Today we met up with a Belgian tour guide who planned a full day of visits to cemeteries and monuments around the Ypres area – including Langemark German Cemetery, the Brooding Soldier at St. Julien, Hill 62, the Christmas Truce memorial, and Tyne Cot. We were so fortunate to have such an excellent guide whose passion for the history of his country was evident from beginning to end. The students were mesmerized by his presentation style and he told many stories of local people (some whom he knew) who lived during the First World War. Our guide was able to provide the perspective of an occupied territory during the war, and he even had a personal family connection for the Second World War. He said his grandmother lived through the Second World War and if she was still alive today he thinks she would not approve of his bringing tour groups to a German cemetery. One of the most memorable statements he made was that with each passing generation the anger and resentment fades more and more, allowing for a more complete history of the wars to emerge. It reminds us that as teachers we must incorporate perspectives and sources from all sides.
On a more upbeat note, our guide told the group that he recently purchased a German bunker from a local farmer for only one euro and has moved it to his garden for a future “man cave.” Only in Belgium would we hear something like that!
Tomorrow we leave Ypres for Péronne, making stops along the way in Mons and Cambrai…so tomorrow’s blog will be from ‘somewhere in France’!