New WWI Museum in Belgium The Best?

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Update: author Mark Yost posted a WSJ follow-up on the Menin Gate ceremony, Crowing Out the Memories, and has a blog on WWI site travel, The Western Front in a Week.

In The Heart of No Man’s Land for the WSJ (paywall), author Mark Yost claims the new Memorial Museum Passchendaele is the best museum among the sad remnants of the trench warfare that tore up Western Europe a century ago.

But now, as we approach August’s 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the French museums have been unseated from pride of place on the Western Front by Belgium’s newly expanded Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, housed in a château in this picturesque suburb outside Ypres.

This is largely because the curators have made creative use of the large space to allow the war to unfold slowly and tell its own story, and because the presentation includes a gripping display of historic and modern-day footage that I’ve seen at no other museum.

and

What’s really stunning is the final analysis of the 1917 Passchendaele battles: 245,000 Allies and 215,000 Germans killed during a 100-day battle to gain just 5 miles.

The museum concludes outdoors with a maze of trench works showing how they differed depending on the occupiers.

The author mentions other key memorial sites that suggest a loop out of Brussels that I am exploring for the fall. A circle of Brussels – Passchendaele, Belgium – Albert, France – Péronne, France – Verdun, France – Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (country collecting!) – Brussels looks to clock in at about 9 hours of driving time so very reasonable for a 3-4 day trip. Diverting at the beginning to Dunkirk sounds interesting for its connection to another war, though it seems there is much less extant reminder to visit.


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Readers, have you visited any of these WWI battlegrounds? Your recommendations?

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Rapid Travel ChaiMark YostChris F.GusEric Recent comment authors

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Mark Yost
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Rapid Travel Chai;

Thanks for posting my piece from the WSJ. I had a follow up piece on the Menin Gate ceremony that ran on July 24. And a World War I blog: westernfrontinaweek.wordpress.com.

And I offer advice for Great War tours. Just drop me a note.

Mark Yost

Chris F.
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When discussing the best beers in the world, the Westvleteren beer is usually near the top of that list. A large part of it could be that it can’t be sold outside of the monastery, but they were some great brews all the same. And like Eric said, being Belgium there are so many fantastic little bars and pubs around that you can’t really go wrong. Our circuit took us a bit further to the north than yours so I can’t make any more recommendations, but if you swing by Antwerp or Bruges I have some more ideas. Bruges was… Read more »

Gus
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Gus

There is a very good museum near the enormous memorial at Thiepval; both are definitely worth a look. And the battlefield at Vimy Ridge is worthwhile. A few of the mine craters will amaze you as well. Wholeheartedly endorse attending the service at the Menin Gate in Ypres too.

Eric
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We happened to be in Ypres on Armistice Day in November 2012, and it was a surprisingly moving experience. The nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery was also memorable, striking a good balance between instructional and somber. We did this as a 1-day loop from Bruges and there were definitely more sights to be seen if we’d had more daylight. We have some photos up on http://www.ericandleandra.com/wp/2012/12/06/belgium-2012-driving-in-southwest-belgium/

+1 for Westvletern (In de Vedre is the cafe and shop) if you like beer; being Belgium, there are quite a few other good spots that could be sampled too. Driving the backroads of Belgium

Chris F.
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My wife and I did a similar tour a few years back, though we left out Brussels. If in Passchendaele for the museum, consider staying a night in Ypres and checking out the Last Post ceremony at the Menin gate. Get there a little early for a good spot and hold firm to that spot. We were there early enough but let some students encroach in and so lost a lot of that advantage. We stayed at B&B Fresco and were really amazed at the value of the place. The hosts were friendly and had many tips for exploring the… Read more »