11 June 2013 Ypres, Belgium: Where Everything New is Old Again

Belgium has a grand history, not all of it glorious. Much of Flanders, including the once-great city of Ypres. was flattened in World War I or World War II.

Oostende, where Silver Cloud docked this morning, was leveled by Allied air raids against the German occupiers in World War II and was rebuilt–but the result is mostly a city of the 1950s and 1960s, which is not my favorite architectural period.

The trick in Oostende is to look carefully between the featureless box buildings for the relatively few surviving old facades.

In Ypres, the city was reduced to rubble by shelling in the awful Great War. But here, the core of the medieval city was painstakingly recreated. It is quite easy to forget that the spectacular Gothic structures–some from the 15th century–were reconstructed less than 100 years ago.

And there is beautiful Bruges, one of the most magnificent cities of the world. It is very much a veritcal town; visitors who keep their eyes at street level miss half of the sights.

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Oostende is a place where you need to look between to see history. The Belgian port was heavily bombed in World War II by the Allies, and also by the retreating German forces. It was not rebuilt in its old style, and so you must instead look for vestiges sandwiched between modern (and undistinguished) structures of the 1950s and later.

BLOG Oostende Belgium 11Jun2013-4167 BLOG Oostende Belgium 11Jun2013-4170 Hidden Pieces in Oostende

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Parking lot in Oostende outside the Central Station. Trains run to Bruges and Ghent. There’s also a coastal tram that does north and south to the Netherlands and France.

I made a visit to Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium. These were the almost indescribaly horrific killing fields of World War I.

Just as one example, more than 400,000 soldiers were killed in 100 days in fighting over a few miles of mud near the insignificant village of Passchendaele (now known as Passendale). 

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Part of the Tyne Cot cemetery near Passendale, where more than 11,500 soldiers from Commonweath nations are buried.

After the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, when German forces unleased a lethal barrage of explosive and gas weapons, the Canadian doctor John McCare wrote a poem that has lived on as a truly evocative memorial to World War I. The poem was, “In Flanders Fields.”

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.

 

Ypres itself is an astounding place. About five million British and Commonwealth soldiers pased through Ypres on their way to the Salient–a wrinkle in the front line that the Allies were determined to straighten while the German Forces were trying to encircle and cut off the troops who were there.

The city, home of some great structures that date back to the 14th and 15th century, was almost completely destroyed by German shelling. And yet, today, it is there to be seen.

It is hard not to forget that nearly everything in Ypres has been reconstructed in the last hundred years. Some buildings were not completed until the late 1960s. And even today, hundreds of tons of century-old weapons are still being found in the fields of Flanders; every few years an unfortunate farmer or a misguided collector becomes yet another victim of the truly misnamed Great War.

Here are parts of Ypers today.

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10 June 2013 Honfleur, France

We’re off on a voyage from London to Copenhagen, with stops in France, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden.

Silver Cloud glided across La Manche (The Sleeve) or as Anglophones may know it better, the English Channel from Southampton to Honfleur in the Calvados region of France.

Honfleur is an extraordinary place, one of the best-preserved old towns of the region. It survived both world wars nearly intact, with heavy wooden beam and decorated plaster walls.

For me, I walk the streets of Honfleur with the hypnotic music of Erik Satie in my head. That may have been his intent, and he almost certainly wrote his best-known pieces while stoned on absinthe. Satie was born in Honfleur, as was the painter Eugene Boudin. Both of them were important influences on later impressionists including Corbet and Monet.

Here are a few photos from Honfleur…

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Le Vieux Bassin in Honfleur

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Inside Ste. Catherine’s

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The birthplace of another quirky Honfleurais, the 19th century humorist Alphonse Allais. He wrote poetry that specialized in auditory puns (homophonous verse) and also is semi-famous for the earliest known example of a completely silent musical composition. His Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man of 1897 consists of nine blank measures. Satie would approve.

 

When I’m away, I don’t want to feel at home

Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (3494)
Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (3494)
Kusadasi, Turkey. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (2579)
Kusadasi, Turkey. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (2579)
Cisterns of Istanbul. April 2013. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (2396)
Cisterns of Istanbul. April 2013. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (2396)
Fanning Island (Tabueran) in the Republic of Kiribati, January 2013. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler  (1565)
Fanning Island (Tabueran) in the Republic of Kiribati, January 2013. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler (1565)

Welcome to my blog

I’m an author and photographer, and I carry my notepad and my cameras with me everywhere I go.

I’ve been asked, “Is there anywhere in the world you have not visited?” And my answer: “I hope so.” I’ve been to more than 100 countries, in nearly every corner of the world, with no intention of putting away my suitcases.

And so, I will be posting here photos and stories as I travel. I’ll begin here with some recent pictures and then I intend to update the blog on a regular basis.

I’d love to hear from you with comments about the photos and stories.

One more thing: all of my photos are COPYRIGHT 2013 by Corey Sandler. What does that mean?

You are free to look at my photos here on the blog. Feel free to recommend the blog to friends and acquaintances.

But you are NOT given permission to make copies or prints of my photos. If there is a picture that you would like to hang on your wall, please contact me to arrange to purchase a high-resolution photographic print of almost any size.

You can contact me at: photos[at]sandlerbooks.com  (Replace the [at] with the @ symbol to send me mail.)

Dog Island, in Ungava Bay, northern Canada. Copyright 2013 Corey Sandler
Dog Island, in Ungava Bay, northern Canada. Copyright 2013 Corey Sandler
Street vendor in Antigua, Guatemala. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler
Street vendor in Antigua, Guatemala. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler
Isle of Capri, Italy. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler
Isle of Capri, Italy. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Athens. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Athens. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler

The Big Race. Halifax, Canada. Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler

 

 

 

Cruise Photos and Stories by Corey Sandler