Ramparts & Casemates, Ieper
After Napoleon was defeated permanently in Waterloo, the Lowlands were unified in one strong country North of France (an attempt to prevent another easy growth in power of this country). King Willem I started to modernise Ieper's defensive fortress again in an attempt to give the people a feeling of safety and importance. Soon the Belgians however were not satisfied with Dutch rule and the split was swift and sudden. For the firts in history, Belgium came on the European map as an independant state.
On the largest outpost (point sticking out from the bastion walls) there is a strange sculpture on the grass. It is vagely recognised as being two figures that are talking to one another and it seems to be that they are Reynaerd (the fox) and Tybeert (the cat). These animals figures are from one of the oldest literary works in Europe, the Dutch lingual "Van den Vos Reynaerde" = about the foc Renard). In a stone near the statue is a part of the fable inscribed.
"Tes hi quam te Malpertus
ende van't Reynaerde in zijn huus
Alleene staen verweendelike
Tybeert sprac: God die Rike
moete u goeden avont geven
Die coninc dreecht u aan uw leve ni
ne comdi niet te hove met mi"
Into the ground that lays against the bastion wall, mirroring into the defensive canal water, there are some stairs. These are entrances to the casemats, the tunnels and rooms that were build in the fortress to house the soldiers and make swift undetected moves of men possible. There is also a door that we pass along our walk. This is the one leading to the ice cellar. A deep place that was filled in winter's time with the ice from the canal. Deep underground this kept the place cool well into summer. A perfect fridge to keep food good for longer periods.
When we walk the path over the bastionwalls we will see some remarkable things. It starts already close at the Menin Gate, where a white square stone shows strange signs on the side of the path. They other side however gives the translation in which it becomes clear that it remembers the Indian soldiers that fell in the first world war. With British Expeditionary Force they too came as part of the Commonwealth.
After the horror in Ieper, the fortress shapes were still significantly present in the landscape of the West Corner in Flanders. All the rest was destroyed, but the fortress held, as well as the British Saillant did during the many attacks of the Germans. Now the fortress shapes and walls form a surrounding green park that offer a beautiful walk over a higher ground. At the Menin Gate we therefor will go up the stairs reading the names still and then start walking over the bastion. On the right hand Ieper's towers rise in the air. Saint Jacob's most close, as well as little later Saint Peter's. Little further the Belfort and the Cathedral.
French architect Vauban planned the enormous works to make from Ieper a giant fortress in the North of his country. Louis the 14th ordered him to secure the Northern freshly won areas and the fortifications of the bastion were started with a nine meter high wall with five pointy strongholds sticking out into the open land surrounding Ieper. A canal in which some islands was another obstakle the enemy had to win. Behind the walls there was a artificial hill created that lay against it and contained kilometers long tunnels. So called casemats. Here were rooms for the defensive force.
De Vestingsroute is a walk from about 2,5 km that follows the old ramparts of Ypres. It's a very quiet walk in the middle of nature.
During the walk you'll find 23 information displays that tell about the ramparts and about the wildlife in the river.
It's nice to make a walk along the ramparts of the city. You simply walk around the inner city, past the Menin Gate and Lille Gate.