Thursday, May 21, 2009

Travel Log: Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

As we were traveling we stopped at a few WWI sites. Now, I know almost nothing about WWI history, and while I can't be bothered to pick up a history book (snooze), I love being told about history. Or seeing it. Or being told about history WHILE seeing it. Which is what I got to do at Tyne Cot Cemetery. It is the largest Commonwealth (a la British Empire) cemetery in the world from any war, and it has a staggering 20,000 graves. And it's plopped square in the middle of nowheresville, Belgium. Ok, it's the middle of nowhere NOW, literally fields of grass and cows, but to be fair, back in the day it was a strategic location in the war. It's up on a bit of a hill overlooking the countryside, so apparently both sides wanted this particular piece of land. And for several years the opposing forces pushed back and forth mere hundreds of meters (shoot, I've totally become European, defaulting to meters not yards! AH!) to gain this land. As such, loads of people died right in this area. Apparently farmers still find large shells from various kinds of weapons that would involve large shells. 

What struck me the most about Tyne Cot was that it was such a staggering picture of death and destruction in an entirely tranquil, calm landscape. It was a clear blue-skied day, maybe 70 degrees, and entirely silent except for the birds singing away. The graves all the same size, shape, and color, and flowers in front of each and every one. Man, it was sobering. And oddly enough, entirely peaceful. I can't quite explain it, but I am so thankful I was traveling with someone who actually thinks to go to places like this (and had a car to be able to GET to places like this). I will share a few pictures, so you may see a little piece of history as well.  


Perspective of the cemetery with the countryside in the background

Several thousand graves are of unknown soldiers. At the bottom of the graves it says "Know Unto God"

This view only gets about two-thirds of the cemetery, so you can imagine how many more there were

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