Belgian Beer Weekend: The 14th Edition

Back in September, the boys and I journeyed out of Leuven for the 14th edition of the Belgian Beer Weekend in Brussels. I haven’t been to Oktoberfest in Munich yet, but I think this could rival the famous German festival in terms of quality beer.

There were three beer stations set up in Central Brussels; the Grand Place tents, Beer Street and Beer & Food. The location of the festival is charming because it’s in the heart of Brussels, mostly outdoors, and surrounded by unique architecture. Beer lovers from all over Europe come to visit. We met Germans, Dutch, French, as well as some Americans. Most of the Americans were noticeably drunk. Obviously, they have become accustomed to what we folks in Canada call “watered down beer” and they simply can’t handle the intensity of Belgian beer.

The event featured 51 breweries who offered over 350 different beers for one to choose from. The selection was immense; I even tried a “Speculoos Cookie Beer”! The feeling of excitement I had must have been the ‘grown-up’ version of a “kid in a candy store”.

The only disappointment we encountered was at the Beer & Food station. The selection of beer and food trios changed hourly, but when we showed up the trio was terrible. The set included an Arend, a Leffe Ruby, and a Reserva dark stout. We couldn’t finish them and decided to skip on the food pairing because it was simply over priced for the portion sizes. On the bright side, I really enjoyed the Stock Exchange setting and I sincerely hope the rest of the pairings were more tantalizing than what I experienced.

Looking back in my blog archives, I’m happy to see that my beer knowledge has evolved considerably in the past year. After some experiments and research, I can say I know the basics of pairing food with beer.

The general rule for food and beer pairing is to keep sweet with sweet and tart with tart. Of course, there is a lot of playing to be done by offering a contrast. It’s important to experiment because this is fastest way to build your knowledge of flavours. Here are some general rules to get you started:

Blonde Beers compliment dishes with lots of spices and heat; Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and BBQ are all fair game. You and your guests are going to need a cool and refreshing beverage with carbonation to soothe the taste buds. As for cheese, blonde beers compliment those that are nutty, tangy, sharp, or pungent like Gorgonzola or feta.

Amber Ales go hand in hand with pork, poultry, and salads. Try one with a weekend lunch, as Amber beer is great with hamburgers, sausages, sandwiches, and soup/stew. Pizza and Mexican cuisine are also a safe bet. The best cheese would have peppery or sharp flavours like a pepper jack or cheddar.

Dark Beer are great for beef, smoked meat, and BBQs. Try a dark beer paired with a fruit and chocolate dessert or a dark chocolate cake smothered in raspberries and you will be in heaven. As for cheeses, bring out earthy and buttery flavours such as brie, camembert, gouda, havarti, and Swiss.

The Belgian Beer Weekend was one of my most enjoyable events of the summer. I made sure to take a bunch of photos as an added effort to convince beer lovers it’s an event not to be missed. Skip Germany and come Belgium if you are on the hunt for some top quality beer made with passion and tradition.

Advertisements

Fall Fashion Trends in Belgium

Fall is the most exciting time of year. Why? Two words: fall fashion. There are a few great Belgian Street Style blogs based in bigger cities such as Ghent, Antwerp, and Brussels. My only question is “Where is Leuven’s?” There are so many stylish people in this town; some of these young, arty college punks need to take their camera out and get it going!

Otherwise I might have to do it…

Here are some of my favourite finds:

Learning Flemish: Positivity, Equality, and Empowerment

After two full weeks of Flemish classes, I have made a few more observations and conclusions about the Flemish from their language. I realize that these are wide, sweeping generalizations but they are observations that have I had since my first month in Belgium as a tourist in 2011.

1. The Flemish are “glass half-full” people
My proof: This week I learnt how to tell time in Flemish. To my surprise, the half hour is expressed to the upcoming hour instead of the one just passed. For example, 1:30 would be “half two” instead of “half past one”. I’ve analyzed this and concluded that the Flemish have a forward thinking mentality that doesn’t focus on the time lost but rather on what’s to come.

2. The Flemish are progressive thinkers and value gender eqaulity
My proof: This week I learnt all about personal pronouns and noun articles. Flemish is not gendered like say, French. For example “Zij”, the female pronoun, is also used for the general ‘they’ pronoun. Noun articles are gender neutral using “de” and “het”. Since coming to Belgium, I often find hints of gender equality and female empowerment in art, folklore, law, and in the mentality of the men. It’s common for women to be the breadwinner in a relationship and this has no reflection on their partner’s masculinity.

I’m taking my Flemish classes though a course at CVO Leuven, the local community college. I like to think of it as my Belgian version of “Community”.

I must clarify that my instructor is not this crazy. But, I enjoy how “Community” exaggerates the stereotypes of community college with its crazy personalities, ‘special’ instructors, and grown adults finding themselves in a strange dimension of responsibilities and adolescence. It’s not unlike relocating to a new country; suddenly finding yourself in a new city at age 25, feeling sophisticated and adventurous, then looking like a twat trying to put a 5€ bill into the bus ticket printer during rush hour.

I really enjoy getting to know my classmates because they too are in a new country and trying to learn the ropes. Originally, during my search for Flemish classes, I first considered the eminent educational institution of Leuven, the Katholic University, otherwise known as KU Leuven. But when I went to the Huis van het Nederlands Leuven, I was advised to take my course at CVO for a blend of practical and academic teaching at a fraction of the cost.

KU Leuven offers numerous Dutch courses that would cost around 180 € + books and my course at CVO was 60€ + 20€ for my book and photocopies. It was an easy decision, although I was a bit worried about who my fellow classmates would be and if I would relate to them. It was a case of the “first day of school jitters” because I found out the first day I had nothing to worry about.

The majority of my classmates (the men skipped out on photo time… go figure) photo courtesy of my classmate Airene

My classmates are a diverse set of people who come from all over the world; Colombia, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, France, Estonia, China, Hungary, United States, Poland, and Nepal. They all have different stories about why they came to Belgium. Some have lived here for 10 years already, whereas others have been here a mere 3 weeks.

I love chatting to the other students during breaks or after class because I learn crazy stuff about them! Honestly, in this course I’m not just learning about Flemish. I’m also getting a few lessons about globalization, cultural studies, adaptation, and a little here and there from the school of ‘hard knocks’; all from the stories my classmates tell me about their personal lives. It’s fascinating!

I have a large class of 21 people, but our instructor still manages to give attention to those who are struggling or need extra clarification. She’s from the province of Limburg and her happy-go-lucky attitude is in line with that of people from Limburg, or so I’ve been told by my friends from Vlaams-Brabant. She’s an exuberant and enthusiastic teacher, who doesn’t make me dread going to class and makes lessons quite fun.

So all in all, I’m very satisfied with my classes at CVO. Thankfully, I don’t dread doing my homework anymore unlike other language courses I’ve taken, ehumh… French. I’m really happy to have finally figured out that learning a new language can be intellectually and emotionally rewarding.

The Grand-Daddy of European Festivals: Rock Werchter

On June 25th, I arrived in Belgium, my new home for the next year or so. Belgium is a fun and busy place to be in the summertime. There are multiple festivals every weekend in this tiny country and because of Belgium’s size it’s very easy to hit up as many as possible. In addition to the BIG festivals that are filled with international acts, there are city and town festivals, day trips to the beach, or wine filled picnics.

From the first time I met Billy, he would tell me wild stories of all his adventures at Rock Werchter. An endless list of famous bands, throngs of people, camping shenanigans, and mouth-watering food and drink. I had to go! So plans were made, tickets were bought, and I arrived in Belgium just in time to unpack my suitcase and pack my festival backpack.

Billy’s hometown is ten minutes away from the festival grounds, so I was camping with some Rock Werchter veterans. Billy has been to nine Werchter festivals, so he has packing and festival organization down to a fine art. Very appreciated on my end because the sheer massiveness of this festival was a tad overwhelming. Bright and early Thursday morning, we managed to fit in 5 people, 4 hiker’s backpacks, sleeping bags, mattresses, 5 tents, 4 lawn chairs, and food coolers into a Mazda 2 (the smallest Mazda). After hiking to our camping spot, all-night party campground B0, we got everything set up, got a beer and we made our way to the Wei (Flemish for festival grounds).

Festival goers enjoying drinks and food

The weekend was filled with great friends, sunny weather, and rockin’ bands. The crowd vibe was excited and chill. I thought the festival was extremely well organized and well maintained, an exceptional feat when considering the numbers of people attending. According to the Rock Werchter website, this year set a new attendance record, with 85,000 festival-goers each day and a total of 139,000 unique visitors for the four day festival.

Out of the 81 acts that preformed these were my favourites:

Jack White killin’ it!


1. Jack White– A show that took us on a time-travel journey of Jack White’s impressive hits. White’s five piece band of extremely talented musicians were all dressed in impeccable suits. White was rippin’ it on the guitar, further proving to me that he is probably the guitar genius of my generation.

According to interviews, Jack White tours with TWO complete bands that are completely male or female. Each are amazing in their own right and White chose them while recording and producing in his studio over the past three years. He says that he decides which band to use the morning of the show and never plans a playlist because he prefers to play songs that suit the vibe of the crowd. Kudos to Jack White and his preformance, I think he just became my rock’n’roll hero.

Eddie Vedder


2. Pearl Jam– In the past I haven’t been the biggest Pearl Jam fan. I enjoyed them but never felt much of a connection. After this show, I realize I’ve been missing out for years. The show was big, loud and Eddie Vedder was a pleasure to watch. He is so genuinely grateful to be preforming for all his fans and that sentiment really came through. The magnitude of the crowd was awe-inspiring from the front; they were full of energy, singing along and enthusiastically fist waving.

Before Werchter, I had watched “Pearl Jam Twenty” directed by Cameron Crowe. It has amazing concert footage, insightful interviews and covers the band’s long history. It gave me high expectations for this show and Pearl Jam didn’t disappoint. I can now say I am a full-on fan!

3. The Cure– I have been wanting to see The Cure for the past couple of years and their performance on Thursday night did not disappoint. The sun had just set, the weather was still balmy and many festival goers had a dreamy buzz washing over them.

Robert Smith was looking as eccentric as ever with green eyeliner, red lipstick, and wild mad scientist hair. He seemed to be in an exceptionally good mood, happy to please the crowd by playing their biggest hits. The Cure is one of my most memorable and enjoyed performances of Rock Werchter.

4. Metric– Metric had the difficult task of opening Werchter on the smallest stage, the Barn. No matter, the tent was packed and ready for a sweaty and energetic show. The band was sharp and put together a great party set list that got everyone moving and jumping.

Of course, Emily Haines had all the boys swooning. Her leather short shorts earned her ‘best legs of the festival’. Her performance was entertaining and vibrant. Overall, I was super proud to show off one of my favourite Canadian bands to my Belgian friends, who were very impressed.

5. Wiz Khalifa– Wiz Khalifa got the party started on Friday! I didn’t know much about him before and now I love him. Charismatic and fun show that had everyone singing along, swaying to his hip hop beats, and practicing their best gangsta arm wave. He had a heartwarming shout-out to the crowd about the free download music scene and attributed his success to it. I really got the feeling he was overjoyed to be playing for such a huge crowd at such a renowned festival. It’s always nice to watch someone preform who truly wants to be there.

6. The Editors– This show was another big surprise for me. The Editors are absolutely HUGE in Europe but I haven’t heard much about them in Canada. I thought it was going to be a fairly mellow show, a la Snow Patrol who I skipped, but I was proven wrong. It was an onslaught of hard electic guitar, heavy piano, powerful singing and oodles of fireworks. According to my Werchter veteran friends, the performance from The Editors was a worthy and impressive headline act. I definitely agree and will be revisiting my Editors albums.

6. Nneka– I discovered Nneka while living in Kenya last year and was eager to see her show in Belgium. I had a friend see her live in Tanzania who said she was phenomenal. Her afternoon show was a great opportunity to sit in the grass to chill listening to a smooth and soulful singer. Her performance and comments throughout her show felt genuine and I enjoyed her soulful music on sunny Saturday afternoon.

7. Mastodon– I arrived late for this show and had to stand in a long que to withdraw money but Mastodon’s heavy metal got me pumped up for the day ahead. Great set! I’m planning on getting their albums for days when I’m feeling feisty.

8. Dropkick Murphys– This show was really fun! However, I don’t remember too much of it because of a bit too much sangria. I spent the entire show jumping and dancing. The energetic and raucous music of this punk rock Boston band got me feeling rebellious and ready for a party. Obviously, a great addition to the line up for a heavy last day of Werchter to keep everyones energy up.

9. Black Box Revelation– BBR is a Belgian band that has a very unique sound; part garage, blues electric, with some 60’s and 70’s flair reminiscent of the Kinks and Led Zeppelin. In any sense, BBR was a gritty rock’n’roll show that captured the crowds attention in the heat of the late afternoon. Their sound is mature and full for a band that is incredibly young- Jan Paternoster is 22 and Dries Van Dijck is 20 years old. Amazing! This band has a bright future ahead of them.

10. Florence & The Machine– I was really excited to see Florence + the Machine and I enjoyed it but I also expected more. Her voice was amazing but I think that their set would have benefitted being on a smaller stage. According to my friends, the band played in the pyramid stage two years ago and it was an amazing show. This show was a bit darker and more intense, which is hard to pull off from the main stage.

Florence’s stage presence was different from previous video clips I have seen. Instead of the fragile and feminine songstress with the shockingly powerful vocals, this time she seemed empowered and commanding like a high priestess leading her followers. I’m a big Florence + the Machine fan and even though the show wasn’t what I expected it still makes my top 10.

Overall, I had a fabulous time; Rock Werchter is world class festival, one that I would go to over and over again. My friends and I have only one regret, which is not exploring and seeing more of the smaller acts that attended (especially the Alabama Shakes!). But it was great to have so many awesome acts to pick from. Rock Werchter 2012 was simply the cat’s pajamas.

A quick guide to nailing your visa application

In true blogger fashion, I’ve gone into full research mode to prepare for my move to Belgium. There is so much information on the web to help anyone organize a move with relative ease. I’ve looked at long stay visa requirements, job ads and, of course, expat blogs to get a sense of the international community in Belgium.

Moving abroad is a heck of a lot easier for me than most because I’ve never really been in one place long enough to set down roots. I only own three pieces of bedroom furniture, my clothes and shoes, quite a few books, and a few kitchen gadgets. And there’s my car, which I just hand over to my parents for their own use (and safekeeping). The trickiest part is getting all the documentation lined up for the visa application. So here is a helpful how-to for those who are like me, indecisive and like to do things on the fly. The following list is full of little tips and tricks I learned from getting all my visa paperwork organized in one short week.

Long-Stay Visa Application Tips
1. Order your Criminal Record Check ASAP. I ordered mine from the RCMP; it’s important to note that the process generally takes a week and it must be ordered from your local detachment (going by the address on your driver’s license). Also, the criminal record check must be picked up in person and can not be picked up by anyone else.

2. Make sure your passport validity has over one year left. To avoid any headaches or an early departure I went to the passport office and ordered a new one. I have a friend who once found out he could not buy a flight from New Delhi to Germany because he had less than 6 months of validity left on his passport. Needless to say, it was a headache for him to search for a Canadian embassy to renew his passport and it resulted in a few unplanned days in New Delhi.

3. Call the embassy and explain your situation. Employees of the embassy often provide illuminating clarification on the often vague descriptions on consulate websites. To ease the confusion of the person on the other line, write down all your questions and take notes on the answers so no stone is left unturned.

4. Get to know your bank. The application needs a bunch of financial information to ensure that the incoming visitor won’t become a welfare moocher. I made sure that my bank statements for the past 3 months were stamped by the bank, to make it über official. Most banks are very helpful, but be aware that there could be some extra costs for services such as money orders.

5. Find a Dr. to sign the medical certificate. I didn’t think this would be a problem but it turned out to be a bit tricky. Since I recently graduated, then hopped on a plane to live in Kenya, I returned to find I was no longer welcome at the University clinic. Turns out it’s tough to find a Physician in Alberta because they are very busy with many patients. If you have a Dr., be sure to call in advance for an appointment. Luckily I found one in the village, booked an appointment for the following week, and after a short 15 minute meeting I was out the door with my signed certificate. The link for the required blank medical form can be found on the consulate website.

6. Travel insurance costs a lot of money. Prepare yourself. Health insurance is worth it, so try not to cheap out.

7. Follow up! If you have a small timeframe to get your passport back, make sure to follow-up with a polite phone call (or email) to the consulate to make sure that things are going smoothly and they have all the information that is needed.

Now that my paperwork is sent off and awaiting approval, the fun research can begin! Through the world of blogs I can find out about what the Belgian fashion trends are, where the great restaurants reside, what the best cell phone plan is, and when the raddest music festivals occur. There are some amazing blogs out there! After cruising through many articles, I must say I’m really looking forward to joining this community. Here are some of my favourites:

CheeseWeb This blog is done by an experienced expat couple from Canada (woo hoo!) and they are full of information on restaurants, European destinations to check out, and all sorts of tricks to settle into Belgium life quickly. They have an up-to-date article on choosing a smart phone mobile plan that I found very helpful. And lots of stunning photos to boot!

Best of Brussels A current guide to everything that is hip in Brussels.

Adventures of a Puertorican Girl in Brussels Gain some keen insight into to the world of marathon running, cooking, and international dating at this feisty blog.

The Petit Four A very cute and well-written blog by Emily, an American girl, who loves travel and beer! She has some hilarious tales about her life in Brussels that are fun to read, such as her adventures in preparing a big Thanksgiving feast for Belgian work friends.

I hope that you enjoy learning about Belgium through these blogs as much as I did!

Can’t find a job? Time to go abroad…

It’s official, I have been back in my Canadian habitat for three months and I’m still unemployed. When I returned to Canada, I was aware that the job hunt was going to be difficult. I had heard horror stories of those übersmart business majors being unemployed for 9 months before landing that dream job at Pricewaterhousecooper. I tried to quell my fear and anxiety about my looming unemployment by telling myself, “That won’t happen to me. I have 5 years of part-time work experience, a Bachelor of Arts, and an international internship. It will take 3 months tops.” Wrong. Oh so very wrong…

I’m sure there are a bevy of possible reasons I could list as to why my job hunt is not going to plan. And yet, I have read countless articles on the struggles of recent graduates finding work. Supposedly, job creation is on the rise according to Huff Post Canada, who featured “8 best jobs for recent graduates“. According to them, the outlook is good for certain majors as “The earnings of math, science and computer science students on their first jobs have grown five times the rate of humanities students’ salaries.” Ironically, my chosen degree was humanities.

During my job hunt, several questions have weighed heavily on my mind:

Q: Has my job hunt been thorough, exploring all possible options?
A: Not really, there must be more… but where to look?

Q: Are there Communications jobs in Canada that don’t require 3-5 years experience?
A: Doesn’t look like it.

Q: Where should I start obtaining said experience?
A: Not sure; online tutorials for graphic design, research marketing for social media, and freelance writing?…

Q: Should I go back to school to learn some technical skills?
A: Sure, if I can get someone else to pay for it which is highly unlikely.

Q: Am I confused as to where all the entry-level jobs for recent Arts graduates are in Alberta?
A: Yes.

Q: When did Canada become so bloody expensive to live?
A: Years ago, I just hadn’t realized it until traveling and attempting to fend for myself. I recently found this article in the Globe & Mail that made me fairly depressed “2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today

Q: Is Canada the ideal place to start my career?
A: Probably not.

So I began to set my sights across the Atlantic for possible positions in Belgium. With great excitement, I can say I’ve accepted an internship offer for a Communications position in Brussels!

After doing some quick mental calculations, surprisingly, Belgium will be cheaper for me to live in terms of rent and food- cheaper groceries & cheap beer, what more does a girl need? A year in Belgium will be a perfect chance to gain a second language, as well as a great opportunity build upon my existing international work experience. And I won’t have to maintain my relationship over Skype, battling 8 time zones and busy schedules.

Am I going to miss Canada? Most definitely.

Will I be back? For sure, when I can speak French 😉

Am I eager to get back in traveling mode? Yes!

Am I looking forward to living in Belgium? Absolutely.

So in spite of feeling down on my luck these past 3 months, I have come to the realization that my situation is really the opposite. The world is full of opportunities for the taking. Brussels, the capital of Europe, will be a great place to evolve from the role of student to professional. I am hopeful the upcoming year will be full of exciting challenges and growth.

Rediscovering Canadian WWI History in Ypres

Menin Gate

My parents came to visit me in Belgium for the week following Christmas. We explored Leuven and Brugge, enjoyed gluhwein and speculoos, and celebrated New Years Eve in the Oude Markt; but the highest on their “to do” list was a trip out to Ypres to visit Canadian WWI memorials. Both of my parents are members of the Royal Canadian Legion, an veteran’s organization dedicated to remembrance of our veterans and to serve to the community and country through various projects. Given their keen interest in WWI history, their trip to Belgium was a golden opportunity to visit the Menin Gate, Passchendaele, and the Tyne Cot memorial cemetery.

So we jumped on the train in Leuven, only for a mere 2 hours, to arrive in Ypres. We hoped to gain some perspective on Canadian participation in WWI and find the gravestones of four veterans from our hometown. With the help of our guide Soren, we accomplished all of our goals. He really went the extra mile and did a lot of extra research on Canadian military history for us. After the day was finished, Soren told us that we were his first tour – we couldn’t believe it! The whole day was organized so well; we saw everything we wanted and more, in addition to his impressive knowledge of the area and WWI history. Soren is also an artist and he surprised us with two pencil drawings to thank us for being his first tour. We highly recommend him; please check out his website, Passchendaele Prints for more information on his tours and artwork.

Canadian Memorial for Mustard-gas attacks - The Brooding Soldier

During WW1 (1914-1918), Canada was still a small nation of seven million people. By the end of the war, our nation had lost 68,000 soldiers. However, it is said that Canada emerged as a more confident and independent nation after their involvement in the war. During the fighting our soldiers earned much respect on the battlefield and earned more independence from British command. The respect for Canada resulted in being granted a seat at the Paris Peace Conference as its own nation rather than a part of the British Commonwealth and marked the beginning of a unifying national identity.

In Belgium, Ypres was the centre of a particularly long and intense battles between the Germans and the Allied forces. Ypres (Ieper in Flemish) history is full of tales of invasion dating as far back as Roman times because the location is militarily strategic. During WWI, Ypres was in the path of the German route to carry out the Schlieffen Plan, a plan to quickly defeat the French on the Western Front and avoid a two front war. Germany’s invasion of neutral Belgium brought Britain into the war, and Canada quickly sprang to arms in support.

The Battle of Passchendaele is particularly famous in Canadian history because our troops were instrumental in securing victory and earned 9 Victoria Crosses for valour; one being Cecil John Kinross who was from my hometown. The offensive was long and difficult. It began July 21, 1917 until November 6, 1917 when Passchedaele Ridge was captured after months of heavy casualties. During the battle, the Ypres Salient had been destroyed, the green field changing into a sea of mud making it impossible to dig trenches.

The Germans developed "Pillboxes" as trenches were no longer possible because of the mass amount of rain and mud

We were very fortunate that during our tour day the sun came out, but it was still cold and wet. It was a cold that would sink down into my bones; I can’t imagine how soldiers endured those muddy and miserable conditions for months in wool jackets and wet boots.

Hard to imagine this land was once completely decimated

We visited seven cemeteries, four of which have the gravestones of our fallen WWI soldiers. We visited Private John Barton in Oostaverne Wood Cemetery, Private Patrick Balfour Watson in the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, Private William Cockbain in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Captain John Lucas Higginson in St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, and Private John Wilson London who is listed on the Menin Gate.

Tyne Cot cemetery


Under the arch of the Menin Gate

Soren showed us a few other interesting sites. There was Hill 60, where we were able to walk among the dips and hills that resulted from land mines.

Hill 60


Bunker at Hill 60

Gravestone of the real Peter Pan

The gravestone on the right belongs Lieutenant George Llewelyn Davies, who was the step-son of J.M Barrie. Davies was around ten years old when Barrie began to write the play “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”. It is said that Peter and the Lost Boys were inspired by George and his brothers. According to the tale, Barrie would tell stories to the boys about babies who died and went to live in Neverland and George exclaimed, “To die would be an awfully big adventure” which the most famous line in Peter Pan.

The German Gravestone is in the middle

While we were walking around the cemeteries, Soren pointed out some differences between the Allied graves and the German ones. As you can see the Allied headstones have rounded tops that give a more hopeful and peaceful feeling compared to the square and angular German headstones. It is hard to see in the photo but the stone inscription style of the German headstones is much more understated and muted in comparison to the Allied headstones.

Soren also told us that German WWI cemeteries are maintained by donated funds as opposed to being government-funded. I thought this was interesting and gave a bit of insight into the different perspectives regarding memory of war for each side. The German headstones and cemeteries give the visitor a sad and ominous feeling compared to the Allied headstones and cemeteries that give the impression of glory and achievement.

German Messines Mine Crater

This is a photo of a crater that was created during the Messines Battle. The crater, called Spanbroekmolen, was created after the mine was blown and is said to be forty feet deep!

The Bunkers of the Essex Farm Hospital

Above is a photo of Essex Farm, previously an advanced dressing station for those with serious wounds and now a memorial and cemetery. The famous John McCrae, author of the poem “In Flanders Fields”, was at this station as a doctor. He was inspired to write the poem after the death of his friend Alexis Helmer. The cement bunkers shown here were not built when John McCrae was there. The bunkers he was in would have been made of timber but the cement bunkers still give some indication to the conditions that the soldiers and doctors were in. It was pretty cool to visit in the evening, everything was damp, dark, and quiet. I definitely enjoyed my trip out to Ypres and would suggest that anyone with a mild to wild interest in WWI history to go check it out.

An eery photo of Poppies & Crosses left in the Bunker