"Ypres" Ieper by PaulKirk
Ieper Travel Guide: 484 reviews and 1,387 photos
I first visited Ypres in 1979 on Armistice day. It was a last minute decision as we were heading for the ferry and we didn't have much time to see the town. The parade and memorial service at the Menin Gate took up the time followed by an impromptu session in a bar when a local brass band came in. They belted out most of the tunes like "Tipperary" and "Keep the Home Fires Burning " and a few beers were shared. i've been back many times since.
I've always been interested in the Great War and here is a place that was at the centre of. It's surrounded by history. there are several museums and so many memorials and cemeteries to stop and see. If you travel around the salient by car you're stopping very frequently. if you walk it's a long way. The best way of seeing the area is by bike and you can hire those at the railway station.
The main attraction of Ypres itself is the main square Grote Markt with the imposing Cloth Hall. Bearing in mind the place was flattened you have to say the locals did a magnificent job rebuilding it. British tourists head for the Menin Gate just off the square. It's an imposing structure and has 57,000 names of missing soldiers from the UK and Dominions carved into it. It's a record of the British Army of the day and the famous regiments that once existed.
The Grote Markt contains many bars and cafes but you wouldn't call them lively. They do however sell the local beer and very good it is too.
There has been an increase in tourism in recent years and some more hotels have opened but it always busy in November around Armistice Day.
There are tours for half or full daysand the details are available in the Tourist Office. We prefer to do it ourselves and hiring the bikes was the best thing we did. The major roads all have cycle lanes and there are plenty of sideroads with little traffic to worry about. In Belgium the cyclist is King!
Major & Mrs Holt's guide to the battlefields is well worth the investment and so is a local map. Ialso reccomend the Battleground Europe books by Pen & Sword books.
The CWGC website records the details of all soldiers killed in WW1 and has a register for each of the cemeteries. it's worth using if your looking for a relative who died.
All the cemeteries are well signposted by the CWGC and whilst looking at boneyards is not everyone's cup of tea you have to admire the way they are tended. In late Spring the flowers are as beautiful as any garden.
And the headstones are interesting in their own right with regimental badges and often a touching tribute from the soldier's family.
There aren't many battlefied remains left. There's the odd pillbox but like rebuilding Ypres the Belgians have managed to reclaim the land. Hill 60 probably retains the most cratered remains. The museum at Hill 62 has an area dedicated to trenches but it seems false to me.
It does seem to rain a lot and whilst the mud is nothing like the morass of 1914-18 it can be a nuisance.
Apart from finding a relative's grave or something you want to see here are a few suggestion :-
The Menin Gate
Tyne Cot Memorial & cemetery
Hooge Crater museum and cemetery
The Brooding Soldier Canadian Memorial
Polygon Wood and the Australian and new Zealand memorials
Langemark German cemetery
Potijze French cemetery
Hill 60 and museum
In Flanders Field Museum in the Cloth Hall
It's strange to see the difference between the British, German and French cemeteries. The horticulture in the British cemeteries add colour and the layouts vary. The uniform lines of dark stones or stark crosses in Langemark and Potijze are unadorned and leave them gloomy.
- Pros:The history that is all around
- Cons:The mud and rain
- In a nutshell:It's part of our heritage
Too many people visit the battlefields with a one-sided view of the horror and sacrifice. Poor Tommy! Lions led by... more travel advice
There are many cemeteries in the Ypres area and it can be a much more moving experience to visit some of the lesser... more travel advice
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