poor picture but most of the towns looked like this - typical Industrial Revolution era buildings.

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Finally I was back in Lille ready to explore and see the most interesting buildings in Lille.
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 06:53 AM   #217
Buffalo Soldier
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There's a big WWI museum in the centre of Ypres too. Visited it in the past, and wasn't thát spectacular (but they had a lot of artifacts), but I heard they renewed it entirely, and it's very good now.
http://www.inflandersfields.be/en

And about the ruins of Ypres: after the war, some wanted to keep the ruins like that, and make the whole town some sort of memorial. To show what a war can do. But at the end they decided to rebuild it in its full glory (even a war like that couldn't bring it dow). Remember also some of the discussion about ground zero in NY.
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 03:59 PM   #218
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There are lot's of restored "slit trenches" (I don't know the correct worth of it in English). Like this one in Diksmuide:


Also in Diksmuide you can find the largest peace monument in the world, the IJzertoren:


Some of the graves found in the Westhoek are quite spectacular (by that I mean the monuments erected there and also the size), some aren't. I can image it gets a bit boring after visiting the 30th graveyard. But It's a shame your tour guide didn't visit one of the restored slit trenches and some good war museums. That's like going to Paris and don't see the Eiffel Tower.

BTW: your tour guide included a lot of German graveyards which is IMHO a bit of a risk considering nearly 100% of the visitors are relatives of Allied soldiers. I wonder if they haven't got negative comments on that.

Last edited by De Klauw; June 3rd, 2012 at 04:14 PM.
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 06:22 PM   #219
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Too bad I didn't know about that before. That looks like that would have been better and more interesting. But I think because Ypres is famous as a big battle more people probably go there, plus the town is a bit touristic due to the town hall and Belfry. Even the Lonely Planet book I had (which I am discovering aren't as comprehensive as they pretend to be) focused on Ypres. Next time maybe.

The guide only took us to the one German cementery and the main reason was that by where the student names are carved there is a huge map of the entire western front which he used to describe the events of the war. I was very glad we went to the German cementery and as I said I think it is a shame that Germans themselves don't visit them.
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 06:24 PM   #220
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buffalo Soldier View Post
There's a big WWI museum in the centre of Ypres too. Visited it in the past, and wasn't thát spectacular (but they had a lot of artifacts), but I heard they renewed it entirely, and it's very good now.
http://www.inflandersfields.be/en

And about the ruins of Ypres: after the war, some wanted to keep the ruins like that, and make the whole town some sort of memorial. To show what a war can do. But at the end they decided to rebuild it in its full glory (even a war like that couldn't bring it dow). Remember also some of the discussion about ground zero in NY.
Yes, your point makes sense. I wondered why more of the battle fields of the war weren't preserved but then I realized that in fact Belgium, because of its location, has so often been the site of wars that if they preserved all of them there would be no place for Belgians to actually live and farm. People still have to go about their lives and they do, so it makes sense.
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