A city that remembers the First World War because its decisive battles happened here and nearby
PART ONE: Verdun and World War I
We came to Verdun to attend a conference. The day after the conference was to be a guided tour of the nearby battlefields in this auspicious year, the 100 years after the start of World War I. Because this is considered a sacred location by many French, having this meeting on some technical aspects of radioactive waste disposal in this location was considered a sacrilege by some and there was a brief protest.
There were more security and police than protesters, and the press did not show up, so the protest, heartfelt as it might have been, evaporated after a few hours of chanting and holding up signs accusing the nuclear industry of sacrilege by just being here, and of being the cause of the autism epidemic sweeping he world. Interesting perspectives. But without merit in my opinion.
Tourists come here to visit the World War I battlefields and see the trenches in which hundreds of thousands died on both sides of this war. Both French and German cemeteries are located in the battlefields. There are more than 130,000 unidentified remains in one cemetery! Remains keep being found when there are land disturbing activities in the area.
The group had an opportunity for a guided tour of the main battlefields, but we had to leave for our next destination, Cologne, to pick up a rental car, and then go on to the Netherlands to visit my cousins, then back to cologne for another conference.
Why go to Cologne first when our destinations in the Netherlands are just as close to Verdun? To avoid the 300 Euro drop-off charge when you rent in one country and drop off in another! Was it worth the extra day of trains and trainfares to save those 300 Euros? Seemed so at the time. But not really.
The battlefields directly around Verdun were where hundreds of thousands of Germans and French met their deaths. But the English and Americans were dying on battlefields not far distant. The Meuse-Argonne battle killed more than 15,000 Americans.
So what was there to see in the city itself on our few off hours?
That is Charlemagne standing proudly atop this victory monument next to entrances to the underground defensive works that are still part of the defensive structure of the nation today, and in part also part of the museum complex related to this great war:
This gate is the only remaining part of the medieval city's walls.
The gate faces the river Meuse, the central feature of the city. To the right stands a World War I memorial that we will visit next:
This is a monument to all of the branches of the French military that sent troops here to defend the homeland, with names of local dead inscribed below. The monument is surrounded by flower gardens dedicated to peace:
If you like cathedrals and their works of religious art, go to Page Two.
If you would just as soon skip the Cathedral, then go to Page Three.
Go to PART TWO: The Our Lady of Verdun Cathedral
Go to PART THREE: The World Peace Center and visiting the city
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