We have finally arrived! This trip has been a long time coming. Much research, planning and anticipation has gone into the preparation for today and the two weeks to come.
You will have to excuse this blog post if I start to ramble off on random tangents or cut it off in the wrong spot…. Jet lag! I think all of us can speak to this tonight. But, what a day! I am feeling extremely lucky to be on this trip with such an amazing group! I’ve already learned so much and can’t wait to continue. Every place we visited, every conversation had, were highlights of the day for me.
When driving along the winding roads of Ypres, Dave Patterson (General, driver and comedian) began pointing out various movements within the battles on the Ypres salient… “You see that hill? The Germans held that hill and advanced in this direction towards the British…etc”. It was these moments that I realized how incredible it is to be here. I tried to close my eyes and imagine the beautiful green farm land of Belgium looking muddy, dark, full of craters and littered with bodies… But it was near impossible. Until we passed a bunker, one lonely bunker in a field, still in tact.. The war was not that long ago.
One of the biggest highlights for me today was exploring the great war museum in Péronne. It was refreshing to walk through a museum that so well brings to light what citizens pre war, citizens during war, soldiers during war, and soldiers after war thought of what was going on. Not just British or French citizens, but Canadians, Germans, and Russians too. It put the great war into context like I never thought was possible at a museum, showing pieces from Germans, French, Britts, etc. These exhibits were also quite subtle, no flashy lights, no somber dark music. It’s not only the fact that this museum chooses not to be exclusive in the history they are telling, but they also display these exhibits in a remarkable fashion. For example, the first room contextualizes the world on the cusp of war by showing things such as propoganda (and not categorizing it as a negative “trick” to help enlistment numbers rise), children’s games, etc. It falls away from one standard idea or collective memory of what pre war life was like, and rather looks at each countries experience individually. The second room, which displays various exhibits to depict the entre into war, all soldiers uniforms are laid on the ground, which is unique for a museum, but represents the men who fought on the ground and died on the ground and are forever reside in the ground.
So many discussions surrounding our ever changing memory of war were had here. This museum brought to light how selective we as Canadians can be of how we remember the first world war as it was truly unbiased to one side or another.
I hope to learn more about the how we remember and why we remember the way we do while we continue our journey!