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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Verdun area visit?


Roberta

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Just posted in Chit Chit, but likely better here. I'll be in Metz for several days and would like to tour the Verdun area/anything around Metz. Recommendations? Zone Rouge?

Thanks for letting me pick your brains!

Cheers,

Roberta

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Hi Roberta

I'm really envious of you going to Metz; despite having visited Verdun a lot I've never approached it from the German direction. I can recommend Christina Holstein's Walking Verdun book or have a look at some of Christina's posts on the forum for tips, what she doesn't know about the area isn't worth knowing. Putting Verdun into the search function will probably do the trick.

If you are in Metz then just a little east of the city is the village of Gravelotte. It was here in August 1870 that the largest battle of the Franco-Prussian war took place, often called Gravelotte-St Privat for the battlefield stretches north to St Privat-la-Montagne. I seem to remember Christina posting that you can see the battlefield from the high forts above Verdun so vice versa must be true.

Verdun was looking very nice down by the Meuse the last time I was there. The battlefield is now largely wooded and still bears the scars of 98 years ago; many of the monuments are surrounded by trees so it is not always easy to get a sense of the landscape. I would recommend visiting Fort Douaumont and standing on top to get the best view of the battlefield. The fort itself is not for me but is definitely worth a visit; just remember to take something warm. The Ossuary just along the ridge is stunning but I think it is closed for refurbishment at the moment (there was a recent post by Healdav to that effect). It's a pity because the tower gives you another great view of the battlefield above the treeline. The museum at Fleury is being renovated at the moment and Vaux is another good visit as are the monuments on the left bank at Cote 304 and Le Mort Homme. These are interesting but due to the trees you can't see much. I'm sure the forum may have many more recommendations for the area. I'll try and think of some more.

I think you also have an excellent opportunity to see the key American sites while you are in the area. The Meuse-Argonne battlefield has the cemetery at Romagnes which is stunning and provided you are ok with steps the memorial at Montfaucon is awesome. In the Argonne forest itself you can find the lost battalion memorial and going south you can visit St Mihiel and the marvellous memorial at Montsec which is my personal favourite. All this might be a lot to cram in but it maybe gives you an idea. Let me know if you need any more details and I'll see if I can dig them out.

Pete.

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Thanks, Pete, for your reply! I have never been to Eastern France before, so I don't have a very good sense of the scale of things or distances between. This information gives me a great starting point!

Cheers,

Roberta

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Hi Roberta

Just as an illustration downtown Metz to Verdun is 40 miles, Verdun to Montsec via St Mihiel is 32 miles, Montsec back to Metz is 38. Montfaucon is 20 miles the other side of Verdun and the cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon is 6 miles from there. You can see them from each other. I don't know Washington state but my American friends think of such distances as a trip to the shops.

Pete.

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There is one crossroads not far from Gravelotte which I always think of as the European crosroads. There are memorials to 1870/71 (both sides, a bit of WW1 in the area, and the 'Voie de la Liberté' from 1944.

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American stuff is nearer Varennes-en-Argonne. I had no vehicle so hitch hiked one quiet Sunday.

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Roberta

You will have seen Healdav's contribution about heading for Pont-a-Mousson in your other thread; happy birthday by the way. As per KGB's point above there is a lot of interest around Varennes notably the Pennsylvania Memorial. Not far away is the Butte de Vauquois which used to have a village on top but now the whole of the ridge has been split in two by mine craters blown during the Great War. There's nowhere quite like it on the whole of the Western Front.

Pete.

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Thanks, one and all (including for the birthday wish:)! Even though I'm American, I'm not when it comes to the war--that's when my French and British selves emerge. So certainly not wedded to things American. But, yes, 32-40 miles is pretty much a trip to the shops!

Cheers,

Roberta

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Thanks, one and all (including for the birthday wish:)! Even though I'm American, I'm not when it comes to the war--that's when my French and British selves emerge. So certainly not wedded to things American. But, yes, 32-40 miles is pretty much a trip to the shops!

Cheers,

Roberta

Well, when you get on the roads in the area, you will find that the 30 or so miles translates to about 200 across Texas (and you won't be doing more than 55 mph.) By the way, next time someone asks me for suggestions about whre to go, "Wehere the bee sucks, there sucks someone". No thank yous no info.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In a cowslip's bell I lie, healdav! :)

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Well, after all that I'm not sure I can add much. If you've got time after visiting Forts Douaumont and Vaux, do pay the Ouvrage de la Falouse a visit. You'll find the coordinates on line. It's in Belleray, about 3 miles south of Verdun. If you got to Romagne sous Montfaucon you must visit Jean Paul de Vries's extraordinary museum, which is close to the gates of the American cemetery. The Memorial museum at Fleury is closed but the Ossuary is open and you can go up the tower - worth it on a fine day. Otherwise, try the short walk from Douaumont village to Fort Douaumont which takes you across the glacis and an area of serious shelling. It will give you an idea of what the whole area looked like in November 1916. There's also a short walk from the car park of Ft. Douaumont to the memorial of the 74th IR that's worth doing if you aren't going to be there long.

Christina

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks to all . . . I had a brilliant visit! Never enough time, but over the course of 1.5 days, based out of Metz, visited the Ossuaire and Douaumont, Hill 304, Mort-Homme and the Alain-Fournier sites at St. Remy-la-Calonne. Was tempted to go off paths often, but I know there's still a lot of bad stuff in the Red Zone. Again, my thanks for your thoughts. I hope to get back there again sometime!

~Roberta

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Roberta, glad you had a good time. Did you find the distances as short as predicted? Equally do you have any pictures?

Pete.

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Hi Roberta,

Glad you had a good visit. If you want to walk safely, check out my book 'Walking Verdun' which I wrote to allow people to walk safely in places where they wouldn't normally go. There's lots to see in the back woods.

Did you visit the amazing central station in Metz? Purpose-built by the Germans after 1870 as a military station and just wonderful. Wagner in stone. Vastly important and busy during WWI, as you can imagine.

Christina

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Wagner in stone

Christina, an excellent description and when I looked up a photograph you are so right. I started humming Tannhauser immediately.

Pete.

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It even has a lift up to the Kaiser's apartments which are amazing rooms with - formerly - a huge stained glass window featuring the German eagle. It was all arranged so that the Kaiser could ride off the train on his horse and into a sort of anteroom, the horse would be taken away and he'd go up to his apartments. Our Luxembourg WFA group had a guided tour of the station back in the mid-90s. Fascinating.

Christina

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Christina, I'll definitely look up your book--because I'm going back. I did *not* have enough time!

I came and went to Metz via the Station. It is incredible! I had no idea about the Kaiser's having had apartments there, but somehow I'm not all that surprised. Now the new Pompidou Center is just behind and to the east (I think) of the Station, receiving the mixed reviews concerning its architecture that Pompidou Centers tend to have . . .

As for distances, well, I really could've used a navigator or a GPS! I luckily ran into the sign for St. Remy-la-Calonne and took a left to get there, wanting to visit Alain-Fournier. I did so, both the site at which he was found with 20 other soldiers and his gravestone in the village. Tried to head to Verdun. Took a left rather than a right, turned around 8 clicks later, looped back, stopped in an aire to use the facilities . . . and realized that it was the second time I'd stopped in the same aire. And then I had to find the road to Mort-Homme and Cote 304 (D38), which was unfindable . . . so I put more than 250 km. on my rental car . . . So much for short distances! ;)

But it was an amazing experience. Unforgettable.

Roberta

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Hi Roberta,

Glad you found your way in the end and enjoyed it all.

If you read French, there's an interesting book called Le Chemin de Fer et la Gare de Metz by André Schontz which will tell you all about the station - probably more than you'll ever want to know.

Christina

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Hi, Christina,

Yes, I do read French, so will try to get my hands on that book (after I finish reading yours)! Also trying to get hold of *Alain-Fournier et ses Compagnons d'Arme," released by Editions Serpenoise in 2006. I even posted about it in the forum's book page . . . . As the saying goes, 'so many books, so little time!'

~R.

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Hi Roberta,

I think I've seen the Alain-Fournier book in the bookshop of the main street in Verdun. It was certainly on sale in the Memorial until last year. It shouldn't be too difficult to get hold of in the Metz area.

Christina

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As for distances, well, I really could've used a navigator or a GPS!

It definitely helps; I've been navigator around Verdun and used satnav more recently; my experience is that you know you are lost quicker with GPS. It isn't infalible; when we tried to get from Notre Dame de Lorette to the Vimy memorial using the latitude and longitude that I'd noted it first tried to take us to Moldova (complete with instructions in Cyrilic) until we realised that you have to put a leading zero on 2 degrees. Then it tried to take us up a footpath towards the ridge. But it's reasonably efficient once you get the hang of it. Sometimes navigating with a map is more fun; you can take the quiet back roads and sometimes you come across really unexpected things. I remember driving down towards Montsec from Verdun and spotting a poignant little memorial by the road; it was a French boy who had died in September 1944 trying to chase the Germans out of Lorraine.

Hope your next trip isn't too far away.

Pete.

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Hi Roberta,

I think I've seen the Alain-Fournier book in the bookshop of the main street in Verdun. It was certainly on sale in the Memorial until last year. It shouldn't be too difficult to get hold of in the Metz area.

Christina

The Mémorial is under extensive renovation and I don't think will reopen this year. Fournier's book was on sale at the Forts Douamont and Vaux yesterday (as were three English language books by a certain author....the only three on sale as well :thumbsup: )

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The Memorial is scheduled to open again in the autumn of 2015 but local people I know aren't holding their breath.

Nice to know that my books are selling well ... They had 40 a few weeks ago.

Christina

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There's a fair bit of work to do at the Memorial:

post-48281-0-35173400-1397850046_thumb.j

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Part of the collection is on show at the World Peace Centre. For those who don't know where it is, it's in the Bishop's palace, next to the Cathedral on the hilltop above the town. There is much criticism locally of the fact that work has begun so late that the Memorial won't be open in 2014 and 2015. I've no idea how many people are bothering to visit the Bishop's palace. It's a long way away from the battlefield and for people with limited time it's probably just too far.

Christina

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