The Flanders Field Flop and a Midget Pony
The celebrated Flanders Field rests in Waregem, Belgium. You would think that Belgians would recognize the site as a tourist destination, but it’s actually one of the hardest sites to see. It would appear as though Belgium couldn’t care less about the historic American site (which is also home to many Belgian/Americans who fought in WWI and II). They don’t even have a bike rental option in the area. There is absolutely no transportation that will take you to the site other than pre paid couch tours that are only organized via hotels. From a website, we were advised to take a taxi – it would be the only way. When we arrived at the Waregem train station we asked the ticket booth administrator how we could get to Flanders Field and if there was a bus. He scoffed out a “No bus!” as if it were funny and then said it was quite far away, maybe 5-6 kms. We asked if there was a tourist information centre around where we could get some more help and he kindly wrote out “Stadhuis” on the back of a train ticket.
We spent nearly half an hour trying to find this Stadhuis only to find out it was conveniently closed. Asking a lady in what looked to be a derelict library slash cultural centre where Flanders Field was, she too looked stunned as though she’d never heard of it, but gave us a map of Waregem. Looking at our route, it appeared we’d just wasted the last hour trying to find a closed down tourist house and were almost half way to the fields. We decided to walk to rest of the way. Feeling down in our luck, we were sad we would miss out on a visit to Bruge now that we’d had this run around, but our spirits were oddly lifted at the sight of a midget pony in the middle of a Waregem neighbourhood. It must have been our inner children that found the pony just delight allowing us to forget our Flanders Field flop.
Missing out on seeing Bruge was upsetting, but Morgan made us see it in a better light. “At least we could still visit the home of The Muscles from Brussels.” “Who’s that?” I asked. “Arnold Schwarzenegger” he replied. “Isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger from Austria?” I said. “Oh yeah, I think your right, then who’s from…? Oh crap, it’s Jean-Claude Van Damme. That makes it way less cool.” We laughed, good and hard.
Although peaceful and very well kept, Flanders Field was disappointing. There wasn’t a poppy to be seen. On our way out, the American gentleman working the information booth and also owner of the lone van in the parking lot branding an American boxing glove dangling from the rear view mirror, said that there wasn’t a bus around, but a cosy little walk back to the station. We had made it barely five minutes down the street when the same lone boxing glove van from the field drove up with the information man behind the wheel. He offered us a ride the rest of the way. The man was an ex-vet who had spent the last 20 years in Italy and was now in Waregem awaiting his nearing retirement. He was a U.S. war memorial grounds keeper and was probably the nicest person we experienced in Belgium.