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Belgium

I died in hell - They called it Passchendaele

The Third Battle of Ypres, or the Battle of Passchendaele - visiting a rebuilt Ypres, the Passendale Memorial and Tyne Cot Cemetery

sunny 13 °C
View Lille and World War I Battlefields on GregW's travel map.

The final of my entries on my trip around the World War I battlefields of Flanders. The Brooding Soldier in Flanders' Fields looks at the start of the war and the Second Battle of Ypres. A Young Nation Mourns Her Dead published on April 8th, 92 years less a day from the battle, looks at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Canadian National monument that stands on the battlefield today. This final entry, I died in hell - They called in Passchendaele looks at the Battle of Passchendaele and the end of the war.

The Battle of Arras, of which the Vimy Ridge assault was one of many offenses, came to an end in mid-May. While some progress had been made pushing into the German lines, no major breakthroughs had been made. The war settled back into the trench warfare stalemate that had characterized most of the previous 2 years.

The attack had left a bulge in lines where the British and French forces were surrounded on three sides by German troops. This is known as a salient, and the danger with a position like this is that the Germans could attack near the back of the salient, cutting off a large portion of troops and stranding them without supplies.

In June of 1917, the British offensive started, its goal to take the village of Passendale, just a few miles from Ypres. The battle, which lasted for months, would become known as Third Battle of Ypres. It also became known under another name, the Battle of Passchendaele, with an old Dutch spelling of the name of the town used.

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The offensive did not go to British plans from the start. By this point, the land was ravaged, and stripped of all greenery to hold the soil together; the fields had become mud bogs.

“There was not a sign of life of any sort. Not a tree, save for a few dead stumps which looked strange in the moonlight. Not a bird, not even a rat or a blade of grass. Nature was as dead as those Canadians whose bodies remained where they had fallen the previous autumn. Death was written large everywhere.”
- Private R.A. Colwell, Passendale, January 1918

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For four months the British and Colonial troops practised a bite and hold strategy, making small gains and then hunkering down to hold the position. The fighting was awful, with tanks getting stuck in deep mud, and soldiers even drowning in it.

“We could not believe that we were expected to attack in such appalling conditions. I never prayed so hard in my life. I got down on my knees in the mud and prayed to God to bring me through.”
- Private Pat Burns, 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Passendale, November 1917

On the 6 November 1917, the Canadian Corps took the town of Passendale, ending the battle.

“Then on October 30, with two British divisions, the Canadians began the assault on Passchendale itself. They gained the ruined outskirts of the village during a violent rainstorm and for five days they held on grimly, often waist-deep in mud and exposed to a hail of jagged iron from German shelling. On November 6, when reinforcements arrived, four-fifths of the attackers were dead.”
- Source Veteran Affairs Canada website

The entire enterprise had achieved very little. Both sides suffered incredible loses, and while disputed it is possible that the Allied forces suffered even heavier losses than the Germans.

“I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele)”
- Line from Memorial Tablet, poem by Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon, Royal Welch Fusiliers, November 1918.

Many of the dead are buried in nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery. The cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery for war dead in the world, with almost 12,000 men buried there. In addition, a memorial contains the names of another 35,000 men who died and whose final resting place is unknown.

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Within Passendale itself, which is a nice little countryside town, is a memorial to the Canadian troops who took the town. At the end of Canada Lane is a small stone in a well maintained garden that has an inscription that reads.

THE CANADIAN CORPS IN OCT.- NOV. 1917 ADVANCED ACROSS THIS VALLEY THEN A TREACHEROUS MORASS - CAPTURED AND HELD THE PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE

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= = =

By the end of 1917 a number of events had unfolded that would dramatically shape the rest of the war. The French morale had dropped to an incredible low, and they decided to take up defensive positions against the Germans. This left burden of pushing against the Germans to the British and her Commonwealth allies. However, the United States congress had declared war on the Germans, and while there wasn’t a massive army immediately available, the Americans started to mobilze. The Germans, meanwhile, had signed a truce with the Russians, thereby freeing up all the troops on the Eastern Front to move to the Western Front.

In the Spring of 1918, the Germans launched an offensive to try and end the war before the arrival of a large number of American troops. The German offensive was successful, pushing to with 120 kilometres of Paris.

"Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
- Field Marshall Earl Haig, Order of the Day, 12 April 1918.

It is during this time that my Grandfather entered the war. He had enlisted back in 1916 (despite being too young to enlist), but wasn’t mobilized until April of 1918. He was in a logistics unit, and was stationed somewhere in France. He wasn’t in France for long. A train he was unloading was hit by a bomb dropped from an aircraft. Injured, he managed to make it away from the scene and found shelter until he was discovered. He was returned to London to recover. He had been hit with shrapnel, and had a large wound on his thigh. Throughout his life small pieces of the shrapnel that was still in his leg would work their way to the surface of his skin, coming to the surface as small black marks.

My Grandfather, living in Great Britain and not Canada, would of course not fought with the Canadian Corps had he been deployed to the front. He didn’t come to Canada until 1920, when he moved to Toronto. I never knew him at all, as he died before I was born.

In August of 1918 the Allied forces launched a counter-offensive, and made major gains. By October, it had become clear to the Germans they could no longer launch a defence against the armies, and that defeat was imminent. The Germans started negotiating a peace with the Allies, and on November 11, 1918, the Great War officially ended. It was the war to end all wars.

Ypres was mostly destroyed in the four years of the war. The site of so many important battles for the British troops, debate started as to what to do with the site. Some declared that it should be preserved as ruins, a reminder of the ferocity of the fighting that occurred there. Others declared that great monuments should be built.

“I should like us to acquire the whole of the ruins of Ypres… A more sacred place for the British race does not exist in the World.”
- Winston Churchill, Minister of War, January 1919

The residents of Ypres had other plans, of course. They returned home, and started rebuilding. Like the farmer strolling across the field in Vimy, their life continued and they got on with it. While the politicians debated about the appropriate memorial, the citizens of Ypres rebuilt their town, including rebuilding the Cloth Hall (the medieval trading market) and the Cathedral to their former glory.

Cloth Hall, Ypres:
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St. Peter's Church, Ypres:
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Cemetery and Farm Outside Ypres:
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Passendale Church:
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“In February and March, the return began in earnest. I arrived at Dikkerbus on Wednesday, 17 May 1919. I found 200 people there, who were living where they could. Some had been able to make their house or stable habitable. First they had to work for days in order to move away the earth or wood, because shelter had been made in them. Sometimes they received a little help form the Chinese labourers or German prisoners. They used a few planks to hide holes in the walls, and the best ones to repair the roof. Most people, however, had built huts for themselves.

This is how the first inhabitants lived, in poverty, but happy all the same. They had their own homes, and weary with wandering, they were now once again where they belonged, and that was the most important thing.”
- Achiel Van Walleghem, priest, 1919

Life going on. A more fitting tribute to the lives lost I cannot imagine.

As for “The War to End All Wars,” were it only so. In the rebuilt Cloth Hall is the In Flandes’ Fields Museum, from which the majority of the quotes included in these blog entries have come. The museum ends with a counter, currently at 216. 216 is the number of war zones in which the Red Cross has operated since the end of World War I. The display also points out that not a day has passed since November 11, 1918 that some place in the world was not at war.

In Tyne Cot, on the headstone of Second Lieutenant Arthur Conway Young is a message that says "Sacrificed to the fallacy/That war can end war.”

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Sacrificed in Flanders’ fields.

Posted by GregW 01:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The Brooding Soldier in Flanders' Fields

Visiting the St. Julien Memorial outside of Ypres to those who fought and died in The Second Battle of Ypres

sunny 13 °C
View Lille and World War I Battlefields on GregW's travel map.

The first of three entries on my trip around the World War I battlefields of Flanders. This entry, The Brooding Soldier in Flanders' Fields looks at the start of the war and the Second Battle of Ypres. A Young Nation Mourns Her Dead published on April 8th, 92 years less a day from the battle, looks at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Canadian National monument that stands on the battlefield today. I died in hell - They called in Passchendaele looks at the Battle of Passchendaele and the end of the war.

In the late 1800s, European powers agreed to a number of pacts and alliances, all in an effect to maintain the balance of power, ensuring that no side had an upper hand. Whenever any one power would gain an upper hand, the result was a series of alliances and military build-ups to restore the balance of power. All this came to a head in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austro-Hungary by a Serbian nationalist. This eventually caused the Austro-Hungarian empire to declare war on Serbia, triggering other powers to declare war, and like dominoes falling soon most of Europe was at war.

Germany started by invading neutral Belgium and Luxembourg and then marched into France. Germany made good progress until early September of 1914 and the Battle of Marne, with a combined French and British force stopped the advance. No side could push through the others lines, and so the armies dug in, building fortified trenches along a line that ran from the North Sea to the Swiss border.

“We think nothing of the shrapnel now, if we can get trenches – it is beastly in the open. Usually the men are lazy about digging at first, but after a little shelling they are all the other way, and it is most important that you prevent them digging the trench so deep that they can’t fire out of it.”
- Letter, Colwyn Phillips, Captain Royal Horse Guards, Klein-Zillebeke, November 1914.

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For the rest of the war, this line barely moved, and those towns that were along this battlefront suffered serious damage. The battlefront passed through Flanders near Lille, France and almost directly through the nearby town of Ypres, Belgium.

Ypres had been captured by the Germans in the initial advance. In November of 1914 the allied forces recaptured the town in what would become known as the First Battle of Ypres.

The Germans sought to retake the town of Ypres, and in on the 22nd of April in 1915 started their offensive. The Germans had been advancing their military technology, and after an unsuccessful attempt three months earlier at the Battle of Bolimov on the Eastern Front, they unleashed the latest in military technology near Ypres at Gravenstafel Ridge. A yellow-green cloud released from 5730 canisters blew on the prevailing winds towards a line of French troops. The first use of chlorine gas on the Western front saw 6,000 French troops die within minutes. The heavier than air gas filled the trenches, forcing the French soldiers to climb out into the open and face the heavy enemy fire.

The attack left a six kilometre long line in the allied defences, but luckily for the Allies the Germans had underestimated the effectiveness of the attack, and didn’t have troops to take advantage. Throughout the night of the 22nd and the morning of the 23rd, British and Canadian troops backfilled the French positions, and the Germans were only able to gain 3 kilometres. The Canadians mounted an offensive out of Kitchener’s Wood.

A few days later the Germans tried the gas again, this time near St. Julien, where they released the gas on a line of Canadian troops. Aware of what the gas cloud was, the men wet their handkerchiefs, sometimes with urine, and covered their mouths. The Canadians were affected, and pushed back, allowing the Germans to briefly take the village of St. Julien, but the Germans were pushed back out again over the next few days.

In the 2 days, the Canadians lost a total of 6,035 troops. Today, Near St. Julien, stands a memorial to those that fought in this battle, inscribed with the message, “THIS COLUMN MARKS THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE 18,000 CANADIANS ON THE BRITISH LEFT WITHSTOOD THE FIRST GERMAN GAS ATTACKS THE 22ND-24TH OF APRIL 1915. 2,000 FELL AND HERE LIE BURIED.”

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Rising almost 11 metres from a stone-flagged court, "The Brooding Soldier" surmounts a single shaft of granite - the bowed head and shoulders of a Canadian soldier with folded hands resting on arms reversed. The expression on the face beneath the steel helmet is resolute yet sympathetic, as though its owner meditates on the battle in which his comrades displayed such great valour. The statue is set in the middle of a garden surrounded by tall cedars, which are kept trimmed to perfect cones to match and complement the towering granite shaft.
- Veteran Affairs Canada Website

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The fighting continued, and eventually the Germans got the upper hand, but it took over a month, and by the end Ypres was almost completely destroyed. The city had been evacuated of all civilians early in May, and during The Battle of Bellewaarde on May 24 and 25, the British finally retreated and ceded the city to the Germans.

“Monday 3 May 1915. At 4 o’clock, the lieutenant of the gendarmerie warned me that orders to evacuate the town had arrived, and the sector where we were living had to be evacuated by the following Thursday at the latest. We are all overtaken by deep despondency. After struggling for six months against every adversity, after having gone without comfortable everyday life for so long, with the one aim of being able to hang onto our houses, we have to resign ourselves to leaving all our things behind. What will we find when we come back?”
- Diary, Aime Van Nieuwenhove, secretary of the Comite Provisoire, Ieper

It was during the second battle of Ypres that a Canadian surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae M.D. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, wrote a poem which he titled “In Flanders Fields.”

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.

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Posted by GregW 12:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Belgium Speed - Belgium Grand Prix

The 2008 Formula One Belgium Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps

rain 16 °C
View Belgium Grand Prix 2008 on GregW's travel map.

Visiting the Atomium, Mini Europe and Brugges was nice, but I really came to Belgium for two reasons.

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Beer and car racing.

September 7, 2008, at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit outside of Spa, Belgium, the Formula One held the Belgium Grand Prix. Formula One is a open-wheeled racing series with races held around the world every year, including the famous Monaco Grand Prix. However, one of the most popular races among drivers and fans alike is the Belgium Grand Prix.

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Formula One racing usually is associated with glamour and wealth. It brings to mind images of private jets to watch the race from the private boxes above the pit lane, having champagne and caviar with beautiful girls.

But GregWTravels is having none of that. No, instead GregWTravels does it the independent traveller way.

Instead of the private jet into the nearest airfield, I took the train from Brussels to Verviers.

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From Verviers, the rich fly by helicopter to the track. I took a bus. €5 return to stand for an hour and a half on a crowded bus as it slowly inches its way through traffic.

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The bus dumps us out about a kilometre and a half from the track, and we have to walk to the circuit.

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The rain started coming down, but luckily the line up to pick up the tickets wasn’t too long, and soon enough I had my pass to the track. A bronze pass to all the action.

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Once inside the track, it was time for the fancy nosh and champagne. Well, not for me. For me, sausage and beer.

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Bronze pass allows you general admission. For those of us (like me) who weren’t smart enough to bring their own seats, we have to find a place to lean against the fence, hopefully with a view of one of the big screens.

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And if some of that beer brings you a need to use the toilet, acres of facilities exist.

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Just joking around. The circuit is beautiful, set amongst the hills and pine forests of south-eastern Belgium. The course is very long at 7 kilometres, and has been the host of the Belgium Grand Prix more often than any other course in Belgium.

The most famous part of the circuit is the Eau Rouge corner. After coming out of the La Source hairpin after the starting line, the track runs downhill to cross the Eau Rouge stream, before flying uphill and heading through a quick set of turns over a blind hilltop.

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With 2 hours before the race, the rain was really coming down. Most of those without covered seating took cover in the shopping area. All the manufactures were out in full force.

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There were even a few of the hot grid girl spokesmodels that the teams hire to entertain the guests.

Walking up to the McLaren Mercedes booth, the girls were posing in tiny t-shirts, holding each other’s waists and smiling. I bounded up the steps, but the girls quit posing, quickly grabbing for their jackets with a look on their face that said, “I am not getting paid enough to stand outside in the cold and wind in this tiny t-shirt.”

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This Toyota girl said she would pose for a picture. I tried smiling to get her to smile, but she wouldn’t give me anything but this somewhat disdainful look. I assume that the happy, smiling girls were probably inside in the private viewing areas with caviar, champagne and heaters.

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The girls sour looks aside, the fans sure seemed to like it.

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I headed through the forest towards the other side of the track, near the Fagnes chicane. I wandered up and down until I could find a nice area to view the race, and settled in. Soon the cars came whizzing by in their formation lap, and a few minutes later, the race was on.

After watching the start of the race on the screen, I headed further down closer to the Fagnes chicane, where I couldn’t see a screen but I got some excellent views of the cars.

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The cars were loud as they ran down the straight into the chicane, and I captured it on video as I could. The video is not meant to be an explanation of the race, merely a few minutes of images to give you a feel what the sights and sounds of a F1 Grand Prix is like. I was near the Fagnes chicane for most of the race. Some of you may find this a little dull if you don't like cars going zippily past, so for you, pretty girls at 1:42.

The Fagnes chicane also provided the opportunity to view Nelson Piquet Jr. spin out into the barrier. I missed the spin out, but heard the crush of metal on concrete, and turned around to see smoke flowing up into the air.

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Having seen the start of the race, I knew that Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen was leading in his red Ferrari, with British McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in second and Brazilian Felipe Massa behind him in his Ferrari. I would see the Ferrari, McLaren, Ferrari one-two-three pass me, but I wanted to see the end on the screen to ensure that I got the whole story.

After an hour and bit, I figured I should try and find a screen. I figured the race was close to over, so moved back to an area with a video screen. I arrived back with 3 laps to go. It was an excellent choice, given the spectacular ending that was about to occur.

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It started to rain, the first rain we’d seen during the entire race. Folks broke out their umbrellas, and I am sure that the drivers and teams were cursing the weather. With so few laps, and slick tires on the cars, it was sure to be a slippery finish.

Hamilton had caught up to Raikkonen, and tried to pass him at the chicane near the start finish line. Hamilton couldn’t pass, and Raikkonen cut off Hamilton’s path (a completely legal move on Raikkonen’s part). Hamilton was forced to go off the track and cut through the chicane. Despite being off the track, Lewis Hamilton came out of the chicane ahead of Raikkonen.

The rules of F1 say that you can’t gain an advantage by going off-track, so Lewis had to back off and give the race lead back to Raikkonen. As soon as Lewis slotted back in behind the Ferrari, he attacked again. Raikkonen tried to defend his position by weaving, but Hamilton got the inside line and passed Raikkonen to gain the lead.

The next lap, as the track got wetter, some teams decided to pull into the pits for wet tires. The top 3 stayed out, though with the order being Hamilton in first and the two Ferrari’s of Raikkonen and Massa. The order changed again quickly, though when Hamilton ran wide in a corner, giving Raikkonen the lead again.

Hamilton and Raikkonen, battling hard for the lead, came up on the slower car of Nakajima. Raikkonen had to run off track to avoid Nakajima, allowing Hamilton to take the lead again. Raikkonen trying to catch Hamilton again, slide off the track and into the barrier, having to retire.

Hamilton was far enough ahead of Massa to carefully drive around the track, avoiding skidding off in the rain to first place. Massa finished second, and Nick Heidfeld, who had switched to wet tires, was able to pass two cars and take third place.

McLaren fans celebrated, while the Ferrari fans in their red jackets and hats hung their heads in disappointment.

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With the trophies presented, I left the Fagnes viewing area, and headed back towards the pit area, leaving behind the detritus of the bronze viewing area.

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After the race, the track is open to walk around, and fans flood out onto the track to check it out and experience a small bit of what the drivers get to see.

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Finally, though, it was time to head back to Brussels. A long walk to the bus stop, and then more than an hour standing on the bus back to Verviers.

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A little after I snapped this photo, a buzz went through the bus. Text messages were coming in, and phones were ringing. Lewis Hamilton had been penalized for cutting through the chicane, and had 25 seconds added to his race time. That dropped him from first to third, promoting Massa into the lead. The Hamilton fans at the front of the bus were depressed, but a bunch of Italians at the back broke out into cheers and song.

Despite the horror of standing on the bus for a couple hours in each direction and the rain before the race began, it was an excellent time. The cars were loud and powerful, the racing was excellent and the experience of being close to the fans was very cool.

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Next year, eh? Hmm, it was pretty cold and rainy. Maybe next year somewhere sunny and warm.

Rio? Spain? Oh... how about Monaco!

Posted by GregW 05:38 Archived in Belgium Tagged sports events formula_one Comments (4)

In Brugge... Where is Colin Farrell?

Pictures from the pretty little city in Belgium... No signs of movie star Colin Farrell, though.

sunny 20 °C
View Belgium Grand Prix 2008 on GregW's travel map.

I decided to use my Saturday to go to Brugge. I really knew nothing about the city other than a few people had noted online that it was a pretty little town worth seeing, and that Colin Farrell starred in a movie called "In Brugge." I didn't see Colin Farrell, probably because he was too busy saving lives elsewhere in the world.

I did very little research prior to going to Brugge, other than figuring out what train to take, so upon arriving I pretty much just followed the crowd leaving the train station, hoping that they were tourists like I was, and not a mass of locals all heading to their houses. Luckily, they were tourists, so I ended up getting dragged to the main square and seeing the sights.

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From there, I pretty much just wandered around without much of a plan or really knowing anything about the city at all. Mostly I wandered, every once and a while coming across my lifeline... the tourist map.

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Usually I would do some research on the place to put all my experience into context, but today I am feeling that I shouldn't destroy my blissful ignorance, so instead I will just present the photos I took with little (if any) commentary, because I don't really know much about them other than they caught my fancy so I took a snapshot.

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Behind perhaps only beer and chocolate, the most famous thing from Belgium - Tintin and his little dog Snowy!

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Looks like more than just the Atomium is smurfing 50 years. Happy Smurfday, Smurfs!

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As you can see, I took quite a tour of Brugge. I walked and looked and walked and looked...

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...until I was tired, and stopped into a bar for a pint. That's me downing my drink, reflected in the shiny chrome of the beer taps.

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After I finished my beer, I headed down to the train station, and it turned out I had some time to kill before my train, so I grabbed another pint.

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All that beer made me sleepy, and not soon after this photo was taken...

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...I fell asleep. Luckily I woke up before my stop. I made it back to my hotel, and made it an early night.

I have a big day on Sunday watching cars go very fast in Francochamps, just outside Spa.

Posted by GregW 02:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Brussels Happiness

50 years after the 1958 World's Fair, Brussels is an international city and the capital of Europe (and even Mini Europe), with a large, silvery, glob like thing as a reminder of the Jubilee of hosting the World's Fair.

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View Belgium Grand Prix 2008 on GregW's travel map.

I am off to Brussels for the weekend. It’s my third trip to this place in the last 4 years, which if you exclude places I have gone for work means I have visited Brussels more than any other city save Paris and London (which might not even count, because I actually live there). I must really like this place.

Truth is, I do like this place. It is a nice mix of old and new. It is small enough to be human scaled, but large enough to have anything you might want. Finally, as the capital of Europe, it is very international, and you never feel out of place as a foreigner here, for so many people seem to be from some place else.

I got a great deal on a hotel, as well. The Renaissance Brussels Hotel near Luxembourg Square was on for just €99. Having already been here twice and having stayed at hotels near the centre, I decided to stay some place a little less central (i.e. touristy) and a little more “real” (i.e. where there aren’t so many tourists).

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The Renaissance is just steps from the European Parliament, so it is usually filled with Euro politicos trying to sway the balance of power in their favour (as politicos are wont to do). The area surrounding the parliament is more residential than the core of the city around the Grand Palace, so it’s both more quiet (i.e. less drunk Brits) and more lively (i.e. more locals out for a Friday night dinner and drinks).

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Having already seen the beautiful yet highly touristed Grand Palace and main square, I decided to head out to an attraction that I hadn’t visited on my last two visits.

50 years ago, in 1958, the World’s Fair found itself in Brussels.

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One of the displays was The Atomium, a massive construction made to look like an atom, with orbs of shiny silver connected together by gleaming white tunnels. Not much remains of the 1958 World’s Fair, but The Atomium still stands today.

The Atomium is one of those things that seems underwhelming when you see it in tourist guides or city brochures. The pictures of the place always made it look like it’s some crappy 20 foot tall structure in some abandoned car park out on the outskirts of town.

Going there, you realize that all those pictures have failed to correctly capture the scale of the Atomium. In fact, it is 102 metres tall. It is composed of nine steel spheres and apparently is designed after a cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

I took a few pictures, for example the one below, which seems to make all the same mistakes as the tourist brochures by trying to get the whole thing in one picture, which ultimately makes it seem small.

Atomium_with_Trees.jpg

Instead, here’s some pictures I took that I hope do present the scale correctly.

Atomium_Sk..nterior.jpg
The interior of the top orb, the "sky deck", giving you nice view of Brussels

Another_Or..Top_Orb.jpg
Looking down at another orb from the top of the 9 orbs, with a fountain down on the ground, way below!

Long_Escalator_Up.jpg
The escalator rides between orbs, through the white connectors, can be a bit of a trek.

Looking_Out_at_Orbs.jpg
Looking out on two of the other orbs from one of the centre orbs

Next up, I headed over to Mini Europe! Mini Europe promises (according to the free guide that you get when you pay admission) AN EXCITING VOYAGE THROUGH EUROPE!

Mini Europe is what we would call in Canada a “miniature village.” That is, it is a number of real and imagined buildings modelled at some scale and displayed for visitors.

Ah, you get the idea. Watch this film...

The guide book, in addition to describing the sights, also gives lots of information on the values of the Europe, the economic and political power of Europe, the powers and duties of the European parliament, European budgets and GDPs, European currency and why Europeans can’t make a decent chicken wing in their sports bars.

Okay, all but one of the above topics is covered in the handout.

Finally, headed back to Luxembourg Square near my hotel and grabbed dinner and drinks at Fat Boy’s. Fat Boy’s is a sports bar run by an American, and so I found myself sitting in Brussels, drinking Danish beer, watching British Rugby and eating an all-American cheese burger. I sat at the bar and had a few more pints while sports rotated before me on the televisions screens. American baseball, American football (on the Armed Forced Network, no less - which is just like regular TV, but with more commercials for West Pointe and PSAs on Why Not To Sexual Molest Teenagers In Iraq) and Tennis.

Fat_Boys_Tennis.jpg

With that image I end, for it seems a fitting one for Brussels, a mix and match of cultures coming together in one place. I have never been to Brussels before it became the European capital so perhaps this is too grand a statement to make, but I think it was an excellent choice. It seems like a place where anyone, no matter where they are from, can come and project themselves into without seeming out of place.

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Edited to add: I realized I never explained the title of the Blog - Brussels Happiness. Brussels Happiness is the name of the series of events that Brussels has or is putting on from April until October of this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair in 1958, including a number of exhibits that I saw at the Atomium and the creation just down the street of The Pavilion of Temporary Happiness, made (fitting for Belgium) of 33,000 beer crates. A list of all the events can be found at the Atomium website, in the event you are going to be in Brussels and want to see the world's largest atom juxtaposed against the miniature version of Europe housed next door to it.

I also added the picture of the TV showing the tennis which I meant to originally include, but somehow managed not to at the last moment.

Finally, I realize many people have already read this, and will never see this addendum. Such is life.

Posted by GregW 03:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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