HASSELT and IEPER: things to see

Hasselt: city hall, Japanese garden, Bokrijk
Ieper: Cloth Hall


Hasselt is a beautiful and quiet city where it is nice to stroll around, and it has many shops, restaurants and cafes ! Nevertheless, its points of interest are rather limited. Noteworthy is the city hall, built in 1630 as a patrician house and purchased by the city in 1779, and the Japanese Garden, an initiative of the sister cities of Hasselt and Itami (Japan).

In 1991, Hasselt made a gift of a carillon tower to Itami, and in 1992, Itami built an exquisite Japanese garden in Hasselt, based on the traditional 17th century Japanese Tea Garden. With a surface of 2.5 hectares, this is the largest Japanese garden in Europe !

The Provincial Domain of Bokrijk is located between Hasselt and Genk, and it is an open air museum, arboretum, and outdoor playground, with a surface of 550 hectares. The museum opened in 1958, and it contains some 140 authentic buildings. There are also many antique tools and utensils from the daily life of the 17th century.

Hasselt : city hall Hasselt : Japanese Garden
city hall
Japanese Garden
Bokrijk 1 Bokrijk 2

Ypres - Ieper

Ieper (Ypres) is already documented in the 11th century as Iprensis or Ipera, named after the river Ieperlee, a waterway to the sea. In the 12th century, the city flourished and became the third most important city in Flanders, after Ghent and Bruges. In 1241, a huge fire destroyed large parts of the city, but after 1250 the textile industry developed strongly, and the Cloth Hall with its Belfry was built. Cloth from Ypres was found as far as in the Russian Novgorod !

However, Flanders became entangled in several trade disputes with England, and the lack of wool caused an economic downturn, which continued during the 15th and 16th century. In 1566 Ypres was devastated by the Iconoclasm, and in 1575 it was overrun by the Beggars...

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Ypres served as a battlefield between Spanish and French troops, with a temporary pause under Austrian rule. In 1794, Ypres once again was conquered by the French, and in 1815 it came under Dutch rule. After the Belgian independence, the city completely lost its importance in 1850, in favor of the Ghent textile industry.

During World War I and throughout the entire war, Ypres was besieged on three sides by German troops, but they failed to conquer the city, although chlorine and mustard gas were used ! In 1918, the last battle of Ypres was fought, which destroyed almost the entire city. Barely six weeks later, on November 11, 1918, the war was over.

After the war there was a (purely political...) calling not to rebuild Ypres at all, and just leave it as it was, to commemorate the war ! Fortunately, with a lot of German money (the "Wiedergutmachung"), Ypres was again reconstructed, even if it took more than forty years. For many, and especially for the British, Ypres became the symbol of the First World War. Around the city there are more than 170 cemeteries, for the more than 500,000 deaths that were deplored !

Ypres : the Cloth Hall in 1919 Ypres : the Cloth Hall now
the Cloth Hall in 1919
the Cloth Hall
** Continue reading with a look at Kortrijk, Leuven and Lier **
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