(Before I go on with what we've been up to the last few weeks, I just want to highlight our last sightseeing trip from when my sister was here last month.)
I was very excited to make the pilgrimage to Verdun as the last bit of tourism with my sister before she headed back to the States. I hadn't been before and Stéph reckoned it had been 20 years or so since he'd been, so it was interesting for all of us. Verdun is also only about two hours away from us, making it a very reasonable day trip, though there is plenty to see if you wanted to stay overnight.
Of course, Verdun is best known for the battle that took place there during World War I. Clocking in at nearly one year, the battle was the longest of the war and saw the most carnage. Though many of the corpses were collected years later to be laid to rest at an ossuary, the truth is that the whole battlefield is really one huge cemetery itself. Though the trees have grown back, the land is pockmarked with the results of artillery fire everywhere you look.
Our first stop was to the Ossuary and the National Cemetery. We experienced a very odd cold snap, requiring jackets all around, which increased the somber feeling of the day.
The building itself is extraordinary, the inside is incredibly moving, and the view into the actual ossuary is appropriately chilling. For some reason, I was moved to take pictures of all the coats of arms that are chiseled into the stone exterior, representing the towns around the world that donated money to have this extraordinary monument made. As far as I can tell, I'm only missing three.
You can see the rest of the coats of arms by checking out my Verdun set here. I only realized after I started this post that I haven't uploaded all of the pictures from that day, which include two of the forts that were built underground that we visited. That will have to wait for another day, I'm afraid. Like I said before, there are plenty of things to visit in the area, including one or two villages that were completely obliterated, several chapels and there must be monuments to every single company that served at Verdun. I highly recommend it to anyone passing through Eastern France.