|2002||Tentative list||Submitted as tentative site by State Party|Mark S (Belgium):
Im a 32 year old belgian, this review starts with a shame on me. Why? Well today i visited the Westhoek for the first time.
It was a beautiful sunny early autumn day so we wanted to visit the theme park Bellewaerde near Ypres. At arrival we saw that it was overcrowded so we decided to explore the region instead. Our tour brought us from one cemetery to the other. all as confronting as breathtaking. the amazing serenity, the perfect maintenance, the purity of every memorial, the multitude of origins of victims made us realize the global size of horror, trauma, tragedy millions of people from all around the world carried and are still carrying today. After visiting the trenches of Hill 61 and the small but very straight to the bone museum next to it, our feet were finally put in the middle of the reality of the Westhoek inhuman cruelty of 1914 till1918. This Iddillic scenery should not lose its historical importance and contrast.
You see here that people write long reviews. I don't think its because we like to write. I think its just because 'we have to' after visiting this most beautiful region with such a short but oh so important black chapter in history.
I love to travel and with great admiration I have visited many World Heritage Sites already in my life. But I live only 1h from the Westhoek, ignorant and naive. A Theme park with some rollercoasters with too long cues should not be the way I learn about the Westhoek. This should be added in respect of 750 000 people who lost their lives, the millions of families left behind and the billions of people not knowing. Before its too late....
Date posted: October 2011 Els Slots (The Netherlands):
I really became aware of this tentative WHS only after the favourable comments made at the 'Top 50 Missing'-topic at the Forum. World War I has largely passed by on the Netherlands and one seldom hears about it here. The first time I really was confronted with what this war meant was when I started studying History at University. There we had to watch the 1916 propagandafilm 'Battle of the Somme' with its graphic portrayal of trench warfare.
So I decided this was a tentative WHS surely to be visited and on a Sunday in June I drove 2,5 hours south to Ieper. The town itself has the usual Flamish charm. What's extra here are the numbers of English tourists and schoolgroups. I started my rounds at the In Flanders Fields-museum. It's a very visual museum with lots of photos, large objects and films. It also draws heavy on the participation of the 'World' in the 'World War'.
The Menin gate is the most important WWI monument in Ieper. It's a British war memorial to the 54.896 missing soldiers. Very impressive to find such a monument in such a small-sized town. I also drove to the British-Canadian Maple Copse cemetery, one of the many that are scattered among the farming fields.
In all, it's an important site to a large part of the world population, almost like a pilgrimage site nowadays. It would be a valuable addition to the List, one even wonders why it takes so long. Maybe it is the lack of physical remains from that period, although there are small parts of trenches left.
Date posted: July 2008 Ian Cade (England):
I have visited these sites on two separate occasions. The first time was on a school trip that visited many of the battlefields and memorials to the First World War (le Grande Guerre) in this region of Europe, this trip included visits to the sites across the boarder in France especially those connected with the battle of the Somme. I would hope that these monuments would be added to the Belgian entry.
The main memories I have are of the rows and rows of immaculately kept graves representing soldiers lost from all over the world. It is a sobering but magnificent site the sheer number of graves is incredible and the fact that they are still so magnificently looked after is a real credit to all involved. The prominence and importance of the sites are obviously derived from the large amounts of lives lost in the fields of this corner of Europe, however the exceptional plans and landscape design are also of significant note.
10 years after my initial visit I returned to the area to visit the Flemish city of Ieper (Ypres) which was almost totally destroyed in the first world war. There are memorials all around the city the most famous and stirring is the Menin gate where the last post bugle call is played every evening, it is a very sobering and sombre occasion but certainly worth witnessing. The Gate itself is covered with thousands of names of those that died fighting for the city and is a very impressive monument. Ieper it self is a worthwhile place to visit as for the massive rebuilt Cloth Hall (part of the Belfries of Belgium and France WHS) and the impressive fortifications laid out by Vauban. the Cloth Hall now houses an impressive museum dedicated to WWI.
These memorials are an exceptional artistic response to the mass loss of life that occurred during the First World War, from all countries and territories involved and are certainly a worthy site to visit, and hopefully deserving of a place on the World Heritage List.
Date posted: May 2008
Have you been to Le Westhoek, lieu de mémoire et monuments de la Grande Guerre? Share your experiences!