B&A’s Benelux Journal

November 2, 2016

Antwerp & Ypres (Ieper)

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 3:47 pm

Though we’re currently in Amsterdam, I wanted to at least touch on our previous stop: Antwerp. It has been called “Belgium’s Second City” or “The Capital of Flemish Belgium.” Parts of it definitely have a more modern, typical metropolitan feel, but, like most of the cities we’ve been to, the historic heart is more unique and “time machine”-y. I actually found Antwerp to be generally less impressive than the other cities in this regard, but we saw some cool stuff anyway. One quirky and fun place is an old publishing house, where we got to see (and learn about) some of the earliest printing presses ever in existence. We also learned about fonts!! Surprisingly interesting. The other main highlight of Antwerp is Rubens. You may be familiar with the term “rubenesque,” to describe women of a certain shape and size. Well, that comes from Peter Paul Rubens, whose pleasantly plump second wife was the model for much of his work. In Antwerp, you’re able to see more of his religious art, so everyone shows less skin, haha. But still, he had a great way of bringing people to life in his work.

The other big chunk of our Antwerp leg was actually a day trip we took to Ypres. Brandon wrote a bit about it already, so I’ll try not be redundant. Basically the WWI fighting at Ypres (roughly 10% of all WWI deaths happened there) is what inspired the timeless poem “In Flanders’ Field.” This museum did an amazing job of providing thorough, clear, and creative info about the circumstances leading up to the war, then about what life for the soldiers was like, from recruitment to fighting and beyond. I think part of what made the museum so moving was that it was so well designed and well curated. You were able to be totally sucked into the world of 1914 Belgium while never really feeling like you were reading museum placards or looking at dusty relics behind glass. It was immersive, so you could focus on the story of the war. I also loved the way they put so much focus on the people of the war. All of the people! Officers, privates, Germans, French, Belgian, British, colonial troops, men, women, nurses, doctors, chaplains, civilians… Everyone was represented. It really humanized the whole thing. The museum is called In Flanders Field Museum, and I think it was a stroke of genius that they waited until nearly the end of the museum to display the famous poem. It got me. Right in the feels, as the kids say (or said; I can’t keep up). After all the ups and downs of the town’s story and Europe’s story as told in this war… it took my breath away.

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.

Comment on this post »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress