I asked my wife one evening, if she would like to go for waffles in the morning. She said that that would be nice, so bright and early I woke her so she could have her sweet treat. What she didn’t know was that I had come to the conclusion that the best place for waffles, must by definition be in Belgium. Our daughters secretly passed me her passport and we were off.
It didn’t take her long to figure out that this was no quick trip to the local pancake house. No, we headed south to Dover, and caught the ferry and made our way the Bruges.
We found a wonderful Flemish-gabled shop that served amazing waffles. Next we went for hot chocolate at the Old Chocolate House on Mariastraat. This was no mildly chocolate-flavoured milk product, but hot liquid artisan cocoa.
I have noted before that I am a Holocaust educator. As part of my ongoing researches, I have visited many of the sites associated with the dark events of the Nazi era. One of these is the Belgian fortress of Breendonk.
Breendonk was constructed as a military fortification in the years immediately before the First World War. But it is more notable as a Nazi prison during the Second. Over three and a half thousand people were imprisoned, or transported through the facility. Many of these later died in concentration camps deeper within the Reich.
On visiting the fortress today, it is notable that it is an official Belgian memorial and museum. It is imposing, and as one approaches the main gates over the moat, you are met with the eerie sign which translated says anyone passing that point will be shot.
The inner gates are thick, and one moves through a tunnel to the inner precincts. Here rows of cells can be found, along with latrine blocks and dining facilities. There is a solitary cell section, and it is a moving memorial marking out the suffering committed there.
The guard’s dining area is troubling. In Holocaust education, it is accepted practice to not glorify the perpetrators in any way. But the mess hall still bears the death head ans swastika logo on the wall, prominent over the head table.
The outer quarters in inner wall area are bordered by the moat. This area while peaceful, and somewhat beautiful today still have their tragic past as a backdrop. The watchtowers along the moat are reminders of this.
It was a moving few hours as I explored the facility. The town surrounding has some cafes, and things to do, but the real thing to see is the museum and grounds.
The name of this village in Belgium has become a watchword for failure and defeat. Meeting one’s Waterloo is an allusion to Napoleon who was the envy of Europe, had been exiled, but made a return in 1815. He was staging his ultimate comeback, but faced the combined armies of Britain, The Netherlands, Prussia, and Belgium on the farmland near this small Belgian village.
We had the opportunity to visit this famous place of conflict. For those accustomed to American Civil War battlefields, or even some of the better preserved World Wars Sites in Europe, Waterloo has little to offer except “a sense of place.”
The Lion from the Village
Yes there is the Lion’s Mound built to commemorate the allied victory. There are a few statues of Napoleon, and a museum. For the bicentenary an addition British statue was commissioned at Hougoumont Farm.
That said, key locations of the battle are still identifiable, and there is some signage, but not like places such as Gettysburg where every movement and unit location is marked, to give a sense of the flow of events. That said, the site is not obscured by hundreds of monuments either.
Again many “well preserved” battlefields around the world have period-style fencing and trench lines, etc., but two centuries of life and farming have left this area more “vague” as to how it would have been in that day in June 1815. For a better “feel” of the actual battle a visit to the panorama is a must.
This is a worthwhile place to visit for anyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars, or history more generally.
I was in the mood to do something special with my wife, so I asked her if she would like to go out for waffles in the morning. She responded in the affirmative, and bright and early I woke her so she could have her sweet treat. What she didn’t know was that I had come to the conclusion that the best place for waffles, must by definition be in Belgium.
It didn’t take her long to figure out that this was no quick trip to the pancake house. No, we headed south to the Port of Dover, and caught the ferry to Calais, and made our way the Bruges.
Bruges is a wonderful historic city with canals (okay, not as extensive as Amersterdam, but still nice); a wonderful cathedral, and loads of waffle and chocolate shops!
Old Chocolate House
We started our visit with the planned waffles. The shop while small, had wonderful Flemish gables, and sweet satisfying waffles. We took our time, and when we had finished, we to explore more.
We next stopped in for hot chocolate; and some gourmet chocolate to take away from the Old Chocolate House on Mariastraat. The hot chocolate is just that. Not a mildly chocolate flavoured milk product, but hot liquid artisan cocoa. It was wonderful.
Cathedral Door Features
Micheangelo Madonna and Child
We then went to the Church of Our Lady to see The Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo. This statue of the Madonna and Child is unique as it is the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. Even after coming to Bruges, it has been stolen twice once in the French Revolution, and again by the Nazis. It was returned at the end of WW2, and is a masterpiece well worth seeing. It is a cornerstone of the must sees in the city.
Unfortunately, our stay was brief (only about 4 hours) but we only had a day ticket for the ferry, so back to Calais we went. It was a remarkable day, and not bad for an outing for waffles.