Sunday, August 26, 2012

Belgium: Not Just Brussels Sprouts

Mark and I just spent a week in Belgium. See that thing in the background? It's the Atomium, a scale model of an atom that was created for the 1958 Belgian Exposition. We learned about it watching The Amazing Race, a pretty educational program.

Why Belgium, you say? And I say, why not?

We'd never been there before--that's a good enough reason for us. And scoring a pretty good deal on airfare and hotel sealed the deal. 

We spent seven nights in Brussels--and didn't see a single sprout. Moules--mussels--yes. Sprouts, no. Moules and frites--fries, and don't call then French fries--seems to be the national dish. Brussels Mussels-- that's it! 

Lots of seafood and we love love seafood. We just really enjoyed the street life and al fresco dining. 

Europe has lots of cathedrals. I'm thinking they might get more attendees if they had comfortable chairs. These double as kneelers, turned around. Try leaning back in one. 

Our pews and kneelers are waaaay more comfy at St. Philip.

Spent a couple days on the road to Ghent and Bruges, the latter of which is entirely charming. I took a bike tour there. Based on guide Jos, I may have to add a little standup to my own tour. 

Here Jos is emoting.

Ghent was nice too--here's the view from the Belfry. Just occured to me why some towers are called belfries. There are bells in them.

Ypres is not to be missed. We wished we had spent more time there. Now spelled Ieper, it's the famous "Ypres salient" from WWI. Four major battles fought between 1914 and 1918. The whole town was destroyed--completely leveled--and then rebuilt after the war. The "In Flanders Fields" museum just reopened two months ago and is amazing.

The museum is named for this famous poem about WWI by John McCrae:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
They 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

... and that's why poppies are a symbol of Veteran's Day. 

Below is the Menin Gate leading into Ypres. It's inscribed with the names of 55,000 missing British Commonwealth soldiers, bodies never found. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands in marked graves.  

The next day, Waterloo. This is where Napolean got his comeuppance. More great loss of life, 100 years earlier than Ypres.

Well, that's it for your history lesson today! Over the weekend we'll post more fascinating--but random--aspects of Belgium. Stay tuned for more! 

No comments:

Post a Comment