Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brief Visits to Luxembourg and Belgium

On  May 20th we left our Freizeitcenter Oberrhein campground near Baden Baden and drove north to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Our parking destination was Camping Steinfort, not far from Luxembourg City. It was a little startling entering the campground given our preconceptions of "wealthy Luxembourg"; Camping Steinfort seemed to be the home of several permanent residents. I had had the impression that Luxembourg was filled with the well-off but we found that Camping Steinfort was where the other half lived. The campground was going to close at the end of the season and I gather that they had sold the land to developers. The campground did have a swimming pool however which was what the kids cared about. It also had a restaurant/bar. The restrooms however didn't provide toilet paper; they were on a BYOTP program. It was an odd mixture of amenities and the bare minimum. Nevertheless, since LandShark pretty much had everything we needed, all we really required was a place to park.
James, all by himself in the pool.
On May 21st, we drove into Luxembourg City to explore a bit. The history of Luxembourg goes way back over 1000 years ago when Siegfried, Count of Ardennes, built a castle high on a promontory, laying the foundation stone of the present-day capital and the beginning of a settlement that had immense strategic importance over the centuries.

Luxembourg is the world's only remaining grand duchy; it is a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch and is headed by a grand duke. The country has the world's second highest GDP per capita (after Qatar). It's central location has historically made it of great strategic importance to numerous powers, dating back to its founding as a Roman fortress, its hosting of a vital Frankish castle during the early middle ages and its role as a bastion for the Spanish Road between the 16th and 17th centuries. It was one of the founding members of the European Economic Community (now the European Union) and participates in the Schengen Group, named after the Luxembourg village of Schengen where the Schengen agreement was signed (a thorny issue for Americans/Canadians and other non-EU citizens who want to stay in Europe longer than 90 days.)

Once parked, we set out to walk the pedestrian zone and find some food. Due to the high prices advertised at restaurants, we settled on fast food and then set out to do a self-guided walking tour of the city. Here are some photos I took during the day.
Sarah encountered this fun water fountain. Push the clown's nose for a drink.
City Palace (Cercle Municipal) located on Place d'Armes: It is an administrative building with several festival halls and the seat of the Luxembourg City Tourist Office. The Place d'Armes was completed in 1671 and renovated in 1986. We had lunch at McDonalds, located on the Place d'Armes just left of the City Palace, which had nice outdoor seating.
"Gelle Fra" Memorial: It was established in 1923 to commemorate the Luxembourgers who perished in WWI and today it symbolizes freedom and resistance for the Luxembourg people.
View of the State Savings Bank (Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat) and Bank Museum located on the Place de Metz.
Cathedral to the Blessed Virgin: Consecrated in 1613, it was built in the late gothic style. The church was elevated to cathedral status in 1870.
Main entrance to the Cathedral to the Blessed Virgin, which is also referred to as Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The Cathedral to the Blessed Virgin was originally a Jesuit church and was elevated to cathedral status by Pope Pius IX in 1870. The cathedral boasts unusual art deco columns (c 1930).
The stained glass windows behind the altar are lovely. (Unfortunately not well captured in this photo.)
Grand Duchess Charlotte Memorial: It was erected in honor of (who else but) Grand Duchess Charlotte (1896-1985).
To make our self-guided walking tour seem more like a "tour", Vincent took Sarah's McDonald's balloon and proceeded to assume the role of a bonified tour guide.
Looking over the ancient quarters and fortifications of Luxembourg City: They've been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994.
Because of its strategic position, Luxembourg was, from the 16th century until 1867 when its walls were partially dismantled, one of Europe's greatest fortified sites. It was repeatedly reinforced as it passed from one great European power to another: The Holy Roman Emperors, the House of Burgundy, the Habsburgs, the French and Spanish kings, and finally the Prussians. Until their partial demolition, the fortifications were an excellent example of military architecture spanning several centuries. With the signature of the Treaty of London in 1867, the European powers confirmed the perpetual neutrality of the Grand Duchy and, in consequence, the demolition of the fortifications. This brought to an end a long evolution over nine centuries and turned a grim fortress of some 180 hectares into an open city. Dismantlement of more than 24 km of underground defences and some 40,000 m2 of casemates, batteries, barracks, and the like lasted sixteen years and cost over 1.5 million gold francs. Some elements survive, such as twelve of the 28 gates and a number of redoubts and forts.
St John (Neumunster) church (CCRN Abbaye de Neumunster).
A significant proportion of Luxembourg City consists of park area. In the distance is the viaduct which had 24 arches, built 1859-61.
Statue of St Michael and the Dragon outside of St Michael's church.
Interior of St Michael's church (Eglise St Michel). The first church structure was built as the castle chapel for the Count of Luxembourg in 987, making this the oldest religious site in Luxembourg.
Looking up Rue de la Loge.
Descending Rue Large.
Pétrusse River.
Quirin Chapel: An early Christian sanctuary built right into the fortified walls in the 14th century.
Down in the Petrusse Valley, we found some work-out equipment along with this set of 3 climbing walls. Of course we had to try them out.
Another view of the viaduct.
Fortified corner stone placed in 1644: The walls were built in a star-pattern with triangular bastions. This was an architectural defense improvement over the round turrets which provided "dead zones" and gave attackers relative shelter from defensive fire; diamond-shaped points gave storming infantry no shelter.
After we made the steep hike back up to the top of the fortifications, we came across a mini-carnival taking place. Vince gave each kid €5 to spend how they'd like. Both James and Sarah made moderate choices; Paul on the other hand had a really, really big craving for candy floss.
Paul put his entire €5 towards one giant candy floss. Hey, look everyone; I have a big pink top hat!
This floss topped the size of Sarah's floss purchase in Budapest and, at that time, that was the biggest candy floss I had ever seen.
About a third the way through, Paul began to have second thoughts on his choice. Maybe biggest isn't always better.
Half way through, the sugar high hit and so did the fits of laughter. At this point Vince and I were wondering if we were being good parents allowing Paul to "learn from his choice" or should we be intervening for the sake of his health?
He finished it! We were surprised that he didn't end up with a dreadful headache an hour later. Somehow his body managed to metabolize the influx of sugar. Nevertheless, Paul decided he'd never buy that large of a candy floss again.
On May 22nd, we went to the village of Schengen where the Schengen treaty was signed. We felt we needed to go there since the Schengen treaty significantly impacted our year in Europe. When we reached Schengen, we saw that it truly is a village. It didn't seem to have a center and at first pass it didn't seem to have a town hall or any restaurants (although we did spot 3 restaurants on a second pass). We later learned that the Schengen agreement was signed on board the river-boat, "Princesse Marie-Astrid". We wondered, "Why Schengen"? Why was the agreement signed in this small seemingly insignificant village? Well, when we looked at the GPS, we saw no less than 11 border crossing sites (covering crossings between Germany, France and Luxembourg) within a 1 mile distance of the town and we could see that this town represented the benefits of losing those border controls. There may have been other reasons, but the practical reason alone could have warranted the decision.
Pro-Schengen: On the one hand the Schengen treaty makes life traveling between countries really easy, with no border controls. (We decided to make the Schengen zone "Sharks Territory", while we were there.)
Against Schengen: On the other hand, Americans, Canadians and other nationals outside of the Schengen treaty get a raw deal because they now can only stay in the region covering the Schengen treaty for no more than 90 days in a 180 day period. Long term tourists were better off prior to the treaty.
We saw that there was a European Community Museum so we parked the car with the aim to find something to eat and then take a look at the museum.
For lunch we went to the Chinese restaurant which is the one nationality represented in this village that's not part of the Schengen zone.
The "Princesse Marie-Astrid" docked at this quay and the representatives of the states of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of France signed on June 14, 1985 and then again on June 19, 1990 the Schengen Agreement concerning the gradual abolition of controls at their common borders as well as its convention for application.
I had stopped including photos of "love locks" on bridges and such in the blog since most towns we visited seemed to have this represented. However here in Schengen, I saw a new twist: Love locks categorized according to which country the couple represented.
Naturally, the country Luxembourg was well-covered.
Next to the Schengen Museum was a section of the Berlin wall.
This section of the torn down Berlin wall symbolized the "breaking of barriers", just like the Schengen Agreement did.
The Schengen Museum consisted essentially of one large room with lots of information about the principals of the agreement and those who have benefitted from it. It was free of charge to visit and contained a lot of information in many languages for visitors to take.
Here, Vincent left a comment stating that the agreement has made it more difficult for Americans (and others) to visit all participating countries.
The museum had a display on border control hats. Styles ranged from the very formal to Estonia's baseball cap.
A fun feature for kids was the ability to create one's own Schengen Passport. Sarah was all over that, making passports for everyone.
After leaving Schengen, we drove back to Camping Steifort to collect LandShark and then drive to Belgium. Our next campground stop was Camping Le Relais in Somme-Leuze. We arrived and the office was closed. A neighboring home-owner showed where we could park just outside of the campground and so we got settled. We had access to electricity but had to feed coins into the meter box and had no access to dumping, which would be a problem in another day.
Once parked, Paul threw the ball for Molly, her favorite pastime. She was one happy pup. And this photo was taken before she noticed the bunny rabbits hopping about. Times got even better after that.
On May 23rd, we woke to pretty good weather but still no sign of our campground manager even though Vince had emailed him and left a message. We were an hour or so from Brussels and a couple hours from Bruges, so we made the call to move on. Vince received a message from another campground close to Bruges that they had room for us, so we packed up, closed slides and moved on to Camping Klein Strand.

What a difference Klein Strand was compared to the last two campgrounds (which were both varying degrees of run-down facilities). Klein Strand was "happening"; it was situated on a lake with 2 huge water slides. It had boating activities, a children's center and playground, tennis courts and an inflatable jump house. The restaurant on-site was the "China Garden" (yes, another Chinese restaurant).
Trying out the trampoline. Behind Sarah is a kiddie pool that operates in the summer months.
James up a (climbing) tree. Now what?
As soon as we parked, "the plan" was that we'd go into Bruges and spend the rest of the day there. We didn't have much time in Belgium (like many of our stops) so didn't want to waste the day. However, when the kids saw the lake and the slides they really wanted to try those. So I said they could do that for about 45 minutes and then we had to leave.
Sarah, very apprehensive about going down the first time.
No worries. This cork screw slide was so slow, one had to push their way down.
The yellow slide was the best. Once Paul gave Sarah a nudge down the first time, she loved it too. They all enjoyed racing each other down.
After our time at the lake, we returned to the RV to find that no one was really motivated to go anywhere. I, on the other hand, was pretty antsy to do something. I knew Vince really wanted to go into Bruges (just not today) and so I made the call to drive to Yves and try to get to the In Flanders Fields Museum. Sweet James volunteered to go with me so the two of us drove off. We left at 16:00 for what should have been a 40 minute drive but traffic, and ultimately roadwork, prevented us from getting to Yves until 17:20; the museum was to close at 18:00 so I waved off trying to get into the city right away. Along the route, I observed a number of WWI cemeteries and slowed down to take a closer look.
A roadside memorial with those famous poppies: "In remembrance of all people of Scottish origin, who took part in The Great War 1914-1918. Also dedicated to the 1st South African Brigade which was part of the 9th Scottish Division during most of the war".
James and I eventually found our way into Ypres (Ieper in Flemish) and parked the car just outside the fortified walls (free parking). We walked into the town to see what was there.
St James' Church: The first church at this location was constructed in the 12th century. It was rebuilt after being destroyed in WWI.
The Menin Gate Memorial, completed in 1927.
At the top of the gate reads, "To The Armies Of The British Empire Who Stood Here From 1914 To 1918 And To Those Of Their Dead Who Have No Known Grave".
James standing in the Menin Gate's Hall of Memory: There are about 55,000 names inscribed on the walls here; they are of British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of WWI and whose graves are unknown.
James sitting on the town's fortified walls that were built in the 17th century.
Ramparts Lille.
At the gate of the cemetery, there was a cabinet that contained listings of those buried in the cemetery.
The Grote Markt and all the buildings in Ypres (except for one) were destroyed during WWI. Everything that is seen today was built after the end of the war. There was great debate as to whether the town should be built as a mirror image of what it was before the war or with more modern architecture to reflect the times. (The town inhabitants just wanted the town rebuilt so that they could carry on with their lives.) In most cases, buildings were built to reflect what they looked like before the war, with some additions of modern conveniences.
In the Grote Markt stands the 132 meter long Lakenhalle (cloth hall), rebuilt in its 13th century style. The original building was begun around 1260 and completed in 1304. It was completely destroyed during the First World War. The new (replica) building is one of the finest and largest secular buildings in Europe. The extent of the hall in which the cloth was stored, checked and sold, is indicative of the power wielded by the guilds within the town. Above the entrance door is the statue of the patron saint Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Thuyne; in the niches are statues of count Balduin and Mary of Constantinople together with King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth. The large hall on the first floor is open to visitors. This building also houses the In Flanders Fields Museum.
We walked by several chocolatier shops; in the front window of one of them, we spotted these chocolate poppies. Great gift.
James and I enjoyed a rare dinner with just the two of us on the Grote Markt. Afterwards, we walked down to the Menin Gate where a Last Post ceremony has been running every night at 8pm since 1928. The purpose of the ceremony is to remember those in the British Commonwealth and their allies who died during the turbulent years of the Great War. The Menin Gate was chosen as the location for the ceremony because it was from this spot that countless thousands of soldiers set off for the front, many of them destined never to return.

The Last Post ceremony lasts about 10 minutes. It includes a Last Post bugle call, signaling a final farewell to the fallen. It also features the Reveille, which symbolizes the return to daily life at the end of the act of remembrance. As of July 9th, 2015, there will have been 30,000 Last Post ceremonies conducted. The intention is that this act of remembrance continues on into perpetuity.
A look down Menenstraat at the Menin Gate.
Photo taken during the Last Post service: Here, while a group sang a few songs including "Danny Boy", a number of people took wreaths (mostly of poppies), flowers and crosses up the stairs and laid them on benches, then bowed and stepped away.
On May 24th, we drove into Brussels to see what we could accomplish during the day. We managed to find garage parking (albeit expensive) near the Grand Place and started walking in that direction to find some lunch. I had been to Brussels a few times and wanted to find the Rue des Bouchers, which is packed with several seafood restaurants, and order the classic Belgium dish, moules et frites. Due to one of our group in urgent need to find a restroom, we didn't quite make it and had to settle for the Danish Tavern restaurant next to St Nicholas Church. It was frustrating because I knew we were really close to Rue des Bouchers, but not having a map I couldn't confidently direct the group there within the required minimal time. Anyway, we all ordered moules et frites and it was probably the most disappointing version of the dish I've ever had in my life. (Advice: Don't eat at the Danish Tavern.)

After finishing up with lunch, we continued on to the Grand Place and here are some photos I took along the way.
Brussels Opera House, La Monnaie: First opening in 1700, the opera house was re-built three times by different rulers of Brussels. It now plays about one to two operas per month in its grand chambers in addition to theatre, recitals, dance performances and concerts.
Looking up towards the Town Hall tower.
St Nicolas Church: This gothic church, surrounded by small dwellings, originated from a chapel founded during the 12th century.
In the current church, whose choir was completed in 1381, only a few remainders of the original church are left. Damaged (bombings in 1695, fall of the belfry 1714) and restored several times, this sanctuary notably holds Louis XIV-style furniture (master altar, stalls, wainscoting, communion bench and paneling). It's an unusual structure because the center aisle of the church curves; it was built that way to accommodate a small brook that ran next to the church.
Paul and Vincent taking a closer look at one of the side altars.
Visiting Mannekin Pis, located at the corner of Rue de l'Étuve and Stroofstraat: Like many other visitors to this small bronze statue of a naked boy urinating in a basin, Paul and James wondered, "What was the big attraction?" Here, Paul shows his disapproval over the hype. This Brussels icon has been amusing visitors since 1619. Even during my first visit around 1990, on an IBM training session, the first thing locals took me to see was the Mannekin Pis. Over time it has become a tradition for visiting heads of state to donate miniature versions of their national costume for this little boy; the wardrobe of over 760 outfits can be seen at the Brussels City Museum.
Next to Mannekin Pis, were a few waffle vendors. We wanted to replace the memory of our disappointing lunch with something better. These were the sample waffles from which to choose.
"Hmm, maybe this wasn't the best diet choice." But if one is going to indulge, these were the best waffles we'd ever had so they were definitely worth cutting back a day or so afterwards.
There is store after store selling Belgian chocolates. If one is visiting other cities in Belgium, it's probably better to buy them elsewhere at lower prices.
Town Hall, Grand Place: The oldest part of the hall (left side) was completed in 1420. The admission of the craft guilds into the traditionally patrician city government likely spurred interest in expanding the building. A second wing was completed in 1449. The 96 meter tower was completed in 1455. The Town Hall was completely gutted in 1695 (as well as the entire square destroyed) following the bombardment of Brussels by a French army on order of Louis XIV. The building was rebuilt by 1712 and then the interior again revised in 1868.
The Town Hall facade is decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures. The present sculptures are reproductions; the older ones are in the city museum in the Maison du Roi (King's House) across the Grand Place.
Guild halls on the Grand Place.
Details of one of the old guild halls.
The Grand Place is one of the most beautiful town squares in the world. Not surprisingly, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once every two years, in August, the square is covered by a blanket of flowers for a few days. Seeing photos, it looks spectacular. At other times of the year, it's a great place to sit outside trying one of Belgium's close to 800 different types of beer.
A jazz festival was taking place across Brussels so some of the buildings, such as the Maison du Roi, were blocked by performance stages and equipment trucks.
A last look back at the Grand Place.
Les Galeries Royales St Hubert
One won't find any bargains in Les Galeries; this box of 24 Smurf chocolates was going for €30.
Sarah found the perfect sculpture that was just "her".
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula: A religious building has been located on this site as early as the 9th century. The church, as seen today, was completed in 1519 and rose to cathedral status in 1962. The two towers are attributed to the Flemish architect Jan Van Ruysbroeck (1470-1485), who also designed the exquisite tower of Brussel's Town Hall.
We eventually made our way to the Belgian Comic Strip Center which was reported to be one of the top sights for kids. The museum covers the invention of the comic strip and its evolution through history. The full range of comic art is covered including science fiction, wild west, crime and politics. The museum showcases Belgium's most famous comic series The Adventures of Tintin and its creator Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi); both my boys were fans of Tintin.

I was a bit disappointed in the museum because most of the comic strips are shown in their native language (usually French), which of course is how it should be. But so many visitors don't read French (including my kids) and therefore so much was lost on them. It wouldn't take much to have language translations next to each comic strip so that international visitors could have a better experience. I feel, after having visited 200+ museums so far on this trip, I should be hired as a museum consultant to help maximize the visitor's experience; so many museums have great concepts but just miss the mark because they don't give enough thought to their audience.
The Belgian Comic Center is housed in the former Waucquez Warehouse which is an Art Nouveau gem, designed by Victor Horta (1906).
After leaving the museum and walking a bit further around Brussels, we decided to fetch the car and head to Bruges for dinner.
We arrived in Bruges just in time to catch this marching band whose uniforms were a close copy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We followed the band to the Markt (Market Square).
Statue of statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck (1887) located in the Markt: They are patriotic heroes in Belgium because of their passion for Flemish identity; they, and the actions of their militia, prevented Belgium from becoming an integral part of France early on. They are also given credit for ensuring the survival of the Dutch language in the northern part of Belgium.
We had dinner at one of the restaurants shown behind the statue in the above photo. I had French onion soup and it was fine. Paul ordered his usual pizza and it was terrible. Vincent's moules were mediocre. The worse part was that it was very expensive compared to what we'd been paying so far in Europe. We were 0-2 for restaurant meals during the day.
The belfry, built in the 12th century: Visitors can climb up the 366 steps to the summit and take in the wonderful view of the city. We didn't arrive in time to do that but we enjoyed the consolation of listening to the 46 bell carillon which just filled the square with music.
Provincial Court (Provinciaal Hof op de Markt)
The best part about Bruges for the kids was the mini carnival we stumbled upon. Bumper cars are always a mood booster.
On May 25th, Vince started the day by doing four loads of laundry. When I went to fetch the very last load I noticed that the pitches had both water faucets and gray water dumping capability; this was one of the rare times we could have used our own washing machine. Damn. That's the negative when the boys hook us up at the pitch; sometimes those kind of useful details get lost. There haven't been many campgrounds with both water and dumping capability at the pitch so our inhouse washing machine hasn't really been that handy.

Anyway, at noon we set out for Ypres. I had done more research and decided, since it was Memorial Day weekend and we hadn't see a war-oriented museum for a while, we should see the In Flanders Fields Museum. It was just renovated and reopened in 1998 and so I knew it wouldn't be old school. It had mostly received really good reviews and the only negative reviews seemed to be from people who frequented the museum before the renovations. I inferred that maybe the museum lost some of its depth in the transition to using multimedia and catering to a younger and perhaps more diverse audience.

Prior to going to the museum, I wanted to try one more time to go to a restaurant for moules et frites. I found two places that had at least one good review for their mussels near the Grote Markt. We came across one of them and Vincent just wanted to go in so we did. We were seated right away and then we sat unattended for at least 15 minutes. No one came to take even drink orders. I had a growing bad feeling that this was going to be another disappointing experience so I uncharacteristically got up and said, "We're leaving." All very hungry at this point, we marched over to the second restaurant, which was noted as being "affordable" and quickly got seated. Upon reading the menu however we discovered mussels were not offered. Ugh. (I must have read an old review.) Whatever. We weren't going to move and we did have a more affordable lunch although it too fell into the mediocre category. Anyway, with a more reasonable bill (€57), it didn't seem to sting as much the meals from the prior day did. Nevertheless, our experience of food in Belgium got low marks. I know good restaurants exist in the country; I just think that one has to do the research to avoid the multitude of poor options.

After lunch we stepped into St Martin's Church before going to the museum.
St Martins was completed in 1370 and, at 102 metres, it is one of the tallest buildings in Belgium. After the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, Ypres was incorporated into the diocese of Ghent, and Saint Martin's lost its status as a cathedral however it continues to (wrongly) be referred to as being one. It was heavily damaged during WWI and therefore had to be entirely rebuilt (following the original plans); the newer version however has a higher spire than the original.
The stained glass windows in St Martins are particularly beautiful because they were created with such small details.
We then went to the In Flanders Fields Museum and, upon paying for tickets, we each received a white wristband with a red poppy on it. This was used to gain access to various sections of the museum. It was also used to input information about yourself (name, age, country of origin) such that you could scan it at various points in the museum and you'd receive information about people with whom you might have a connection (women for me or someone who might be my age and from Canada). It was meant to symbolize an identity bracelet, like those first used by the armies of the First World War; everyone received a new individual service number to be kept on one’s body.
The first stage in the museum is to register your bracelet.
The museum covers the industrialized world before the war, the various declarations of war and Belgium's initial stance of neutrality, the realities of trench warfare, the uniforms and equipment available at the beginning of the war, which were utterly inadequate, and their evolution during the war, the significant casualties due to the increased firepower of the heavy artillery and the introduction of the machine gun, various methods to observe and spy on the enemy, propaganda used during the war, and much more. 
Vince looking at a display of hundreds of buckles and other uniform bits found in the fields around Ypres, presumably belonging to soldiers who were killed and went missing during the war. Behind Vince is a display addressing how horses were still playing an important role but thousands fell victim to grenades, bullets, sickness and exhaustion.
Throughout the museum are films showing members of Britain, the Commonwealth and their allies speaking about their various experiences during the war based on their function (soldier, nurse, doctor, etc). This was a great effect to help visitors connect to the realities of the war. There was one montage that included a British soldier, French soldier, Belgian soldier and a German soldier all talking about a Christmas eve where there was an informal truce called and the men in each respective trench sang Christmas carols and even shared cigarettes and fruit with those on the opposing side.
In order to try to gain an advantage, poisonous gas was first used in WWI. The German scientist and chemist, Fritz Haber, was the first to perfect this new terror weapon and it was unleashed on the British lines in 1915. Initially, the use of this dreadful weapon caused an outcry, but before long the allied troops were using it, too.
One can walk up to the belfry for a fabulous 360 degree view of Ypres. Way off in the distance one can see the Menin Gate Memorial.
The museum showed the development of medicine and medical practices through the war. War on an industrial scale produced casualties to match. Two-thirds of the Belgian soldiers who lost their lives at The Battle of the IJzer died at the railheads of Dunkirk and Calais, lying in rows for days on end waiting for treatment that never came. There were no antibiotics and none of the antiseptics developed during the war were effective. The best treatment was to remove damaged tissue as quickly as possible. Also, at that time PTSD was not understood (or recognized) by the medical community.
After leaving the In Flanders Fields Museum, we walked across the Grote Markt to purchase more Belgian chocolates; they were really high above any other chocolate we had tried thus far in Europe. We then drove back to our campground and made dinner which was far better and much less expensive than any other meal we had in Belgium. The next day we would be hitting the road again and moving to Amsterdam. We didn't do Belgium justice but with only 90 days in the Schengen zone we had to keep going. There's just so much to see and experience in each of the places we've visited; it felt like the more we saw, the more we realized what was still out there to be discovered.


  1. Hey there! What a nice story you are telling. Love to hear more! Btw ... visitors to the U.S. travelling under ESTA regulations know very well about the 90 day rule, too. It seems both sides of the pond require some ease of restrictions. Keep going, Tom

    1. Tom, Thank you for confirming my assumption that the US subjects visitors from many countries to the same 90-day limitation. I suspected the Schengen treaty limitation was some "quid pro quo" thing. Fully agree that both sides of the pond need to ease the restrictions. Thank you for your interest in our story.