Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ypres, or Ieper (WWI) - Menen Gate and WWI Salient; Flanders Field

Menen Gate, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium. With rainbow.

Ieper (Ypres) was the site of prolonged battles in WWI. It is near the French border. Arras is not far.  See a film about the trench warfare and the area at ://

 The town, bombed out, has been reconstructed and this Gate is the site of daily taps-memorials-services for whatever group has scheduled itself for that time.  There are readings of names, and a small service, color guards.  Note the rainbow. The Gate heads toward the next town, Menen, and groups gather from all different countries here.

We caught the rainbow.  No need for advance reservations to spend the night.  There are plenty of B&B's, and if the first ones are full, ask if they could refer you. They will probably even call ahead for you, and give you a map.

Wars get personal.

Meet a veteran, my uncle in this 1950's or so photo, who fought at Ypres with the Canadian Army.  He used to say that he and his companions called the place "Wipers." He was gassed, but recovered without injury. He did not talk much about the war. He did say that in a convoy of trucks, the one immediately behind his was blown up, no survivors.

Veteran, Canadian Army, WWI, Ypres (Ieper) Belgium. Salute the work.

The white square by his glasses must be part of the windowsill?

I have heard the town pronounced as "Eeps" - the French -  and "Eeper." German or Dutch? Watch your map, and you will probably find the spelling "Ieper" now.

For a photo gallery, see

The town is in West Flanders, and a war overview is at At the beginning of the battle (there were several long ones), people would go out in their carriages and watch.

For all sites, go to the home page first, and only use the rest of the address as is helpful.

People to remember:  
Col. John McCrae

John McCrae wrote the famous poem, In Flanders Field, and was Canadian. Read the poem again, and about how and when it was written in 1915, at an Arlington Cemetery site -- His biography is at  See and hear it at ://; or ://

Do not miss the exhibits at the war museum. Panoramas, scenes, reenactments, lights, sound.

And the poem. 
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow (1)
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.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ypres, or Ieper (WWI) - "In Flanders' Field;" and Arras, France: Finding War Dead

 Finding War Dead
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Edwin McConaghey

World War I. This "The Great War", "The War To End All Wars"

World War I is remote for many, visions of endless mud and treacherous trench warfare, agony for horses still ridden against the bullets.  It is current for us with an interest in history, and specific participants. See map at  Many if not most war records from the First World War were destroyed in the bombing of London in World War II, particularly the wounded.  Death records are available more reliably.

Finding people. We were looking for a relative who had served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Maurice Edwin McConaghy, and who fell near Ypres, now Ieper, during WWI.  He is buried near Arras, France, see

Finding World War I records:  How to do that

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at .  This works if the spelling input is the same as the record.  If the soldier or officer changed the spelling of a surname without other relatives recording that, go deeper. We did not find Maurice McConaghy through the War Graves. 

2. We then went to the Documents Office at Ieper itself. This is a records library. The clerk went on the computer, found nothing (as we had found nothing) but thought to check the military logs and narratives written about events. 

He found the old cloth bound book, The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan, with a preface by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Colonel-In-Chief, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons.  The clerk photocopied pages that related to the 2d Division, with Maurice Edwin McConaghey, Lt. Col.  That is the one. "Maurice McConaghey."   But with an "e" in the McConaghey.

Also described -where and how he was first wounded, and then, near Arras, fell.

3. The Burial.

Burials are in pocket cemeteries, not big memorial parks.  In this area, they buried many soldiers where they fell in WWI, so there are literally hundreds of vest-pocket size cemeteries all around France and Belgium. Ours was among the 500 pocket cemesteries near Arras, France - so of course we went there. We finally found it. Immaculate caretaking.

Grave, Lt. Col. Maurice McConaghey, Arras, France, WWI

Gravestone.  Lt. Col. Maurice McConaghey with the "e."  Killed in 1917. Hello, salute, and yes, we do remember. He had also served in South Africa. We even found the record of the hospital ship online that brought Maurice McConaghey back from South Africa, wounded. See Boer Wars, Studying Wars

The Canadian officer who wrote the famous WWI poem, "In Flanders Field," John McRae, and who died in 1915, had also served in South Africa.  For the poem, see

We left a pebble on the top of the headstone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Flanders Field: Battlefields, World War I. Ieper

Ypres (Ieper) Belgium, relief map, salient, WWI

A "salient" juts into enemy territory, making it particularly vulnerable - see the large poking area on the map here. Nearly surrounded. See :// See also //

Here is the relief map of the Salient, the front formed by the British, Canadian, French and Belgian forces, at Ypres, or Ieper, Belgium. It is spelled Ieper on modern maps. Photos and history; and later post here. Photos of the Salient - ttp://

Years of warfare in one place. There were three battles at Ypres - resulting in the town's total destruction. First in 1914, defending against the German push to the sea. Second in 1915, where trenches and gas were used. The area is flat, making trenches imperative. Third in 1917, known as the battle of Passchendaele. In 1918, the Germans were finally pushed back by an offensive at that time.

Newspaper yesterday: young people are not learning the history of the world wars, for lack of school hours and setting other priorities. Teach your own. Find Flanders at

Friday, September 14, 2007

Antwerp: Best Docks Restaurant and Hosts -The "Pan-Earth, All Cuisines"

Bonaparte Dock, Antwerp, Belgium. Pan Earth All Cuisines Host

Art! Food! Conversation! Fufu if you want it! Any culinary tradition, you get it. Feel right at home.

Antwerp, Belgium. Pan Earth All Cuisines Art and Host

A must. The Pan-Earth All Cuisines restaurant. Down by the docks (Bonaparte dok). It is set up to serve the world's merchant marine, read about the world-wide maritime (tanker, and other commercial freight?) fleets and the countries at // Here are the water transportation occupational information: No job security, one voyage at a time, several months each, 4-12 hour shifts. Long time away from family, no healthcare? About 1/2 unionized? See site.

The chef and owner of this fine jewel of a restaurant says he wants to give a taste of home, a little warmth, to the sailors and merchant seamen. The food is not just for the merchant mariners, though. We recommend it to everyone.

The Seamen's Institute is nearby. Here is the work of the Institute in New York, but it appears to be virtually world-wide in offering services and training to seafarers, including those settling in an area. See Search also for the Institute in Newport, RI and Philadelphia. Wikipedia has it starting in Hong Kong. See //'s_Institute.

I was sure I wrote down his name, but I can't find it. He said he can prepare any cuisine worldwide, as requested, from anywhere. Dan ordered steak and mango, and I had African (Congo chicken).

Docks, Antwerp, Belgium. Pan Earth All Cuisines Restaurant, Diners and Hostess. Bonapartedok.

Should have ordered fufu or asked for pounded yam but was too slow to think of it. Rice received and excellent. He said to order the piccadillo next time. Everybody got in the pictures.

He is a fine chef, and the portrait was done by an admiring patron when he opened this restaurant. Go there. Enjoy.

But, remember that the port area has lots of other recreational offerings going on, so expect what you see. People earning a living. We stopped in one place first, then chose to move on. Not that it was not friendly - the people were. But they didn't serve dinner. Fine.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Antwerp: The Water View Floatel. Diamond Princess Flotel.

Where to spend the night, when the cute, smaller places near the old town are full: Try a floatel. A fine vintage one is the Diamond Princess, Bonapartedok, Antwerp. A flotel.

 full size image

Fair use thumbnail from

We stayed in a cabin on a converted Norwegian cruise liner now permanently moored in the docks area, called Bonaparte dok (after Napoleon - looking up what he did here). See the docks area at This may be becoming a museum dock. The ship is the Diamond Princess and it dates from the 1950's. See it at // Breakfast restaurant included. Excellent choice. See

Plan to spend more time in Antwerp than in Brussels. Commercial, like Brussels, and cosmopolitan, but also more walkable, and with active navigation and big castles. Much destroyed in WWII, but also much reconstructed. See Antwerp overview at; and its history at Trabel means travel, if you do a search on that.

Antwerp: Art - Rubens; Medieval Architecture - the Butcher's Hall

Rubens at Antwerp, Belgium1.

Antwerp art: Peter Paul Rubens, painting, see I believe this one was from Antwerp. He of the robust ladies. Do an images search on Rubens. Diets, begone. Far more healthy to balance enjoyment of life's calories, against fashion.

Butcher's Hall, Medieval. Antwerp, Belgium

2. Medieval structures. These . can be huge - and not just the castles. Here is the new Butcher's Hall from 1515 - built then to enlarge the old Butcher's Hall, from the 1200's, both for the Guilds. Each end of the building has a different facade? I do not believe there are two separate halls, just different angles of the one building? See The striping effect of the stone plus the size - Antwerp's glory century.

Antwerp Legends: Brabo and the Flung Hand; Langewapper at Steen

Town Hall, Antwerp, Belgium

1. Antwerp's Stories: Brabo. Here is Town Hall, in the main square or Grote Markt. Look at the left - the statue on one foot like a baseball pitcher. That represents Brabo and the Legend of the Hand.

The fellow is a Roman soldier, Brabo, who saved the day. He chopped off the hand of the giant of those times who was exacting a high priced toll from all comers. The soldier chopped off and flung the hand in the river - and the town adopted the hand as its symbol after that. See Brabo statue write-up at

Langewapper, Steen Castle, Antwerp, Belgium. Clerically abbreviated. Lange Wapper to be imagined.

2. Now meet the Lange Wapper, or Langewapper, the statue in front of Steen Castle - steen meaning stone. The Steen is all that remains of an old citadel, see,_Belgium. What are those people... oh, for heaven's sake! Gone!

One explanation is that Antwerp's 16th Century Jesuits, see site on Jesuits at, objected to the attention given to this gentleman's attributes and ordered the lop. Leaving fertility seekers at a loss. Tut. See The statue is so prominent that anyone would ask. FN1

Many other tourist websites give no whiff of this anatomical background of the statue, pointing only to the quality of the shapeshifter, including from giant to small, or trickster as at See more stories at
Others offer both angles: here is a site supporting the endowment element, as well as the demon or shapeshifter:

See stories about Langewapper at FN 2.
FN 1
Etymology. Wikipedia wants to know the origin of the word "twerp." See

Perhaps Antwerp's clerical cultural bleeping here, as to the hapless partless Langewapper, triggered the pejorative "twerps" as to the censors. For other brilliant speculations about twerps, see; and more on derivations at Following the thought here, perhaps Antwerp's Exuberance Restoration Committee could hold a referendum to reverse the dismemberment after these 400-500 years. Members only. The Mannequin Pis survives in Brussels, after all. See Age discrimination; overzealous culture reframing, leading to dull. See

FN 2
Here is one of the Langewapper stories: it supports the trickster theory, not the accoutrement. It is in Dutch. See See translation, below, from To get your own translation, copy and past it to any other translation service on the net.
This is the fair use translation Babelfish result:

"On a beautiful spring evening were the children still lets play on the stone square, then a visible rich lord came there aanwandelen. He had a large pocket which put full snoep,* all sweet heerlijkheden* which you could consider also but. He distributed them with generous hand to the children, but at the same time walked away he continuously more of the stone square, of keel. He started how longer how more rapidly to run and it was crazy thereby that he distributed more and more snoep. The screaming children continued keep track of him. Eventually were themselves they without them at, already a complete end on the Boomsesteenweg* and suddenly that generous Mr had disappeared, as solved in air. They could hear only spotlach* still its and then knew them that them flies long had followed."

aanwendelen: not found yet
snoep: nibble. See
heerlijkheden: not found yet
Boomsesteenweg: not found yet
spotlach: not found yet
Other Langewapper info - do your own translation of this - is it a story or a comment? I have not done this translation. //

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Antwerp, Diamonds, and Jewish history: Brussels, Antwerp, Other in Belgium

The diamond district is modern, and people look very intent. 

Jewish history in Belgium. The diamond cutters in Antwerp at the outset of WWII were 80% Jewish, leaving the industry decimated and the professionals fleeing to "Cuba, England, Palestine, and the USA." See History of Gem Cutting at They took about 90% of the diamonds with them, to keep them from the Germans.

Short history of the diamond trade. Antwerp was a center since the 1500's, then it deflected to Amsterdam when the Spanish took over Antwerp, then it recouped. See Antwerp was incorporated into the Netherlands in 1815, after the Napoleonic wars. Germans occupied the city during WWI, until 1918.

Any serious visit to Europe, and visiting the sites so meaningful to WWI and WWII, means close contact with Jewish history - Jewish quarters in the towns, many now assimilated into general residence areas for different people, others preserved, some vacant; and the graveyards dating back so far, and with the stones of remembrance on the headstones, frost-heaved ground, old, old trees. For "Belgian Jewish Heritage," see the Belgian Tourist Office site at

In any town, if you do not see it right away, ask for the old Jewish quarter. There is a list of the major museums and synagogues. For non-Jews, there is so much history laid out at the Jewish history sites that it is a good place to start for any overview.
More blogs about Belgium Road Ways.

Belgium - Brussels in the middle of partition discussions. Snails.

Escargots cart, Brussels, Belgium

Have some escargots - snails - from a street vendor in the main square in Brussels. Brussels is an anomaly - located in a Flemish area, but with French speakers. The escargots come in big paper cups with lots of broth and a little plastic fork.

Belgium in the news. Hartford Courant 9/12/07 at A8. About like seeking like. In Belgium, as with other countries gravitating into different corners (the Czech Republic 15 years ago separated from Slovakia; Yugoslavia separated into components Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia), here comes Belgium.

Its language-culture divides into Flanders with the Flemish speakers in the Northern section, bordering with the Netherlands and some of France; and Wallonia with the French-speakers in the Southern section, bordering with a great deal of France, some of Luxembourg, some of Germany and a little of The Netherlands. Brussels, the capital, is in Flanders but is French-speaking.

Belgium is considering options. At least, it is on some tables. Maybe more areas of self-rule will result. The North is more prosperous than the South - some interest in moving health issues, transportation and the justice system out of Brussels and more into each section. Brussels is a thorny issue. Everybody wants snails.

Brussels - Michael Jackson and a great concert venue

Michael Jackson stage set, Brusssels, Belgium. Main square. Concert pending.

A concert with Michael Jackson was pending - lots of construction and scaffolding going up in the square. The relationship has not been all friendly. Michael Jackson was held to have plagiarized a song, written by Belgian twins, in a court case and ruling by a Belgian Court, 9/11/07. See//

Monday, September 10, 2007

Orientation sites, Languages, Cultures

Getting to know Belgium: This describes the languages: ://
  • Dutch, and local variant known as Flemish, is spoken in the north; some 60%
  • German in some eastern areas, 
  • French in the south. // 
  • Walloon - a variant of  French, spoken by Celtic originating people, Protestants, see ://
  • Luxembourgish - some 1%
Walloons were exiled because of their beliefs in the 17th Century, and settled at New Netherlands - now New York, Manhattan, and other places.  See

Monday, July 09, 2007

Brussels Chocolate Factory

Chocolatier, Chocolate Factory, Brussels, Belgium

That is the chocolate factory-museum in Brussels, just off the main square. Splendid samples, see the process start to finish. Musee du Cacao et du Chocolat. See and smell how it is made, get the walk-around tour, and taste. Belgium has been known for its chocolate since 1912 - see //

Bonbons at risk - the waxy ersagz chocolate without the high proportion of real cocoa butter and not substitutes, vs. the real thing. See New York Times 6/25/07, commentary by Mort Rosenblum. "While discerning chocoholics will for over whatever it takes, those who can't pay will never know chocolate."

Personal note. Agree. Once represented a Spanish client who rewarded the entire office with the most fabulous European chocolate I have ever tasted. Here is the history of chocolate. // For all of us, it was swoons.

Some time, before you die, go and pay the most you cannot afford for the best real European chocolate you can find, and you may be inclined to boycott the US supermarket style manufacturers' lesser ingredients. Some things are worth it. It is a matter of principle: profit vs. the common good, the common good being that taste.

While in Europe, take advantage of every opportunity to go through a real chocolate factory and eat this "elixir of the gods" before it is beyond us.