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Artillery shells line the shelves at Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, near Ypres, Belgium. (Photograph by Tomas Munita, Redux)

Celebrating Armistice Day ‘In Flanders Fields’

A hundred years have passed since the outbreak of World War I, a milestone vividly felt in the western Belgian town of Ypres, which endured some of the conflict’s fiercest fighting.

On Armistice Day (November 11), thousands will crowd the streets, monuments, and cemeteries of this textile town turned shrine to the fallen.

> Tapped Out: Gather under the Menin Gate, a memorial to the missing inscribed with nearly 60,000 names, where buglers have played “Last Post” almost every night since 1928. The November 11 ceremony here will also air on a big screen in the Market Square.

> Flower Power: Poppies as a symbol of remembrance grew from “In Flanders Fields,” a poem penned by Lt. Col. John McCrae near Ypres. At the In Flanders Fields Museum, microchipped poppy bracelets bring Great War heroes to life, including frontline nurse Nellie Spindler, the only woman buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

> Scarlet Fever: At the Poppy Parade, partakers carry petals from St. George’s Memorial Church to the Menin Gate, where they are scattered from the rooftop.

  • Travel Trivia: Besides poppies, Belgium blooms with tulips, which arrived in Antwerp in 1562—three decades before the bulbs made it to Holland.

This piece, written by Kimberley Lovato, appeared in the November 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimberleyLovato.

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