Boundaries: Trip to Belgium and World War One

Photo Challenge – Boundaries: This week, let’s explore the creative potential of limits, borders, and dividers of all types.

As soon as I’ve read this photo challenge prompt, I had to think of my University trip to Belgium in Summer 2014 as a part of a seminar on World War One literature. During our trip we visited Ypres, Antwerp, Leuven, and the Flanders Fields. When one deals with WW1,or any war in general, one cannot but explore and re-define terms such as ‘nation’, ‘national boundaries’, and ‘identity’. During our rather short trip, we stumbled upon these terms again and again.

For some reason, I’ve always had this weird fascination for World War One. I guess, mainly because WW1 caused (most) all those other European tragedies of the Twentieth century that followed. However, WW1 has not only negative legacies. For many countries, WW1 was the moment they celebrated their independence. Either way, WW1 triggered many events in Europe.

On a side note: As part of my obsession, I started to read Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. While it is not always easy read, it is the most interesting and comprehensive attempt to explain the complex relations and events that lead to WW1.

Path of the Dead

One of the things that stayed with me the most was the day we visited the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, went hiking were once the trenches were and finally visited a cemetery for German soldiers of WW1. It was a cold and rainy summer day which was reflected by our moods. What can you say when you stumble upon grave upon grave with soldiers that were not older than you, sometimes younger? What can you do other than lament the lifes lost? And for what?

Ypres, Leuven, and Antwerp

We had little free time during our trip, so other than brief walks here and there through Ypres, Leuven, and Antwerp, and two museum visits, there is barely anything I saw, unfortunately. From what I could see, these tree cities are very beautiful and worth a (second) visit. I’m not sure when I’ll go back, but I want to visit Belgium and these three cities in particular again. The next time I want to take my time. One thing I can recommend already is the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres. It is a very interesting and comprehensive museum that will keep you interested.

Anyone been to these places before? Leave a comment down below!

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