My Belgium history trip – Ypres and chocolate

This weekend I got back from a school trip to Ypres in Belgium. It was a very tiring two days but it was well worth it to explore a different country and culture. I was there for a history trip to look at the history of Ypres and its importance in WWI. It was a very insightful trip into how the war’s legacy has affected the country.

The first trip was to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. Literally hundreds of graves from British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were there, with different countries marking the graves differently. Hundreds more names were on the walls. The whole area is massive and it truly shows the scale of the fighting and how many people died.

Tyne Cot
Tyne Cot Cemetery Memorial
Tyne Cot cemetery
Tyne Cot cemetery

Another highlight of the trip was the gigantic Menin Gate in the centre of Ypres. This was unveiled in 1927 and a daily service of remembrance takes place there every single night. The Gate also has a giant garden of sorts to the side where there are even more names on the side. The inside of the gate is full of names of people who were missing in battle or unidentified after the war. We attended the service of remembrance and there were hundreds of people there. It’s astonishing how the ceremony has survived since the 20s and it truly shows how much the war affected Belgium.

Menin Gate
Menin Gate
Menin Gate
Menin Gate
Menin Gate garden
The Menin Gate Garden
Menin gates names
Hundreds of names on the wall

The following day we went to a chocolate shop, so naturally I was eager to get a hold of a lot of it. I got two bags of marzipan, two white chocolate bars (white chocolate is the best, no question) and a bag of marshmallows. Belgium chocolate is out of this world, in fact Belgian food is great all round. I had a pancake and a hot dog for lunch, both of which were excellent. For dinner on the first night I had chicken, which was delicious and very filling.

The In Flanders Fields museum was very informative and engaging. It told the whole story of Belgium’s involvement in the war, from before 1914 to the aftermath. There were hundreds of items from British, French, German and American soldiers and items from the battlefield. There was also an interactive wristband which contained a story about someone linked with the war. The museum is huge and has lots of information and models.

In Flanders Field museum, Belgium.
In Flanders Fields Museum, Belgium.
Flanders Fields museum
Outside the museum

The final part of the trip was exploring a real life trench. It was very muddy but I had good boots so fortunately I didn’t get muddy. It must have been chaotic in the trenches during the fighting, and I’m glad the weather was decent when I walked in the trench!

Walking in the trenches
Walking in the trenches

Overall, this was a fantastic trip. I loved visiting Belgium (and a bit of France) and seeing the history behind the war was eye-opening. It improved my awareness of the war, and I’m now more aware of the global impact of the war. While seeing lots of Australian graves, I was reminded of the exhibits which I saw last summer in the Western Australian Museum in Perth. Many Australians died in the war and the graves in Tyne Cot showed respect to them and the whole Commonwealth.

I can’t wait for my history trip to Berlin next year.

3 thoughts on “My Belgium history trip – Ypres and chocolate

  1. The Belgium battlefields sound really interesting and are somewhere I’d love to go. I have seen some of the cemeteries in northern France and Belgium, but not the battlefields,

  2. Sounds like a really great trip. I would love to see the trenches myself. I have been to Belgium a few times (mainly Brussels and Ghent) and, like you, found the chocolate shops offered a far greater variety and better quality than their English equivalents. I also enjoy Belgian food, particularly their two national dishes: modules et frites and frites avec mayonnaise.

    Two final points:

    1) You will love Berlin. It is one of the most atmospheric cities I have ever visited.

    2) White chocolate is not the best, dark chocolate with 70%+ cocoa content is vastly superior 🙂

    Overall, another very interesting and informative post. I really enjoy reading your stuff. Well done.

  3. I’ve never been to Belgium, but would really like to visit Ypres to see the trenches and the war memorials. Even though the ‘Great War’ started more than 100 years ago, I think it is very important that people learn about it and remember the tragedy of all the men who died on the battlefield – on both sides. It is good to hear that people are still attending the memorial service and paying their respects to the dead. I think the greatest tragedy of the First World War was that this was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And yet twenty years later came WWII, and today the world is embroiled in a very different type of war.

    Your photographs of the trenches are really good and atmospheric. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have felt like to be a solider, living in the mud and waiting for the command to go ‘over the top’.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the chocolate!

    Perhaps you can convince your history class to do a trip to Munich – lots of very interesting things here 🙂

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