ZONNEBEKE, Bel. — On the heels of the first meeting between Grand Duke Niels Vermeersch of Flandrensis and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yvan Bertjens, last July (2021), an opportunity came up for a second meeting (with a minimal ecological footprint) on the 27th of November. The agenda for this second mini-summit included a visit to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, a dinner with time to discuss current micronational issues including politics and the climate, and then culminating with the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres.
Below is the report of the meeting directly from MFA Bertjens:
The starting point of our meeting this time was the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917. (https://www.flandersfields.be/en/do/memorial-museum-passchendaele-1917)
The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 presents the historic story of the First World War in a poignant and vivid way, with a particular emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele. This battle in 1917 is known as one of the most horrific battles from the First World War, with more than half-a-million casualties for a territorial gain of merely eight kilometres. ‘Passchendaele’ not only became a concept in the history of the First World War, it also became a symbol of the great futility of the violence of war in all its horror. The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 combines the interactive design of a modern museum with the exceptional aspect of experiencing the Dugouts & Trenches.
As it was getting darker very fast, we took the risk of visiting the Tyne Cot Cemetery shortly before closing time. (https://www.cwgc.org/visit-us/find-cemeteries-memorials/cemetery-details/53300/tyne-cot-cemetery/) We made it in time to visit the memorial and the cemetery as well. As you walk around you constantly hear the name and age of someone who is buried there through speakers placed at the entrance and the walkways and in the memorial centre itself. Relatives from soldiers who died can search for info on their beloved ones on the website, or request information and after some time they will receive all the info with possible pictures etc. from where their family member died and is buried.
The youngest person is aged 14 years. You cannot leave this place with a strange feeling and emotion when walking back to the parking lot. Listening to the names of those who died.
After these visits we headed for the restaurant “De Volksbond” to continue our conversation about the current micro nation climate and things that are happening at this moment.
When looking back at history like this, and compare it to the current day and age. You can see references and similarities all over the world. How governments deal with diplomatic conflicts, the pandemic situation and ongoing wars in different parts of the world. Ladonia and Flandrensis are always looking for a peaceful neutral solution in a conflict because things can escalate quickly without the right context. And sometimes the momentum just isn’t right to put things into motion.
After we finished our dinner, we left for the city of Ypres to participate in the remembrance of the missing WW1 soldiers at the Menin Gate that happens daily at 20:00. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menin_Gate) . You can find a lot of videos about this remembrance on YouTube as well with special visits from soldiers from all over the world. To this day, names are still being added/removed when there’s more info or when they’ve been located and received a proper burial and grave.
In advance, the speaker asks the audience not to applaud for the performance of the trumpeters out of respect for the dead. They play a first time, and after that two people lay down a garland against one of the alcoves. This is also done ever since they started. Then the trumpeters play the last post again and the speaker ends with “Lest we forget.” To let it all sink, in the Grand Duke and I decided to go for a last drink in the city. We passed the Ypres Cloth Hall where there’s a Ladonian link within it — a gilded dragon on top of the belfry. Every time they get it down for renovation (around +- 10 years) the current renovation team leaves a message for the next renovation team. And so on.
This is the side story of the tower: (Be aware if you like cats! It can be sensitive)
“The belfry, capped with four turrets and a spire, houses a carillon with 49 bells. From a pole atop the spire a gilded dragon overlooks the city. The tower offers an expansive view of the surroundings, and was used as a watchtower in centuries past. It has also accommodated the town archives, a treasury, an armory and a prison. In less enlightened times, cats were thrown off the belfry for reasons that are not clearly understood. One theory is that cats were in some way associated with black magic. A different theory is that cats were held to protect the cloth against mice, but the annual excess of kittens had to be dealt with in some way. Today, a jester commemorates this act by tossing stuffed toy felines from the tower during the triennial Cat Parade.”
And so we ended the day with a final walk. With new acquired knowledge and an even tighter diplomatic relationship. We’re both looking forward to the next one, somewhere next year.
— MFA Yvan, Duke Bertjens