After our crossing we had a day of just enjoying the local town of Niewpoort near the campground. We had used the campground several times on our travels as it serves as a good first stop and can easily take our ‘big bus’.
As the weather was so good the next day we decided to revisit Ypres. We had only visited Ypres briefly at the end of a day exploring the Flanders battlefields of WWI on one of our earlier trips so felt that another visit was needed.
The history of Ypres or Ieper goes back to the 10th century when it was founded at the point where the Bruges-Paris trade route crossed the Ieperlee River. Over the following centuries it became a major player in the cloth trade dominating the area. However due to its closeness to the French border it was regularly fought over. This was particularly true during World War I when Ypres served as the Allied communications centre and the Germans were on the east across the river. Ypres was rapidly reduced to rubble and its inhabitants had to be evacuated in 1915. After the war the town was totally rebuilt over a 20year period and the most dominant medieval buildings the Lakenhalle and the cathedral painstakingly reconstructed.
We started our exploration in the Grote Markt and the Lakenhalle. This huge building was built to support the cloth trade. On the lower level there are 48 doors which once gave access from the street to the old selling halls. During the winter wool was stored on the upper floors and cats used to keep the mice down. Today the Lakenhalle houses the tourist office and the In Flanders Fields Museum.
From the market square we walked up to the Menin Gate, a memorial to nearly 55,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died before 15 August 1917 on the Ypres front without a known grave. The massive memorial stands on the site of the old Menenpoort, which served as the main route for Commonwealth soldiers heading for the front. From there we took the rampart route which took us around the 17th century brick and earthen ramparts around the east and south sides of the town centre. A very enjoyable walk.
We certainly enjoyed our return visit to Ypres and felt we had done the town justice.