Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 2:00 p.m. In Belgium now, on the road to Adegem, and then Bruges. It is still raining, but not so hard as before. We have moved from an 8-lane divided highway to one with 4 lanes and then, later, one with 2 lanes. Along the way we stop at a highway service centre for lunch. It is still very flat here and along the way we are passing through many small villages. Typically the houses are small, neat and well-kept. Most have flower gardens and manicured lawns. There is a pride of ownership here, and nothing seems out of place.
4:00 p.m. Arrive at the Canada-Poland War Museum, near Adegem, Belgium. This is a private museum built and run by Gilbert Van Lanschoot, (see the video above). He welcomes us into the museum when we arrive and explains his motivation for building it. Click here for a virtual tour of the main entrance and lobby.
During the war Gilbert’s father, Maurice Van Lanschoot, worked for the Belgian Resistance. In 1944 Maurice was caught by the Nazis and was about to be executed when he was rescued by Canadian troops sweeping into the country. Owing them his life, Maurice always felt that Canadians weren’t as well recognized as war heroes as their American and British counterparts. Before he died in 1987 he revealed his story for the first time to his son, Gilbert. His last request was that Gilbert should build a facility to honour the sacrifice of Canadian and Polish troops during the liberation of Belgium.
Known as the Canada-Poland War Museum, the facility Gilbert Van Lanschoot built is the only war museum dedicated to the efforts of Canadian soldiers in Belgium during World War II. One of the finest private war museums in Europe, it features an impressive collection of authentic World War II paraphernalia including an extensive collection of weapons, vehicles, uniforms. Many articles are set up in large dioramas which display a dozen authentic WW II battlefields in 1/35 scale. A monumental panorama representing the Battle for the Leopold Canal is particularly effective. The museum complex is also host to some beautiful gardens, including a French Garden with thousands of roses, and an English garden with ponds and waterfalls.
7:00 p.m. Next up is supper in Bruges, Belgium, where we will be spending the night. It is still raining and the wind is up now too. Sometimes it turns our umbrellas inside-out as we take the brief walk from our hotel to the main Bruges square where we find the restaurant. Supper is memorable here since it features excellent Belgian craft beer and the house speciality – mussels in cream sauce. Thanks, Michael for teaching me how to eat them!.