After a great gap, I have finally returned to logging our story of the Western Front cycling trip in May. The first couple of days in Belgium surprised me, even though I know the history of the region around Ieper in the First World War. I think what was so surprising is how frequently we encountered British cemeteries (Commonwealth War Graves) of all sizes. I had been to Tyne Cot and seen the Menin Gate before, but the cumulative effect of riding past cemetery after cemetery on a bicycle makes the personal tragedies seem more real.
Belgium has well-marked routes of memory for cycling to World War I sites, and British sites are also well marked. The vast tourist industry surrounding World War I in Flanders is in marked contrast to many other areas we visited later in France.
Some of the more moving places in Belgium for those interested in British history include 1) Tyne Cot cemetery, which is vast and which has a soundtrack playing continuously of the names of the dead; 2) The Pool of Peace crater, which is a beautiful peaceful site formed by the wartime explosion of a underground mine; 3) Passchendaele (the museum at Zonnebeke is a good starting point) where so many soldiers drowned in mud in 1917. By riding bikes, one understands the reason for some of the battles -- even the smallest rise or hill in a flat landscape becomes important to military strategy.