Different trip options were examined , for example I have a book that has WW1 as a theme for a great trip but it contains 10 joining routes so they are less suited for a day trip. Routes that were found on the internet did have other flaws and as I live across the church a trip around the Church Tower wasn’t going to cut it either.
Choosing a destination seems a difficulty until I find this website:www.dodendraad.org
So WW1 will be the inspiration for a trip and armed with my GPS and very little knowledge of BaseCamp I start working on a trip with a theme:
The wire of death.
That’s the German name for this border wire that separated war and peace.
In april/may 1915 construction of this border between Belgium and Holland started. The 2000V AC wire prevented war volunteers, spies and smugglers to cross the border. During the war it would claim the lives of 800 to 5000 people (the exact number is unknown) and as soon as the war ended it was dismantled.
more information on the subject : www.dodendraad.org
Parts of the wire have been reconstructed lately.
The reconstruction site of Hamont-Achel shall be the starting point of our trip and after stops at the local abbey, the war cemeteries of Lommel and Leopoldsburg and the abbey of Postel it will come to a finish at the reconstruction near Baarle-Hertog.
A total distance of about 95 miles and 3 hours of travel time.
1. Reconstruction Hamont-Achel.
At about 08.30 the noise of the beautiful V8 tell’s the neighbours not everyone is sleeping in today. I haven’t made a route plan for the trip from home to the starting point and during the ride I’m slightly worried that the GPS is taking us along some parts of today’s route already. But my biggest concern is not finding an open gas station. Not that the shark is thirsty but I’d started the day with only a single cup of coffee and by now my mouth is fairly dry, to say the least. With an unquenched thirst we arrive at our starting point after an hour and twenty minutes.
2. Trappist abbey of Achel/Saint Benedictus-Abbey.
We hope to find some relief for our dry mouth as we park the shark near the abby.
3. Soldatenfriedhof Lommel.
The next stop is situated in the “Kattenbos” in Lommel. Nothing more than a small, sober road sign directs us towards the cemetery. At first it seems that the men who’ve lost the war don’t deserve any attention but at arrival there’s a different view.
The sunlight makes the opening gate to the last resting-place of 39.102 German soldiers shine with a heavenly glow.
I’ve visited various cemeteries in Normandy, including the American memorial but this is the biggest I have seen and strangely enough it’s “buried” in my backyard so to speak. It’s size is best compared to the cemetery that features in the closing scenes of “The good, the band and the ugly” A western in which Clint Eastwood (the good) is forced by Eli Wallach (the ugly) to cross the dessert without a drink. Man, is mouth must have been dry.
4. Leoplodsburg: Belgian and British war graves.
Contrary to British war cemeteries there aren’t many Belgian war cemeteries but after a short trek form Lommel to Leopoldsburg we find the Belgian and British cemetery 500m apart from one another at Leopold II lane. It was Leopold II that colonized Congo purely for personal gain and thus became one of the most bloodthirsty dictators of the early 20th century. I wonder if a dry mouth leads to bloodthirsty-ness.
Bloodthirsty-ness is the main reason 1302 Belgian soldiers are residing here permanently. Sadly enough my research regarding this cemetery was very little so we limit ourself to the part where there’s mainly WW1 victims. If I had done better research we might have stayed longer, a missed opportunity.
The British cemetery houses 770 silent witnesses of missed opportunities.
It’s not that big but notwithstanding the striking beauty of this place the “less is more” approach, is best suited for military cemeteries. Unfortunately the daily journals show that in certain dessert areas “less is more” means something else. Does a dry mouth lead to bloodthirsty-ness after all?
5. Postel abbey.
After leaving Leopoldsburg we can finally buy some drinks at a gas station. We’re on our way to Postel abbey where monks produce beer but I won’t get fooled again.
It’s a beautiful autumn day and dry roads take us to the abbey of Postel where we park at the large parking facilities.
Norbertine monks were send to Postel in the 12th century to build a church. The church was situated at an important trade route and it soon provided shelter for travelers. Today there’s the St.Nicholas church (1190), the abbey cheese factory, a guest house and above all the abbey shop where the Postel beer is sold. The Norbertine monks don’t brew the beer but they definitely know how to sell it. In the shop U have to buy them per three, in the early days a lot of travelers arrived with a dry mouth, I guess.
6. Wire of death in Baarle-Hertog.
Normally we would have made an extra stop at the Beguinage of Turnhout but to do so, we had to cross the town centre and shifting gears on the shark isn’t going smoothly, so we divert our route.
At the Dutch-Belgian border there’s a large track leading round the wire of death. The border itself makes a few strange twist and turns and therefore the Belgian village of Baarle-Hertog is completed surrounded by the Netherlands. “Den Duitsch” (the german) was unable to occupy this Belgian island in WW1. Our points of interest are picked from a 24 mile cycle-route that runs through Holland and Belgium but we limit ourself to Belgium soil.
The wire was provided with current from a transformer cabin located in my hometown, Kapellen but at about every 1,4 miles there was a control booth where the German guards could switch off the current in order to evacuate human corpses or cadavers.
Our first stop is at “Schalthaus K5” an exact copy of a control booth in Zondereigen.
Thanks to the poem “In Flanders fields” written by Canadian major and doctor John McCrae, poppies became thé symbol of WW1. The wire of death carries a few poppies at this site.
After a drive by at Merksplas prison we reach our final stop, a guardhouse at Schootsenhoek.
It is with a great deal of satisfaction that we park the Shark in the garage. We are most convinced that the “Lizzytrip” (Lizzy the dog is the reason we took this trip) will
vibrate in our minds for a long time. Not in the least because the beers that were purchased during this trip must be consumed and writing the trip report accompanied by a fine selection of cognacs, will last deep in to the night. I think there’s a good chance, tomorrow, I’ll wake up with a dry mouth.