Back in Amsterdam after visiting Ypres
Oct 11, 2015
|Sunday, October 11th.
We woke to a bright sunny but cool morning. Today was our last visit before taking the last leg: Amsterdam. Onward to Leper, (Ypres) Belgium in Flanders. This was the scene of tremendous battles during the 4 year WWI, where Britain and her Commonwealth Countries and the Belgium troops tried to repel the Germans.
Many Canadians were killed here and a well know poem was penned by a Canadian doctor while sitting in the trenches;
In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John MacCrae
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.
Another tastefully done poignant memorial.
The town of Leper is charming and inviting although basically levelled during WWI.
Amazingly we were able to park on the main street right across from St. Martin’s Cathedral which stands beside the ginormous Cloth Tower and Belfry.
This Cloth Hall originally built in the late 1200’s and early 1300’s served as a covered weaving, sales and storage place for cloth made from wool shipped from Britain.
The building is about 4 football fields in length and the sturdy belfry which houses 49 bells of the carillon is 125 m in height.
All except for a section of the tower and a couple of walls were destroyed.
There was much discussion of what to do with this levelled town at the end of the war. Some even suggested leaving it as it was as the memorial. The townspeople cried out that they wanted their old town back as it was before 1914. Thus all the medieval buildings were rebuilt brick by brick as they originally were.
It was an incredible and formidable task. We thought they accomplished their goal. Although little of the old town survived the war you wouldn’t know it now, even though all the buildings in reality are 100 years old now. Unfortunately before the war there were over 40 castles in the area around Leper that were mostly destroyed during WWI.
The museum is housed in the Cloth Hall. The exhibition with touching video projects, unique sound fragments and the most up-to-date multimedia applications immersed us in the life at the front. We received a poppy bracelet that enabled us to discover personal stories of “Joe public” in the Great War to end all wars.
April 22nd 1915 was the first day that gas was used, a weapon of mass destruction in warfare.
So much to read and absorb but we did our best and came away more knowledgeable then we were before entering the museum.
The exit took us to their lovely main square, cobblestoned of course with a working fountain in the corner and surrounded by trees and shops and cafes.
Adjacent to the Cloth Hall on the other side was the Cathedral. Upon entering it we both thought we had entered a mini Notre Dame. It was quite, serene and elegant.
We left Leper but would have enjoyed exploring the town with its ramparts and unique buildings.
As we rounded a corner on the way out of town I yelled to Bill, pull over and park. I had seen the imposing arches of the Menin Gate. This Memorial shaped like a Roman triumphal arch displays the names of 54,896 soldiers of the then British empire who went missing in action. This memorial lists the names from the beginning of the war until 15 August 1917. The soldiers, who went missing after 16 August 1917 until the end of the war, are mentioned on panels at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Passchendaele. There are 34,984 of them.
This gate was built in the location of the old mediaeval gate. During WWI, the British troops marched through this “gate” to defend the “Ypres Salient” ( a curved front line which formed around the city of Ypres in WWI.).
The “Last Post” is sounded every evening at 20:00 hours exactly under the impressive arches since 1928. After WWI grateful civilians founded the Last Post Association. The bugles of the Last Post Association play the “Last Post” from January 1st to December 31st in all weathers A second Last Post takes place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in remembrance of the Armistice.
On July 9th, 2015 the Last Post resounded for the 30,000 time.
With much to process we left Leper and headed to Amsterdam 2.5 hours away. We were returning to the beginning, a lifetime ago it seems.
The campground we chose was in the southwest of the city and we had no problem finding this park as we had stayed here in April before heading out.
We will spend the next few days packing then returning the RV almost in one piece. Hopefully we will also have a chance to see some of the sights we missed in April.