Nov 2015
Travel by Design
Remembering Ypres, Belgium


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.

– John McCrae, a poet and physician who fought in the Second Battle of Ypres

Belgium was the last stop of a brief business trip and was the beginning of a working holiday. Admittedly, I have never heard of Ypres until the time I was informed that it was were we were staying the night prior to a work meeting and I informed my friend, who was going to pick me up in Brussels after. He said it was an interesting choice but I did not really bothered asking why or looking it up on the internet.


We got into Ypres after 6 pm and checked in at Albion Hotel which was across St. Martin’s Cathedral.

St. Martin's Cathedral-Ypres

St. Martin’s Cathedral

At 102 meters, St. Martin’s Cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in the whole of Belgium. A friend of one my colleagues invited us for a walk towards what we later on learned was the Menin Gate. He said there was a ceremony at 8 pm and that we got into the city just in time as we did pass through the structure driving from Germany.


A restaurant called Captain Cook, an English man who ‘discovered’ Australia, was right next to The British Grenadier Bookshop was curious until I understood why

By this time, there was a crowd around the gate, mostly English students apparently on a study tour. At exactly 8 pm,  buglers in full uniforms played the “Last Post,” which is used in public ceremonials commemorating those who have been killed in war. Menin Gate is a war memorial.

I woke up early the following day to take photos of the gate and walk around this solemn city.

The Menin Gate

The Menin Gate had a moat on both sides


Families of soldiers who fought at the gate and were never found would visit and honor their dead with the red poppy


Since 1928, the ‘Last Post’ has been sounded under the Menin Gate


Poppy wreaths at the Menin Gate


The Royal British Legion has an Ypres branch

St. Martin's Cathedral was heavily damaged during the First World War and was subsequently rebuilt following original plans but with a higher spiral

St. Martin’s Cathedral was heavily damaged during the First World War and was subsequently rebuilt following original plans but with a higher spiral

In Flanders Fields Museum

In Flanders Fields Museum

Ypres was certainly a place one would not forget (later on in this same trip, we went to Berlin’s Topography of Terror which I will post for another day). I now have an understanding why Ypres is a pilgrimage destination for the British people (which explained the lot of English references). While the city is now fully rebuilt, its being a good reminder that war is a mad game, will stay. It is a conscious effort to remain so. Learn more about present day Ypres here.

Remembrance Day is observed today, November 11.  (K)

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