Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Verdun and the Start of a Vacation

The kids had a winter vacation from school so we decided to plan our first road trip here in Europe.  We loaded up our car and drove to Verdun.  It was just a 3 hour trip from Paris for the chance to visit a WW I battlefield.  

Our first stop was Fort Douaumont.  This was the site of a 300 day battle between France and Germany in WW I.  The fort is still there and open to the public for a small fee.  

There were a lot of interesting sights to see in the fort, these bunk beds were lined up in one room.

Addie thought this old stove looked like a smiley face.

The fort had many rooms and many stories.  

There was a lot of moisture in the fort, these stalactites were every where.

This was a bathroom when the fort was in use.

This was the sight of an explosion that killed so many German soldiers that they just put up a wall to bury the dead.  It was almost overwhelming during the entire trip to think about how many young men died in this small area.

Here is Addison standing next to a 400 mm shell.  Jon was an artillery man for 5 years in the Army so this meant more to him than me, but he said this was a very large shell.

This is how Malachi spent his time going through the first fort.

On top of the fort you could see the ventilation pipes.

You could also see the craters from the shelling almost 100 years ago.

The views were beautiful.

From the fort we drove down the road to go the Ossuary.  The ossuary is the memorial that was built after the first World War as a place to keep the remains of all of the unidentified remains.  

The Ossuary has a 20 minute video, that is available in English, that does a great job explaining some of the basics of the battle and the consequences for the men that fought and the area.  

These windows have a gruesome view,

This is what you could see through them.

I don't think that the kids fully understood what they were seeing, but we did our best to explain to them about the war and how terrible it was.

Our next stop in the area was the Village of Douaumont.  When they say it was destroyed they were not exaggerating.  

These posts have the names and occupations of the villagers of Duoaumont.

There were 9 villages in all that were destroyed during the fighting in this area.  

In these pictures you can see the craters left behind from the incredible number of shells that were dropped on this area.  

This chapel was built in honor of another village that was destroyed in the area.  These little places were so peaceful, even with the echoes of the past all around you.

Our final stop in this area was Fort Vaux.  This fort was smaller, but no less interesting.  

I liked this recreation of the first aid room.  This room could hold up to 6 patients at a time. 

This is how Malachi spent his time in the second fort, I would not recommend this method for taking a baby through a fort, the Ergo worked much better.

These were the restroom facilities, not fun.

This was one of the more cramped places we walked through.

Here is a picture of Jon in one of the hallways.  He is about 5'8'' and his head was almost touching the ceiling.  We thought repeatedly of our really tall friends as we walked through these tunnels.

The kids playing on one of the large guns in the fort.

A picture with all 4 kiddos, it is not that great, but it was all we had to work with.

After walking around underground in the cold, wet and dark of the fort it felt good to get up above ground. 

We were really lucky to have the area almost entirely to ourselves.  

The kids loved exploring.

Ben found a new stick to add to his collection.

This has to be one of my favorite pictures from the whole day.

From the devastation that still reigns over the battle field we drove down the mountain to our hotel.  I was not too optimistic about our lodgings for the  night.  Trying to travel with a large family has some challenges, one being you have too many people to fit into one hotel room.  I was thrilled to find a hotel with a Family Room that would accommodate us all!  

The reviews on the hotel were mixed, but we ended up having a good night.  I would not recommend an extended stay at this hotel, but if you have a large family and need a place where you can all sleep in one room, this did the job.  

The shower was tiny, but it had good water pressure and plenty of hot water.  

We did not try out the breakfast, we opted instead for McD's.  Can you believe people were waiting outside for McD's to open?  They didn't open until 8:30.  

After breakfast we set off for Zurich, Switzerland.  I have lots more pictures and amusing stories about traveling with children to come.  

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