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Published: September 26th 2015
Money is a bit tight for 2015 with buying a house so plans to visit Peru have been put on hold. But a year without any travelling? Surely I couldn't possibly manage that! I had some money saved and decided that I'd like to visit Belgium. The British pound had been strong against the Euro prior to the Greek bailout so I got planning my itinerary and accommodation quickly. Also, I had discovered a site called Couchsurfing and had managed to arrange a few nights of being hosted for free. As a supermarket called Tesco says "every little helps" especially when travelling on a tight budget.
With Belgium being so close to the UK, I decided that I'd be able to see more locations by taking my car. I drove my car to the port of Dover and got a ferry over to Calais in France. The ferry journey literally took an hour and I was in France, driving on the wrong side of the road; Oh, I mean the opposite side :-)
My first destination was Diksmuide in Belgium. A friend I had travelled with 2 years ago, suggested I stay at a campsite he was working at.
As I was on a budget, it sounded a great idea. It was also good to be able to see my friend as it had been over 2 years since we last met.
Diksmuide is a small city in West Flanders. I discovered before travelling that Diksmuide had an important part in the First World War as the Belgiums opened the flood gate to the river Yser to prevent the Germans taking over the French ports of Dunkirk and Calais. The city has a peace monument called the Yser Tower, which was built after the First World War, but was demolished in 1946 because during the Second World War it had been the scene of Nazi ceremonies and collaboration. The current tower was rebuilt in the 1950's. Annoyingly there was an annual music festival which stopped me from being able to visit the tower, but usually this is open to the public. In the centre of Diksmuide you have the Town Hall and St Nicholas Church. There is also the pretty Flemish beguinages (A French word known as the semi-monastic community of women called Beguines) Beguines were chaste, independent women who led communal lives from the 13th century until
the First World War. About 1 mile out of the city centre, Diksmuide has the 'Trench of Death', one of the last remaining trenches from the First World War. I believe it's called the Trench of Death because 60,000 soldiers lost their lives in it. There is also a museum built next to the trenches and gives access to them. However, when I had arrived at the museum, it had closed. Luckily, I could still visit the trenches by walking around the back.
My first day in Belgium and it was extremely hot, around 33c. The locals were telling me that this weather was unusual for the time of year. Of course extremely warm weather can bring storms and I found myself waking up at 2am in my tent to crazy thunder and lighting. The storm stopped after half an hour but started again at 4am. This time the storm lasted 4 hours. I experienced crazy thunder and lighting, heavy rain started leaking into the tent and a gust of wind which moved the tent slightly. The wind lasted for 5 minutes only and I started to get cold and wet so got inside my car, dried myself put
a clean top on and slept inside for the rest of the storm.
The next day the Dutch couple camping next to me told me that their tent also started to blow away and that there was going to be another storm again in the evening/night. I discovered there was a tornado about 5 kilometres away so would explain where the gust of wind came from. I didn't fancy trying to survive another storm!
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