Monday, October 27, 2008

Verdun and the WW1 Battlegrounds

9-28-08 Dijon to Verdun

We are both getting very tired. We’ve had a lot of consecutive, one night stays and on the go constantly. We are looking forward to changing gears and moving into Belgium and Netherlands for a change of scenery and some multiple night stays in nice B&Bs.

This morning we eat the hotel breakfast, not wanting to even try to find anything open on Sunday morning. Everything is France is closed on Sunday except restos for dinner and church, which is the way it should be.

The 3 ½ drive is a mix of small roads and some Autoroute. The landscape is changing to rolling wheat fields, more cows and lots of big wind turbines to power the small towns. It is good to see alternative power sources at work. The tiny, villages are quaint and typical farm towns. Other than food they grow, where do they shop for other incidentals? All the sizable towns worth any kind of market, are not close, they must stock up on 1-2 week runs. But, just about every town has a patisserie – shame on them if they don’t!

We arrive at our B&B at around 1pm, it is just gorgeous and Valerie greeted us in perfect English. She gave us all kinds of Verdun visiting brochures and resto recommends for dinner.

Our B&B, so quiet and tranquil.

We unload and head off first to eat some lunch at one of the few restos open on Sunday in the area. It was more of a bar, had some pasta, just OK. Then on to the Battlefields of Verdun from WW1. Verdun was one the bloodiest battles ever, 300,000 French and German soldiers killed in about a 300 day period in 1914. The battle over the town of Verdun and all the small surrounding villages, did nothing but mame, kill and leave every town completely destroyed. The whole area was left as a pockmarked lunar landscape from all the bomb and mortar holes left behind.

We visited the excellent museum first, displaying weapons, uniforms, tools, vehicles, medical supplies, and just about everything else war brings including propaganda and political cartoons. The story boards were thoughtfully translated into several languages, so we were able to really grasp the stories of the hideous war. The Germans were hell bent on taking over France, both in WW1 and in WW2.

Next, we visited Fort du Douamont, a French fort build partly underground covered in earth for camouflage. We pass on the inside, instead walking the outside. Again the visable bomb holes are everywhere as are visable, bullet holes, scrapes and mortar holes on everything.

Just down the road are many zig zig trenches the troops used for protection, cover and sleep. I just can’t imagine the conditions in those narrow pits, men clamouring for their own little space – UGH!

Terry in a trench and a Verdun road marker.

On up the road to the cemetery and memorial, nothing more than a huge building with towering, pointed obliske. The buried French soldiers each have an engraved, concrete cross with a pink rose bush planted in front.

The last stop was the Bayonnette Trench memorial. Many years after the war, as surveyors were removing war junk and live ammo from the area, they found some bayonettes sticking up from the ground, in a row. As they dug, they unearthed soldiers bones and their gear as if they were buried alive. They immediately reburied the men in place, declared it a memorial, preserving the trench and built a protective building over top.

Verdun photos

We drove the 10 mins back to our B&B to settle in and try to see if we have internet. Our hostess, Valerie is gone but her teenage son, who doesn’t speak English, graciously tries to help us connect to their WiFi, with no success. The only thing we can figure it our keyboards are very different so something in the password was not translating properly. (Who knows?) We noticed a McD’s in Verdun earlier, so we thanked him for the help and headed there. Still couldn’t connect, turned out you needed a special cord for their service. ARG! We ate a snack and left, still no internet. Who knew it would be this hard?

Tonight, we are in a beautiful, comfy B&B and looking forward to a good night's rest.

No comments: