"A Living Memorial...and MORE!!" Top 5 Page for this destination Ieper by Greggor58

Ieper Travel Guide: 539 reviews and 1,598 photos

Ieper ..

I was drawn to Ieper or Ypres on a whim...and a desire to satisfy a curiosity I've likely had for a long long time...

When I was a young child my father gave me and helped me to read a short book with really LARGE print written for children about the First World War...If I remember correctly they referred to Ieper as Ypres...the Francophone spelling.I remember the images of mud caked soldiers and shards of wood poking up from the ground.

My father had served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War and my mother had two brother's that flew in the Royal Canadian Air Force,one of her brother's didn't make it home and is buried in the UK in a small city named Thornaby on Tees....

I was brought along to the Remembrance Ceremony as a small child every year to pay Respects and remember a man that I had never met...in addition to this, every year the school that I went to always had a ceremony that was always jammed with kids.

This past November while playing around on the Net I came across a web site belonging to the Last Post Association...and I explored it..Ill tell you a little about it in the "tips" section.

As fate would have it then at Christmas I received an invitation to visit some friends that live in Switzerland and I decided that I would make my Pilgrimage to Ieper and explore a little of the town and area and pay my Respects to those young men that gave so much for us today.

I found Ieper to be a vibrant and beautiful community that is in fact a living memorial to the First World War...I didn't get the feeling that it was a touristy town but I thought it had more the feeling of people being there to explore and learn and likely do exactly what I was doing there...I didn't find people to be pushy...or the crowds large and crazy...It felt relaxed and certainly inviting...the shopkeepers and local people that I crossed paths with were certainly pleasant and friendly people...

The surrounding countryside is beautiful and as I visited some of the Memorials and battlefields I really struggled to imagine that this area for the most part from 1915 onwards was FLATTENED by bombardment and the terrain just a sea of muck.

As I visited the beautiful Memorials I also struggled with the names and ages of the men that had come and died here...and the numbers...the masses of them that would be no more...live's lost for nothing really..."King and Empire"..."The Fatherland"..."The Kaiser"...

I'm happy that the World thinks differently today...for the most part...most of the time..

A Short Version..

The town of Ieper developed on the banks of the river Ieperlee around 1000 years ago and eventually became an important cloth trading center in the middle ages. As the cloth trade flourished the town grew richer, and it was fortified under the Burgundian Dukes in the 13th and 14th centuries.

In more recent history the Spanish were here.....as well as the French and the Dutch....most recently we all know that the Germans and British Commonwealth countries fought here pretty much continuously during the First World War..the front lines faced each other close by..and Allied forces fought here during the Second World War to rid Belgium of the occupying German armies......Belgium in general was the battle grounds for many centuries between many cultures and peoples...as far back as the Romans...

I spent a whole day touring various Memorials and battlefields with a gentleman that runs "Over the Top" tours and to give you a brief idea of the carnage from the First World War...there are something like 182 cemeteries in the vicinity of Ieper....these are known burial locations...

One of the most commonly known memorial in Ieper is called the Menin Gate...briefly.....on this Memorial are listed the names of men that have NO known burial place..they simply vanished from the face of this Earth...blown to smithereens or disappeared forever into the muck after succumbing to a wound.
The number of names inscribed here... 54,896...add to this another 34,984 that are listed on the Memorial at Tyne Cot , another Memorial and Cemetery, and yet another 12,000 names listed at separate Memorials for the New Zealanders and Newfoundlanders...staggering..all in an area of approximately 25 square miles.

During the course of the war approximately a half million people lost they're lives here...The victims included Germans, French, British, Belgians, Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senegalese, Canadians, Australians, New-Zealanders, South-Africans, Chinese, Indians, Jamaicans and many other nationalities,name a country of the British Empire and there were men here fighting this war from that far away place...

Today the city has a population of about 35,000 people...I was fortunate to visit during three consecutive days of sunshine....however that's not always the norm...The Flanders region of Belgium has a reputation for being wet...

I stayed in a small hotel about four kilometers from the edge of town...in a peaceful setting close to the Hooge Crater and Hooge Crater Cemetery...

The Town...

Has been completely re-built following the end of the war..reconstruction started quickly after the war with simple wooden shacks to accommodate people in..by 1919 reconstruction had started on St.Martins Cathedral and by the early 1920s construction had started on the The Lakenhalle ..."The Cloth Hall"...

The task of reconstruction of Ieper was given to architect Jules Coomans.

Other than the Memorials and cemeteries though one would be hard pressed to realize that anything had actually happened here.....the surrounding countryside is lush and green....the town itself is thriving and busy...people come and go about they're business and are living they're lives.

Its the largest city in Europe to be surrounded by a moat...its a really pretty place to explore and get to know a little!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful and vibrant community....
  • Cons:I heard that it can rain a little there... : O ]
  • Last visit to Ieper: Apr 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (21)

Comments (15)

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Sep 12, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    A very informative page, Greg.

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Dec 11, 2010 at 1:51 AM

    I came back on your excellent intro page and recent comments. This year I discovered the Etaples military cemetery in the north of France where I saw the remarkable Commonwealth War Graves Commission at work.

  • pfsmalo's Profile Photo
    Oct 25, 2010 at 3:30 AM

    NIce, moving account Greg, like the way the writing flows.

  • Oct 20, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    In June of this year, we found the "store, museum" at HILL 62 to be the most disgusting, we could not take the smell of cat urine everwhere, my wife stayed outside, but I covered my mouth and went in. The trenches are amazing. Mr. K Allison

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Saw that you had updated recently your pages for this one, and I'm glad that inspired me to stop by. You have a lot of great stuff here.

  • betska's Profile Photo
    Apr 24, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    Beautiful page, Greggor. And a fitting day to take a wander around. Cheers Betts

  • pedroswift's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2009 at 9:36 PM

    G'Day Greggor, Enjoyed reading your Ieper tips. Convinced me that our 24 hour visit was far too short. I'll consult your tips before a longer stay in the area next time. Regards, peter

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Aug 7, 2009 at 12:22 PM

    You have done an excellent job of presenting this town and its history. WWI surely was a time to memorialize with them being right in the middle of it all. Thank you for the tour.

  • Jul 19, 2009 at 7:25 AM

    It's always nice to read how tourists enjoyed a stay in your country. This is a very nice page about Ieper. Good and correct descriptions! And, he he, you indeed don't want to know what a zigeunerstick is made of :-)

  • ranger49's Profile Photo
    Jul 16, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    Back for another look - I fear we will not have time to see everything you have written about here and will need a second visit. Best regards. Barbara


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