This weekend I went to visit Ypres in Flanders, Belgium. The First World War is something I’ve always liked reading about, so in the centennary year I really wanted to finally go and see some of the places where it took place.
Ypres itself is a very attractive place even without the history. It’s small, with lots of historical buildings (many of which were actually rebuilt after the town was essentially destroyed in the War) and is just nice to walk around.
But it also has the Menin gate, which was one thing I was most keen to see. Every day at 8pm there is a ceremony, the Last Post, which is “a tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of the town.” I had spent the day listening to Dan Carlin’s extremely harrowing desription of the Battle of Passchendaele in his podcast, so the ceremony started when I was very primed for it. When the Irish Guards marched through the gate playing bagpipes, along the route the soldiers would have marched to the absolute horrors of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, it was actually quite emotional.
I also got a chance to see the Flanders Fields museum there, and climb to the top of its Belfry Tower there - great view of Ypres and beyond, but fairly terrifying steps.
Overall a really worthwhile trip. The AirBnb place I stayed at was extremely good value, and I got to see somewhere new. Highly reccomended!