Photo Essay: The cemetery losing its Battle against Time

About 10 years ago, on a cold and misty Saturday morning, Lara and I visited this cemetery.

This cemetery was built in the 19th century and is known as the resting place of Hergé, the man who gave us Tintin. He is actually one of the last people buried here. Another reason why the cemetery is wort a visit are the beautiful monuments and the rich fauna and flora. Have a look for yourself!

Children’s graves
Grave of Hergé

Address: Dieweg 95, Ukkel.


The Tragic Story behind The Grieving Parents by Käthe Kollwitz

In the early 2000s, a good friend and I spent a marvelous weekend in Cologne. We indulged ourselves in food, drinks, art and especially, the spa of the hotel. One of our plans was also to visit the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, but somehow we didn’t make it. But the name stuck in my head, and when I returned to the city some years later, I was finally able to visit the museum. And I was blown away…

Käthe Kollwitz was born in 1867 in Königsberg (Prussia), a city that is now known as Kaliningrad (Russia). As an artist, she worked with sculptures, printmaking, and paintings. She was heavily influenced by Realism at the beginning of her career but is nowadays mainly seen as a representative of Expressionism.

In the museum in Cologne, I saw a lot of her prints which usually depict the influence of war and poverty on the working classes. I did not have permission to photograph anything though so I had to make do with some postcards of her work. One of them depicted a statue called The Grieving Parents, but at that moment I just looked at it and pinned it on the wall of my living room when I was back home. And then… it became part of my many travel memories.

Fast forward to the summer of 1917… I am perusing a touristic magazine, looking for some inspiration for a weekend excursion, when I make 2 big discoveries. First of all, there is actually a small museum in Koekelare (West Flanders, Belgium), dedicated to Käthe Kollwitz and her son. And moreover, the statue of The Grieving Parents is located in a nearby World War I cemetery. But little did I know then that there is a sad link between the two places…

Anyway, our first stop that same day was the museum in Koekelare.

If you don’t know anything about Käthe Kollwitz, her life and her work, this place with its small collection is a good introduction, although I strongly recommend a visit to the museum in Cologne as well. But the most interesting part of the museum here in Koekelare is the video presentation about Kollwitz and her youngest son, Peter. And the origins of The Grieving Parents…

Just before World War I, Germany was in a state of economic, social and political turmoil; some intellectuals even thought that a (world) war would be the best solution to rebuild the country. Käthe Kollwitz and her son Peter shared these thoughts as well and when World War I broke out, she supported his wish to go to the front in Belgium. Although the father was against the idea, Peter finally went to the war… only to be killed less than a week later.

Overcome by grief and guilt, the death of her son sent Käthe Kollwitz in a long and severe depression. Soon though she wanted to express her feelings and newfound pacifism into art, but between the original idea and the final result lie more than 15 years. The first home of the sculpture was at the cemetery in Roggevelde in the early 1930s, but nowadays you can find it near Peter’s grave in the Vladslo German war cemetery.

The address of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum is Brouwerijstraat 13/15, 8680 Koekelare. It’s actually part of a cultural center. And there is also a cafe…

When in Belgium, always make time for beer. Local beer…

The Vladslo German war cemetery is only a couple of kilometers away from the museum site.

In Belgium, there are actually only 4 German war cemeteries: in Hooglede, Menen, Langemark, and this one which contains the remains of more than 25.000 people.

The two statues are so magnificent…

The gaze of the father is eternally fixed on the tombstone of his son.

By the time I took the following picture, I had tears in my eyes…

Address: Houtlandstraat 3, 8600 Diksmuide.

Keep on following us and join us on our next trip in another corner of Europe!

Where Magritte Found His Inspiration

Even if you are not an art aficionado, you must have heard about René Magritte, Belgium’s most famous Surrealist painter. In the Belgian capital, you can visit two museums dedicated to the artist and his work. The biggest one is located in Brussels itself, near the Royal Palace and has become one of the main tourist attractions there. A smaller one is in the house in Jette where he used to live.

But there is a place elsewhere in Belgium, in the province of Hainaut, that has a very special link with Magritte, something not so many people know about. It’s the old cemetery in Soignies (Zinnik in Dutch), located not so far from the church. It was first mentioned around 1320 and lost its function as the main cemetery at the end of the 19th century. Nowadays it’s used as a park: a lot of tombstones have been relentlessly taken over by nature.

Anyway, as a child, Magritte used to come to Soignies on holidays. There, he liked to play at the old cemetery with one of his friends. And then one day, something caught his attention: a painter quietly working at the cemetery. At exactly that moment, a young Magritte knew that he wanted to become an artist as well. As an adult, he always thought fondly back of that precise time.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of this information until I saw it in a tv program. And then I immediately knew I had to see this place for myself, especially since I have always been of Magritte and his work. So on a beautiful sunny autumn day in 2017, Lars and I drove to Soignies. As luck would have it we could park our car right next to the old cemetery.

With the golden sunlight piercing through the leaves of the trees, the whole scene looked so tranquil, almost fairytale-like,…

From the main entrance of the cemetery, you have a good look at the chapel, in the center. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Near Soignies is located the spring of the Senne, the river that runs through Brussels – although underground for the main part. Lars and I drove around for an hour in order to find it but failed miserably…

I will add more pictures of the old cemetery of Soignies shortly on our Instagram feed!

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