So, we have this book. It was a wedding gift from Mr. and Mrs. Smith. A travel book for the Benelux region (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) and our plan is to highlight everything we mark off and keep notes in it, so that it’s completely filled and then when we head back to the states, we can give it back to them along with a book from another area of the world and say ‘ tag. you’re it.’ Wouldn’t that be fun?!
Totally. So, Sunday we opened said book to a random page. Ypres, Belgium. Never heard of the town in our lives. Let’s go!
Driving up, it felt like any ole country suburb. Then we got to the gates. A brick wall lining the city. Like back in the day, with a moat and everything. Once you entered the city, the entire town had the same medieval feel.. complete with ponies (ok, they’re rides for the Christmas market, but still).
Ypres is known for its horrendous battles, the worst being WWI. Every last bit of the city was torn to shreds. They rebuilt it from the original plans, so its a fairly new old town (props to the travel book for the info). There are war monuments and cemeteries on many corners, the biggest being the Menin Gate that that the British built in the city.
The center of the town and skyline are dominated by Lakenhalle – or the Cloth Hall, one of the largest commercial buildings from the middle ages. The complex includes a 70m belfry that is one of the 56 inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was built to keep watch for threats to the town. Oh, and was tall enough to throw cats from. Really. The thing was used to throw cats from the top, and now they celebrate the tradition every three years (now using stuffed animals).. makes sense.