9-28-08 – Verdun, by Jodi
We are both getting very tired. We’ve had a lot of consecutive one-night stays and are 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 in France is closed on Sunday except restaurants for dinner and the churches, 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 that power the small towns; it is good to see alternative power sources at work. The tiny villages are quaint and are typical farm towns. Other than the food they grow, where do they shop for other incidentals? All the sizable towns worth any kind of market, are not close by, 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 brochures and restaurant recommends for dinner.
We unload and head off to the Battlefields of Verdun from World War 1. Verdun was one the bloodiest battles ever, 300,000 French and German soldiers were killed in about a 300 day period in 1916. 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 visible bomb holes are everywhere as are visible bullet holes, scrapes and mortar holes on everything.
Just down the road are some zig-zig trenches the troops used for protection, cover and sleep. I just can’t imagine the conditions in those narrow pits, men clamoring for their own little space – UGH!
On up the road to the cemetery and memorial, nothing more than a huge building with towering, pointed obelisk. The buried French soldiers each have an engraved, concrete cross with a pink rose bush planted in front.
The last stop was the Bayonet Trench memorial. Many years after the war, as surveyors were removing war trash from the area, they found some bayonets 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 declared it a memorial, preserving the trench and built a protective building over top.
We drove the 10 minutes back to our B&B to settle in and try to see if we have internet. Our hostess, Valerie is gone but her young teenage son, who doesn’t speak English, graciously tries to help us connect to their Wi-Fi, with no success. We noticed a McDonald’s in Verdun earlier, so we thanked him for the help and head 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 good night rest.
2 thoughts on “France Adventure, Part 11”
My grandfather fought in the Verdun area during the Great War. He actually lost a lung –those gas masks really didn’t help all that much–but he lived to be 94 years old and managed to smoke Chesterfields. He never spoke about his time in the war only to say it was the only time he “shit his pants”. I swear, he said it was THAT awful. This is a beautiful post. Thank you.
I salute your grandfather for his service, after being there and seeing the battle fields in person these were brave people. I have found that many that have gone through these traumas in their lives do not speak much of them. They are the true heroes.