I'm writing this from my nest, a week after we have returned home, so don't go thinking that this is a live feed, but if i had to describe our trip in three words they would be, Emotional, Enthralling, Fascinating. Having said that there are about a thousand other words i could use to describe Belgium and our trip... Here is the account of our first day, i'm sorry i don't have anything about the second day i didn't get round to writing it. And so we begin.
22nd April 2010
We picked up our guides in Maidestone, Kent, and after travelling through the tunnel and across france we first headed for a place called Poperinge. Here our guides first started to give us little talks when we were driving along. Poperinge was where all the soldiers went to find whatever rest they could from the front line, before being carted back out there. We headed on past a place called 'hellfire crossing' to Sanctuary Wood, which is where we made our first stop. After lunch we walked through the small museum out to the second line trenches, we were able to walk through them. I found it ridiculous to comprehend that these trenches were used in war fare, and that this area was filled with the memories of all those soldiers. It was horribly peaceful. They weren't tha deep my head still poked out over the top, and under the little corrugated iron tunnels were row upon rows of little rememberance crosses. After wandering around for a bit, Andrew (Our guide) explained to us the details of trench war-fare, and how the trenches would've been run and occupied. Despite finding it interesting I couldn't connect with it, and found it quite surreal. We got back onto the coach and travelled into Ypres, the countryside was beautiful, i couldn't get over how flat it was! There was so much space! The buildings contrasted really well with the landscape, as most of them were really modern bungalows. They were really well built, and quite scandinavien looking. When we reached Ypres we travelled through the 'Lille' Gate and came into the town. We travelled through and reached the town hall, it was the most stunning building, absolutely massive! Cathederal looking, having been bombed ing the 1st World War, it was rebuilt brick by brick taking them over 50 years. In one section of the building was the 'Flanders Fields museum', we spent about 45 mins looking around, it was similar architecturally to the rest of Belgium; modern mixed with old, put together incredibly well. There were really good films, images and sculptures through-out the museum, also artifacts, memoribilia and personal accounts. Some of it was quite frightening and moving. The way they planned it was like a story, taking you from the beggining to the end of the 1st World War.
When we left the museum, we headed for a place called 'Essex Farm'- a memorial place just behind the front lines, with an underground dressing station. We stood outside the dressing station which was like a bunker, and Andrew explained about the medical side to the war. This was where John McCrae was posted as a doctor, He is the writer of the famous wartime poem 'In Flanders Fields'. We we given the chance to walk through the graves and it was quite emotional. We were told about two soldiers graves, one of which was just 15, who had already been in the war for a year by the time he died, and another soldier who was a sniper, and was awarded the Victoria Cross.
We all piled back onto the coach and travelled to a German Memorial Place called 'Langemarck' another modern design, but less decorative the the British graves, with no flowers. There are over 200,000 men most unknown buried there, compared to the 2,000 buried at Essex Farm. It was quite eerie and perturbing how Hitler made a speech there when he was Furher. We travelled on to Tyne Cot, a Massive Memorial site. It was oddly beautiful looking out over the thousands of rows of headstones glistning in the sunlight. I was the most beautiful place i have ever been, but also the most upsetting. I burst into tears looking out across them all, as it hit home how devestating this was, and how POINTLESS.
We Travelled back into Ypres, and dined at a restauraunt called 'Vivaldi' we were served with a whole chicken! and chips. After visting the choclate shop, we paid visit to the Menin Gate. It was the 95th anniversary of the first use of gas warfare, and Sophie, Alex and I were honoured with laying the wreath! We met the ambassador of canada and some other important people- once in a lifetime op! The hotel was nice, and after a bit of fun and games we retired to sleep.
Phew. That was alot, hope you enjoyed, make sure you go there if you have a chance.
Song of the week: Neon Trees - Animal