Exploring Nature and History in Ostend, Belgium
I didn’t get enough of Belgium. The waffles, the strong beer, the green trees and pitched roofs. It all left me wanting more. I loved pretty much everything I saw and did in the short 24 hours we were in the country. This includes a fantastic morning in Ostend, Belgium. This small seaside town was less than a 30-minute drive from our rental in Bruges, making it an ideal day trip from the larger city.
Our first stop was for a quick play on the beach. We easily found an oceanfront parking lot with plenty of spaces early in the day. We found a wide, clean sand beach with a great little playground. When reflecting on the trip, I loved the realization that we were able to play on the beach in two countries, even though this was a road-tripping, history-seeking adventure.
Raversyde Atlantikwall Museum
After a short romp, we headed over to the Atlantic Wall Museum, Raversyde, “where nature and history meet.” This impressive open-air museum begins at a home of the Belgian Prince Charles who lived in this seaside retreat until his death. While the Nazi’s Atlantic Wall at one point stretched from the Spanish-French border to Norway, this tiny pocket of Belgian coast is the best preserved, thanks to the prince’s determination that history be protected.
Accompanied by an informative audio guide, we were able to wander through beautiful fields and dunes, stopping at the only preserved German coastal battery from World War II, as well as bunkers and gun positions from World War II. We peered over machine guns and saw nothing but the expansive ocean. We walked through sleeping quarters and the first aid bunker. Everything is very well preserved and restored, and the landscape is beautiful, if military history isn’t your thing.
It was amazing to see the wheels turning as Henry imagined what it is like to be a “good guy” soldier who sleeps in a bunk and shoots big guns. I, for one, thought about the energy and resources that went into protecting this land, this coast, and the effectiveness of it all. And, how truly beautiful this world is, and truly worth protecting.
Logistically, it was uncrowded and peaceful. We were able to take our time and still see it all within a couple of hours. I will caution though that once you are out on the trail, a bathroom is not easily accessible. But, the walk back to the Prince’s compound is beautiful, if not quick.