We only spent one day riding through Flanders fields on the Belgian coast, but a lovely day it was! Belgium is split into different regions, and Flanders is the Flemish part of the country. Of course, the highlight of our time there was that we met up with our friend Siska, a fellow cyclist we met on a hike we took back in Patagonia. We kept up with Siska via email, and she was able to join us for a few days of riding in and around her home country of Belgium.
We met up with Siska in Brugge, a charming older village near the Dutch border. Brugge is probably the biggest tourist stop in Belgium, so all the tiny winding streets are crowded with people. But even so, we enjoyed having a nice look around before taking off.
From Brugge, we rode south, not directly on the coast, but not too far away. As we rode along, Siska helped us understand some of the history of the area. Many battles during the great World Wars were fought in this area, especially World War I. Growing up, I had heard the poem “In Flanders Fields” (see below), but I had never realized that it was written about the fields in this part of Belgium. And lucky enough, there were still some poppies in bloom!
We had a great time touring through Belgium and into northern France to catch the ferry over to England. Siska also made sure we sampled some of the best-known Belgian treats–chocolates and waffles!
In Flanders Fields
(John McCrae, May 1915)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.