Ieper or Ypres in French is the fifth biggest city in West-Flanders (Belgium) and is also known as the the city of cats. Next to the beautiful old buildings, the city also has a lot of history from the first world war. This mixture of the old buildings and the reminders of the First World War makes it a must see when passing through West Flanders.
The Rijselpoort (the gate that connects Ieper and Lille) is the oldest intact gate the city has from the 14th Century. The gate has been rebuilt several times through history, it was partially destroyed after the world wars as well and so they rebuilt it. There is also a small military cemetery situated next to the gate. It is nice to see how the gate has sustained its purpose and people can still enter the city by going underneath it.
The Menenpoort is a memorial built in remembrance of the unidentified British soldiers who lost their lives during the first world war. Around 55 000 names are written on the monument. When carving the names in the memorial it ended up not being big enough for every name. That is why the names of the soldiers who passed away after the battle of Langemark are mentioned on the Tyne Cot memorial. From the year 1928 onwards (except during the second world war) a group of local firemen play the clarion at 8 a` clock in the evening, in remembrance of how these soldiers fought for us.
This church used to be a cathedral in the past until the year 1802 and is often still referred to as one. It is also one of the tallest buildings in Belgium (102 meters). It was rebuilt after it had been destroyed in the First World War. The church is very beautiful and can be visited from 9 am to 5 pm, outside of the Mass hours on Saturday and Sunday. It's a nice and quiet break from the traffic noises you hear all the time.
The city Ieper is known for its Cloth Hall, known as Lakenhalle. This is the place where the trading of cloth used to take place, but it is also known for something different and perhaps more cruel. As I said before, the city is known as the city of cats. The reason for this is that until the year 1817, cats were thrown yearly from the tower of the cloth hall. There are two general believed reasons as to why this happened. The first is that as many other cities the people of Ieper were scared of witches and tried hunting them down. It was said that witches could transform into black cats or they had a cat as companion and that was why the cats where targeted. Another reason was that because the building was used to store cloth there were a lot of mice in the cellar. To counter this the people of Ieper let loose some cats between the stored cloth in the cellar. Once the trading season had ended and all the cloth had been sold, the cats were no longer needed and to prevent an overflow of cats, they were thrown from the high tower. It is said that when they threw down the last cat in 1817, it landed unhurt on its four paws and ran away to never be found again.
If you like medieval buildings, then this one will be to your liking as well. There used to be a hospital instead of the Court of Justice on this spot, but it was destroyed during the First World War. They started the construction of the court house in 1924 and it was completed around the year 1929. In this building they used some of the original walls of the hospital that had remained standing after the destruction of the war. It gives this building a nice touch, you can also see the old entrance gate in de street "Korte Torhoutstraat".
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