VISITFLANDERS and its regional partners will launch an 18-month series of new exhibitions and experiences that invite travellers to uncover how the ‘Landscapes’ of Flanders Fields are the last witness to the First World War. Over 100 years ago, the fighting on the Western Front forever transformed the landscapes of Flanders – kilometres of trenches and dugouts, hundreds of cemeteries, monuments and other silent witnesses appearing among picturesque villages, fields and quiet roads.
Today, these marks remain, and are being brought into the spotlight by ‘Landscapes’ a program from VISITFLANDERS and its regional partners which includes the opening of new permanent experiential memorials, sound and light events, augmented reality experiences, specifically curated exhibitions and more. Highlights include:
New ‘Peace Bridge’ to open in Ypres (opens 29 April 2023, permanent memorial) – the fortifications of Ypres will see a new small and tranquil bridge open, a harmonious memorial combining art and architecture, inviting visitors to reflect. Constructed in weathering steel, the guard rail is embellished with the word ‘peace’ in 86 languages.
Augmented Reality Experience at Hooglede ‘One Last Greeting’ (end April 2023 to end 2024) – visitors can use an app to scan QR codes, causing German Nurse Ida to appear to guide them around the German Military Cemetery, bringing to life what she experienced treating the wounded and as a last confident of soldiers before they died.
Vleteren Walk time-travel viewing boxes (29 April 2023 to 31 August 2024) – reintroducing elements of WWI into the current landscape, visitors can look through viewing boxes to peep back in time to discover what would have been visible at those exact spots during wartime. Images include a vanished tram stop, the village square back then and the flooded Yser. The accessible walking route uses paved roads and paths.
Hooge Crater Museum, ‘The Front Eye’ (end April 2023 to end 2024) – at the heritage Hooge chapel, a brand new platform allows you to look out over Hill 60, Hill 62, Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, Hooge Crater Cemetery, Kemmelberg and Ypres Salient. Here, the minimal height differences determined how the Great War progressed, through this new ‘Front Eye’, you can see this for the first time. Also on display, a valuable collection of weapons, uniforms and equipment from the four different armies that took place in WWI, among the most striking items – a life-sized tableaux showing what daily life during the war was like. On-site there is a themed café in a former local schoolhouse where you can view decorated shell casings (shell-art).
CWGC Ieper Information Centre “Witnesses in the Landscape” exhibition (29 April 2023 to 31 August 2024) – no two Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries are the same, an immersive drawing and experience installation relates stories and bite-sized facts about over 20 of these cemeteries, a mix of well-known and hidden sites.
In Flanders Fields Museum new ‘For Evermore: Cemeteries of the First World War’ exhibition (29 April 2023 – 18 Feb 2024), reveals personal stories, unique objects, interactive and multimedia installations. Audio guides, the ‘For Evermore’ podcast and an adapted children’s trail (designed for ages 10+) make this history accessible to all generations.
Talbot House ‘The Talbotousians in War & Peace’ exhibition (30 April 2023 to summer 2024) – during WWI, Talbot House in Poperinge welcomed over half a million Talbotousians – Commonwealth soldiers from throughout the ranks. This new exhibition tells the story of Talbot House founder, Tubby Clayton, bringing to life tales of Talbot House during the war and after – when Tubby and his pilgrims spent many years visiting the graves of deceased comrades. Together, they also founded the global organisation Toc H to support veterans and their families.
Yser Tower ‘Traces in the Landscape’ (3 May 2023 to Autumn 2024) – high up in the panoramic room of Yser Tower, you can relive the construction of the first tower and the deliberate flooding of Yser during WWI.
The Yellow Ribbon Trail (14 May 2023 to 31 August 2024) – hundreds of yellow ribbons connect ten sites in and around Koekelare, from the German Military Cemetery in Vladslo with ‘The Grieving Parents’ sculpture to the Lange Lax Museum. Inspired by the song ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree’ by Dawn, this walking, cycling or driving trail is a symbol of hope for return and of lost loved ones.
Poperinge Visitor Centre ‘Forgotten Tracks’ immersive experience (from 30 June 2024) – housed in an underground annex alongside the visitor centre at
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, floor, wall and ceiling projections coupled with surround sound and lights will transport visitors to a train station during wartime: trains arrive and depart, soldiers march towards the front lines, wounded are taken away and bombs fall in the night…
Flanders Fields outdoor Art Trail ‘Invisible Landscape’ (end June 2023 to end Summer 2024) – impressive art installations bring faded battlefield sites back to life. The land art trail marks places where the fallen were buried, wounded were cared for, tram tracks ran carrying supplies to the soldiers and more. Two trails to choose from, ideal for cycling or walking.
There are many other things to see enjoy drink and eat, in and around the Flanders region.