*The Yser Tower
In Flander’s fields, as mentioned before, the battle front was along the borders of the Ijzer river for years. In Diksmuide you will discover the Yser Tower, which is the home of the Museum at the Yser. This recently renovated museum tells the story of this part of the Belgian/German front. Also a big theme, is the Flemish emancipation struggle. But most of all, the message of the museum is ‘No More War’. This message is written on the tower in 4 different languages.
On top of the 84 meter (275 ft.) tower, you can enjoy a panorama of the ‘Westhoek’, a region from the Ijzer river to the French border, and what used to be the front region. The original Ijzertoren, inaugurated August 24th 1930, was blown up shortly after WWII. The people who did it were never caught. With the debris of the first tower, the PAX-gate was constructed. (Pax is Latin for Peace.) In the crypt you can still see the remains of the original, once 50 m. (164 ft.) high tower.
Across from the Ijzertoren, you will find a unique restaurant, ‘Water en Vuur’ (Water and Fire). It’s a cozy place where you can enjoy home-made food in the belly of a former cargo ship. Definitely worth a visit.
*Trenches of Death
A bit further along the banks of the river Yser, you will find a piece of restored trenches, called the Trenches of Death. They are the only remaining Belgian trenches from WWI. Walking through them gives you the experience of how captivating it must have been for the soldiers. Imagine rain, freezing temperatures, rats and bugs, being ankle-deep in mud…
In the visitor center you will discover more about the history of the trenches, through 15 interactive apps, life size pictures, movies and over 100 objects and artifacts. You can walk over a gigantic air picture of the trenches. This allows you to compare the current landscape with how the surroundings looked like at the end of the war. Recently, a German bunker was added to the complex. This gives you the story from both sides of the war.
*Talbot House Museum
Between Diksmuide and Ypres is the village of Poperinge. During the war, it was situated in the small piece of unoccupied Belgium, in the middle of the British sector. Poperinge blossomed into an a blooming garrison town, where British soldiers found amusement and relaxation. On December 11th 1915, chaplains Philip Clayton and Neville Talbot founded a ‘Every Man’s Club’, where all Tommies, regardless of their grade or class, were welcome. It became a fascinating sociocultural center, an ‘alternative’ place of recreation in the rather wanton Poperinge. A library, a nice garden, a reading room and an attic chapel, where a carpenter’s workbench served as an altar, made sure that the soldiers could find peace of mind, even if only for a little while, before returning to the front.
*In Flander’s Fields Museum
About 10 miles from Poperinge lies the city of Ieper (Ypres). It has quite some history (which we’ll talk about in another post), but I think the 2 most important WWI related sites are the ‘In Flander’s Fields museum’ and the Menin gate.
The ‘in Flander’s Fields museum’ is located in a restored ancient medieval building, the Lakenhalle, (more on this on a blog on Ypres in general). The museum explains what was the trigger for WWI, it highlights the invasion of Belgium and tells the story of people living in that era. Soldiers, civilians (young, old, men, women), artists…they all tell their story and share their experiences. This gives the visitor a chance to see the world from back then, through the eyes of real people.
*The Menin Gate
From this museum, a 5 minute walk will take you to the Menin gate. Soldiers used to march through this arch towards the battlefields. This gigantic monument is now a remembrance monument for the still missing British soldiers that died here (from the beginning of the war till August, 15th 1917). Over 54.000 (!) names are written on panels. When you read the names, it’s a weird thing to realize that these unidentified, never found soldiers, are still buried in the soil around Ypres. Occasionally, during excavation works, identifiable bodies are found. If this happens, the soldier is given a proper grave and his name is taken off the monument.
Every evening at 8.00 pm, uninterrupted since 1928, a ceremony is held, The Last Post.
*Tyne Cot cemetery
All this war violence did result in many casualties. There are plenty of military cemeteries in the area. One of the most famous is Tyne Cot Cemetery in Passendale ( Passchendaele). It’s the largest British military cemetery on the European main land. In 1917, in and around the village of Passendale, the Third Battle of Ypres took place. This resulted in complete devastation of the village and its surroundings. On the site you will find the names of another 34.957 missing soldiers, who all died in the short period between August, 16th 1917 and the end of the war…It is, sort of speak, a continuation of the list on the Menin Gate.
The cemetery also has a visitor center. It provides more information on the Third Battle of Ypres and gives you a nice view of the former battlefield.
This is just a very, very small part of all the monuments, graveyards and memorial sites in the region. For more information, please visit this page: