Our tour of Flanders (Belgium) continued up and over the wall into Geraardsbergen where we were rewarded with a Mattenstaart. Which is a famous local baked speciality.
It’s especially beautiful here in Belgium. Mid summer cycling through the hedge rows, eating fresh plums and blackberries. At Viane we camped under a giant walnut tree on a permaculture farm. We were greeted with a welcome drink of cold homemade and home grown apple blossom cordial on our arrival.
In Kortrijk on the outskirts of Roubaix we spent a wonderful evening in the company of Jean Pierre, his wife Kathy, their daughter Lisa along with their beautiful three year old Golden retriever Utah. We enjoyed a slice of Belgium life reserved especially for
fellow cycling tourists: a great meal, good company and a breakfast of champions.
We cycled by numbers following the paths to Ypres, we notice that the fields of corn and Belgium Blue cattle are being replaced by the white headstones of Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries. We stop, read the plaques and reflect quietly as we walk along the rows of dead. It’s hard not to feel a little choked up.
At Menin Gate in Ypres we read the names of those men who served in world war 1. I think of my Grandfather who was here at the battle of Passendale, almost 100 years ago. In the photo taken of him after the war. He has that 1000 mile stare of men who have seen too much. Wilfred Sasoon the the English poet called the Menin Gate Memorial an obscenity!
Ypres today is a tourist town. The war is once again big business; a carnival out front of the Flanders Fields Museum operates a shooting gallery! Are we the only ones to see the irony?
What do we expect of our glorious dead? They don’t see the floral tributes we bring, they don’t need our tears to nourish them. The dead comfort one another.
The dead want us to live and to cycle free through the now peaceful fields of Flanders.