Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 2 – Exploring WWI History in Belgium


(read about Day 1 here)

After gathering eggs and feeding the animals, of course, we headed to Flanders Field American Cemetery about 45 minutes from the farm.  It was a wonderful thing to see the American flag flying!  I think you don’t realize how much you miss it until you see it.  The grounds of the cemetery were so beautiful.  They really don’t show up in my pictures.  (I need some practice on my outside camera settings!)  The grass was so green and the sky was so blue. 

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I flipped back through the guest book quite a few years and was so excited to find Travis’ name from almost exactly three years prior.  It was so strange to think that we were standing in the same room in a tiny American cemetery in the country of Belgium.  I may or may not have cried … I blame pregnant hormones!


The kids were very excited to get to sign their own names in the book.  Mathis must have been in a hurry to get outside!  It felt strange to put England as our home address so I defaulted to Linthicum :)



The rows of crosses have such a strong impact!  We’ve decided wherever our travels take us to always make a point to visit the American cemeteries. 

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Kate picked flowers and left some from her bouquet amongst the others in the chapel.

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The ceiling of the chapel in the center of the cemetery. 


Another guest book to sign in the chapel.

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About 30 minutes away we drove through the town of Ypers.   The city was almost completely destroyed during World War I.  We were surprised to see the amazing architecture of this building and wondered how it could have escaped the destruction.


Later at a museum we saw this picture.  It was taken from a different angle, but you can see the impact of the devastation.  You can read about the destruction and rebuilding of the city here.


The kids were all asleep so we didn’t get out of the car, but we stopped in the town center and took a few pictures.  I thought the dormers on this building were pretty wild.


Next we were headed to a indoor/outdoor museum that had preserved trenches from the fighting during WWI, but first a stop for lunch. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly on Croissants … yum!IMG_3584

This outdoor Canadian memorial was next to our destination and was a great find. Bard’s grandfather was Canadian and fought in Europe in WWI.  He was wounded in a battle and left for dead only to be found later by an American ambulance, after the soldiers noticed he was still breathing.  Boy, am I thankful!!

We had brought along some of the boys guns and helmets and they took full advantage of using them.  The maple leaf in the wall is actually a little door that opened to reveal the guest book …. pretty clever, I thought! 



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IMG_3594Emerson pouting because they were only two guns and helmets.  Oh, waiting is so hard!













Kate preferred to spend her time picking bouquets of daffodils.





This lovely photo shoot went downhill when she discovered ants crawling out of the daffodils.  She managed to salvage some that seemed to be ant-free.  Emerson also decided to make the best of his waiting time and found some sticks to act as guns.

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The kids listening to Bard talk about his grandfather.

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IMG_3624We spent the afternoon at Sanctuary Wood Museum and it was one of the highlights of our trip.  These trenches are original to WWI.  After the fighting was over the farmer who owned this land came back to his property and chose not to fill in the craters and trenches he found.  There have been reinforcements made since then, of course, but the trench layout is original.  It included a very interesting museum put together in an old house.  Many of the artifacts were discovered as the owner resumed farming.  The museum is currently run by the grandson of the farmer. 


We were only able to make it through about half of the trenches because of the water, but it was interesting to see what the soldiers were faced with when they lived in the trenches.IMG_3636


There was much battle reenacting with Emerson the self proclaimed General :)   Here he’s giving the boys the go ahead to attack.



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Mathis retrieving the wounded …

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Even Generals get tired …




Heading home …

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I thought for sure that I had some video of the kids here.  I’ll add it later if I find it :)


  1. that's really cool and weird that you were there at the same place. After I visited the first US cemetery, in Italy, I made it a point to stop at as many as I could. I stopped at 5 total. What really hit me was that they never made it home, and they lie, all but forgotten, in a foreign country...ahh now your making me want to deploy again.

  2. oh yeah, and seeing the American flag and getting that warm felling, I know what you mean.

  3. Believe it or not, I am just now reading this post. Not because I hadn't seen it, but because I knew it was one of those posts i would like to have time to read slowly and have time to take in. The history here is just awesome. The trenches were great. I am so glad you are able to see it while you are there. Seeing Travis' name... how cool is that?! Were you looking for it? The connection to Bard's grandfather and the war is great. I love kate's hair! I have just started braiding E's like that.