Crafting a trip to Belgium, chocolatey home to sprouts and Poirot and beer and an amazing amount of culture, history and carnage for such a tiny place, I turn once more to Robert Mueller’s excellent, “Fields of War” beyond the usual Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and other nifty volumes.
Mueller’s book is a visitor’s guide to “Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium” and offers the respectful traveler a chance to consider tipping a hat to those millions lost in so many, many, many wars over time. Considering all the wars after wars which bloodied Europe for millenium after millenium, one will not lose one’s head imagining that Europe is some better a place than any other, that its lofty cultural and artistic accomplishments somehow cancel out the unending flow of blood and pain born by the helpless people in their millions victimized by the cruel, mad policies of mad, cruel leaders.
Along with the grand cathedrals and universities and markets we will try to visit the battlefields and graveyards that equally define Europe: There, Ypres and the Ardennes and Bastogne and Ypres again and Ypres a third time, Passchendaele and so much of poppy-red Flanders. “Fields of War” is a terrific and strongly recommended travel companion for anyone passing through just this one small slice of Europe’s war-torn real estate.
It offers explanations of the battles, when such can be explained; maps; travel routes; history in a nutshell; and consumer information galore. Yes, of course there are sprouts and churches and beer and chocolate to enjoy, but decency insists on honoring and reflecting on the horrid losses endured there to make such as that visitable. This books helps so much.
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