Various stories with a lot of nature experience, that is the summary of this wonderful tour with guide in a nutshell. Of course also fun to drive on your own, but there are so many stories along this route - not just the Great War - that you have to opt for guided guidance. Along the way, Kurt also guides you into 1 or 2 delicious local cafes, perfectly fitting within the rich stories you will hear.
Jacques Brel, Charles George Boothby & Edith, John-Jack & Jim Hunter, yes even about old cycling glories at the pond of Zillebeke, it’s just a selection from the list of looming characters we get to see along this course. This tour offers both natural beauty, a touch of nostalgia and an insight into the grim, sometimes heroic but all the more tragic reality of the First World War. That even Louis XIV and the Iconoclastic Fury will come to the scene, amidst the splendor of a hidden piece of moorland, you certainly could not have imagined beforehand. And yet it is all intertwined in this journey, where at a certain moment one Frank Vandenbroucke in pure Gent-Wevelgem style storms past us in an illusory course moment Geluveld to the way.
Part 1: 4 KM Location: Along the water to Zillebeke
We start at the ‘inside’ of the Menin Gate… over the bridge and so to Zillebeke Vijver, a story that already starts in the 12th-14th century. We cycle poetically into the Zillebeke described by Blunden, along the Seelbachdreef.
Part 2: 7 KM Location: Location: reliving the Mining Battle
Via Larch Wood Cemetery near the Poperinge – Ypres – Kortrijk railway line it goes slightly uphill to the famous crater of the Caterpillar and the historic site of Hill 60. Here too we become silent when Tiffin’s experience is mentioned during the Mining Battle of 1916. Now nature dominates in all its quiet but also vibrant vitality.
Part 3: 10 KM Location: Where forests and 'Geuzen' meet
The first passages along the relics of WWI are already behind us when we dive even deeper into history. In the mysterious Gasthuisbossen we actually see a piece of heathland! Stories about the Geuzen (‘beggars’), religious protests and both depopulation and repopulation at the time of the French under Louis XIV. We are approaching Zandvoorde and feel the mix of Flemish and French getting stronger.
Part 4: 14 KM Location: German command bunker from 1916 in Le Plat Pays
Rarely seen such a strange mix of culture and war architecture as there in Zandvoorde. First through the village and the Cavalry Memorial, we focus on the remarkably well-preserved German command bunker from 1916. Camouflage has become an (construction) art, after which we cycle back up and discover another, somewhat hidden and much less well-preserved building: the birth house from Jaques Brel’s father, who came to visit his grandparents here during the summer as a child. It’s high time to quench your thirst, either in De Lustigen Boer or in café Edelweiss, depending on the preference of the moment (and who we find open, of course). Here too, the stories roll over the bar and we return outside with ‘enlightened’ spirits.
Part 5: 21 KM Location: Polygoon Wood and the Australian-New Zealand connection
On the way to Geluveld we actually saw the ghost of VDB, here on a run towards cycling glory in Wevelgem. A climb that is no longer part of the Gent-Wevelgem route today, twice nothing for the gods of the bicycle. But on the large resistance it is not easy to fly here over the 5 to 6% gradient. Geluveld and its beautiful castle park, the Poezelhoek valley, which was also destroyed during the war (and the view on an old photo dating from 1917)… It is the last run to re-wooded experiences that start at the Black Watch Corner and continue past Scott Post (bunker ) and the beautiful (accessible on foot) cemetery called Buttes New British Cemetery. New Zealand temple style Antiquity and the hill, here called Butte, with tribute to the 5th Australian Division (obelisk).
High time for a new lunch/drink stop? Café De Dreve, ANZAC café with its own private attic museum, cannot be missed. You can also learn all about the adjacent and very moving Brothers In Arms Memorial. The Hunter brothers, of whom the eldest, John-Jack, has stayed behind. A story about DNA and brotherly love.
Part 6: 26 KM Location: Sapper monument and tragic love story at Bellewaerde
The way back to Ypres passes a tribute to the Canadians near the place called Frezenberg: a reference to the 2nd Battle of Ypres, also known as the poison gas attack. Provided the weather is clear, you can see not only the Flemish ‘mountains’ from here, but also the Yser Tower on your right!
We turn left to the Memorial in honor of the ‘Sappers’ (sapeurs), Royal Engineers Railway Wood Grave … A tragic love story about Edith and her Charles Geoffrey Boothby. To then navigate unpaved between crater pits to Bellewaerde: the trenches (trenches and German bunker) of the Kasteelhof and the passage past the Hooge Crater Museum, annex Cemetery (near Hill 62). Those who have time can also linger here and visit both the site and the museum. But gradually the finish is now waiting along ‘Hell Fire Corner’ and the Menin Road. After all, the Menin Gate and the Last Post never wait. And relaxing beforehand in the Biking Bar is probably an enticing prospect?
Part 7: 32 KM Location: END
Enjoy a nice drink or snack in our Biking Bar, in the historic center of Ypres!
Geniet na van een lekker drankje of versnapering in onze fietsbar, in het historisch centrum van Ieper!