Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day.
“The eleventh hour of the the eleventh day of the eleventh month” a ceasefire on the Western Fronts marked the end of World War 1.
This year I had the incredible opportunity of visiting Ypres, Belgium. 97 years ago, this whole area of Belgium was destroyed by 4 years of trench warfare. Now, it is a beautiful city surrounded by rolling farmland and inhabited by many. But reminders of the War are on every corner. You can’t drive more than 1km without passing a battlefield, memorial site or cemetery marking the place of the millions of young men who fought and died here. It was fascinating, heartbreaking, and overwhelming at times, but a must see to understand the magnitude of lose that happened here. If you’d never thought of visiting Flanders, or other WW1 sites, I highly recommend adding this as a Europe stop.
After doing some research, I mapped out my day on Sunday and decided to take my own tour of the sites. There are day tours leaving from Brussels, which have rave reviews and I’m sure are well worth the money, but being on a tight budget I was able to see everything myself for about half the cost. (Note: you need access to a car to do this!) You definitely don’t have time to see all the sites in one day, so I picked the spots which interested me most, including some Canadian sites. If there is one thing you can’t miss it’s the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate, which takes place every day at 20:00. Each day a new soldier is recognized and the descendants of their family come together to lay poppies and take part in the ceremony. Charlie, a young cricket player from the UK, was recognized on my visit Sunday. This 20 minute ceremony is incredibly moving, it left me with goosebumps the whole drive home.
The pictures say much more than I could relay of my trip, so here are some of the highlights.
“When you go home, tell them of us and say,
for their tomorrow, we gave our today”