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In Flanders Fields

BY ABBY

rain 13 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Ypres: Flanders Museum

Ypres: Flanders Museum

Today we travelled out of France and into Belgium, but we weren’t too heartbroken because we would be back in France again at the end of our trip, and although the place we were staying in was lovely, it lacked one crucial thing: Wi-Fi. As you all know the blogs have been coming in at a very slow pace, and this isn’t because we haven’t been keeping on top of things, it’s because the internet access we did have was very slow and we often weren’t able to connect. Plus there was a storm, which didn’t help things much. But now that we are back online you can all look forward to some more fantastic blogs from yours truly.

The morning pack was smooth and we got out the door before 9:30, a good time to start on our drive of over four hours. The drive was uneventful, so we filled the time by looking at the countless fields of cows and listening to podcasts on various subjects. Today’s topics were Octopi (using the forms Octopuses and Octopods are acceptable as well), tone-deafness and whether or not it is hereditary, and tipping. Thank you Chuck and Josh for filling us up with sparkling knowledge from your ever spewing fountain.

Click here, here and here to find out a little more about Chuck and Josh and what they do.

After the long drive, a lunch stop and what seemed like thousands of tolls, we were finally at our destination. It took us no trouble at all to find our new house, and the lady who rents it is one of the nicest and most helpful people you could ever meet (plus she speaks English so that scores big points too). We got to the house at 3 and it wouldn’t be ready for us for another hour so we drove off to check out the “In Flanders Field Museum”.

The museum was all about the First World War, and all four of us thought it was very well done. Unlike the Juno Beach Centre and its coverage of World War II, it gave more of an idea of how brutal and terrible the war really was. Every part of the museum was done in the four languages that would be most commonly spoken: English, Dutch (or maybe it was Flemish), German and French. We learned that around Belgium most people know at least two languages. Our host speaks four fluently (English, Flemish, Dutch and French), and knows a little German as well.

My favourite part of the museum was the video screens they had. They had gotten actors to dress up and present accounts of their time either at war or as a nurse or doctor treating the soldiers. There were many of these scattered around the length of the exhibit, but the best one was about 15 minutes long in the centre of the museum. It was like a small theater with seats and a large screen so that it would be more efficient for everyone to view. This long film was all about the nurses and doctors. There were two nurses in this film, one young and another one more experienced. The doctor was the oldest of the three, and told less accounts of taking care of patients, and more about what he had heard about what was going on in the field.

St Julien Monument

St Julien Monument

On the way home we took a quick stop at a Canadian War Memorial dedicated to all the Canadians that had died in the gas bombing while fighting for the British side. It was very simple but I liked it quite a lot. One thing that the museum had mentioned us (Canadians) for is our abundance of rememberance acts, such as our poppy tradition, our many memorials and the ten dollar bill which is dedicated to the rememberance of the soldiers who went to war.

When we got home our host showed us around and even gave us some homemade chocolate biscuits. The house is perfect, and Hannah is determined to find something wrong because she said that every place has to have a flaw. I’m hoping that the only flaw we’ve found so far will be the last, and that’s that there are no bowls. My dad says the problem with this place is that we booked it for only two nights and not longer.

Posted by KZFamily 12:44 Archived in Belgium Tagged chocolate travel museum belgium world_war_one in_flanders_fields_museum Comments (2)

Vatican City

By Hannah

rain 7 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Rome: Saint Peter's

Rome: Saint Peter's

We visited another country today. Vatican City is 0.44 square kilometres, the smallest country in the world. It has roughly 800 citizens, one of which is the Pope, obviously. And if anyone asks you how many popes there are per square kilometre in the Vatican, the answer to this trick question is 2.27 repeating. The more you know.

Rome: Saint Peter's --Michelangelo's Pieta

Rome: Saint Peter's --Michelangelo's Pieta

St. Peter's Basilica was a sight to behold. The entire building is over the top and elaborate, every inch of it bedecked with gold, marble, paintings, and sculptures. When my neck got sore from staring at the ceiling, I simply moved onto the altar, with its winding pillars and bronze angels. Then the walls, laden with paintings and intricate embellishments. There really was no end of things to gawk at. Even the floor was a masterpiece. The basilica is huge - 614 feet long, and 435 feet high at the peak of the dome - and certainly celebrates the gift that is Christ in its own magnificence. One of my favourite features was Michelangelo's Pietà. It's a breathtaking sculpture, and draws a constant crowd. The expressiveness of the two faces is what makes the piece really remarkable.

Vatican Museum: Map Gallery

Vatican Museum: Map Gallery

Eventually, we decided to go and see the Vatican Museum. Another massive building, it has over 42 000 square metres of exhibition space (to give some perspective, the Louvre has about 60 600 square metres). There is everything from Egyptian relics to Greek sculptures to Renaissance paintings. Raphael's School of Athens was a highlight for us, and we made a game of trying to guess who was who. Plato and Aristotle were the obvious ones, and we spotted Raphael's self portrait peeking out at us from the right. We think we found Pythagoras, too. The Gallery of Maps was also pretty fantastic. The room seemed to go on forever. I'll take a risk and say that it rivals Versailles' Hall of Mirrors. But the museum's crowning jewel was, of course, the Sistine Chapel. Entering the place makes you feel like you've stepped into a enormous painting, save the tourists gaping at the ceiling. You can see why Michelangelo had hated the four year long task. It would have been incredibly uncomfortable, working on your back with your arm in the air and paint dripping on your face. But wow, am I ever glad he did it. As do the other four million visitors that flock to this place every year, I'm sure. I could've stayed there for much longer than we did.

Vatican Museum: Raphael Room--School of Athens

Vatican Museum: Raphael Room--School of Athens

After our tour, we popped back into St. Peter's in order to get a look at the grotto underneath the church. It was a pretty place, all soft white lights and marble, with the coffins of the popes of the past century. It wasn't all that big, and when we exited, we almost thought that we'd made a mistake, and missed a room or something. We didn't see Pope John Paul II anywhere, though we thought that one of the statues might've been dedicated to him.

The bus ride home was cold, tiring, and very, very cramped. After each stop, I'd think to myself, "Well, that's it. The bus is full. I guess people are just gonna have to wait for the next one." And each time, I was wrong. It was definitely a sardines-in-a-tin-can situation. Finally, we arrived at home. Mom crashed (jetlag is awful), and Abby, Dad and I went out for a quick grocery run. We're doing our best to buy nothing but the essentials and use up all the food we already have. There'll be no room for it when we fly to Sicily on Saturday. Wait, Saturday? That's not nearly enough time in Rome! *sigh* I guess I'll just have to come back. Better throw a coin in Trevi Fountain tomorrow.

Posted by KZFamily 14:13 Archived in Italy Tagged italy city museum vatican grotto Comments (4)

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