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WESTERN EUROPE - THE “HISTORIC MINDSET” TOUR

Bruges Postcard

BRUGES

"AS CLOSE TO MAN CREATING BEAUTY"

The bus stopped at a small fortress structure which guarded a bridge crossing over a canal. I crossed over the bridge into a time warp of architectural splendour. I walked along narrow cobble stone paths, beside quaint residential houses which huddled together for warmth.

On my way from the bus stop to the hostel I witnessed a stereotypical, small town, northern European scene. An old man pushing his bicycle along the cobbled street; his bread and fruit bundled in a basket, ready to tell any tourist to go to hell if they dared to interrupt his thoughts.

It was a short walk from the hostel, down the confined cobblestone streets, to a medieval square. Here horse drawn carriages waited patiently for spring and the oncoming tourist season. Nearby were canals and some modern day sculptures.

The day was cold but clear. The water upon the canals was calm, reflecting the nearby buildings perfectly. Personally I was coming to the end of my cold. I was therefore able to walk around the town without having to carry a bundle of handkerchiefs with me. I shall reserve that privilege should I ever get invited to a wedding in Bruges in the future. Apparently the town is a popular destination for those types of events.

But that can wait. For now I still had much of Europe to see.

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Close to Bruges was the small town of Ypres, situated on the country’s western border, close to France. Over 300,000 Allied soldiers were killed in the surrounding fields during four years of fierce fighting. The area was part of the Western Front’s trench warfare in World War I. Both sides of the battle became engrossed in the sacrifice of lives in the attempt to break a stale mate that stood stead fast. Neither side could break the other’s defences as the war drew wearily on.

In the first half of the 20th century the likes of Belgium faced a torrid time in a Europe which was in turmoil. Been a small country, with a small population, with powerful neighbours France, Britain and Germany close by, it was very much the proverbial meat in the sandwich.

Bruges around town
Bruges around town

Before World War I they were a neutral country but this neutrality was ignored as the Germans decided it would be easier to attack France, arriving in Paris via Belgium, from the north. This was seen as a better alternative than attacking the French fortresses along the Franco-German border. The Belgium soldiers fought gamely but inevitably most of their country was over run.

So what of New Zealand with its minimal military might and small population? What if New Zealand was invaded would my home country be able to defend itself? Although its borders are protected by the sea if New Zealand is ever invaded what part will I play?

Would my instincts be to protect my capitalist fortune? Would I see it as an opportunity to make a dollar and sell my countries sovereignty in the process? After all, there would be new contacts to be made with the new government officialdom and new business contracts to be won from the new rulers.

Currently it is the billionaires who are the rulers of the western world. Some might say they finance the elections to get in power those they want and own the media for a similar purpose. Would I sit back and watch those future powers dissolve if a non-democratic government took over? What would I do if this new government in power was one which I could not control?

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I did not go to nearby Ypes and view the many graves which the dead filled in the belief that they fought for a just cause. Instead I headed to the capital of Belgium, Brussels. Brussels was soon to be the centre of the new European government. I had much research to complete there. If I was to spin my corporate web through the world I would need to influence governments and those within the European Union would need to be involved in my future plans.