Verdun, memories of the Great War or WWI!!

Ok so by now you may notice doing lots of changes in my blog. Especially, old posts that needed refresh and update not necessarily photos as have them on more specific posts. This is one example of it. Hope you enjoy it Remember All Saint’s Day. Toussaint!!

Lets talk about a monumental city in symbolism if small in size, Verdun.  It is a city in department  Meuse, no 55 in the region of Grand Est in eastern France. The autoroute A4 will take you there from Paris, and parking along the river Meuse is easy, nice, and free at Pl 8 Mai 1945.

The city is very easy to walk on and best, however, if need to move by public transport the local bus system REZO Grand Verdun can help, but I never use it.  There is a train station TER Grand Est but again never use it. Webpages here

REZO bus network Grand Verdun: https://www.rezo-grandverdun.fr/

TER Grand Est on Verdun: https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est/gares/87175778/Verdun/pratique

Verdun is a city that can trace back for 2000 years, the Treaty of Verdun of 843 for most historians mark the starting point of what we know of Europe today , this is where if I can interject a bit of history here , the sons of king Louis le Pieux (himself son of Charlemagne)  Charles le Chauve or bold became king of western Francia with limits to the east of the Rhône river, Saône,  and Meuse rivers.  Louis le Germanique or German, became the king of eastern Francia beyond the Rhine river, and Lothar was given the two capitals of Rome and Aix a long line of territory  brought together by the river Frise in the Jura region including the Burgundy and Italy.

However, after that the ones that really made Verdun on the map was after been given the name of Universal City, is the WWI Battle of Verdun in 1916. The war really began here in 1914,  the Battle of Verdun was not only the war, but also the Battle of France, for 300 days and nights close to 2,5 millions French soldiers fought here, that is two thirds of the entire armed forces of France!!!

Here on February 21 1916 ,one of the biggest if not the biggest battles in history took place. Bombing began by 8h15.  In this carnage, 163 000 French and 143 000 Germans lost their life, with 216 000 French and 196 000 Germans wounded!!!  For reinforcements from the town of  Baudonvillers and  Bar-le-Duc, a line of trucks were put in service to continue on to Verdun ,this route was later baptised the   « Voie Sacrée » or sacred road.  Nearly  1 500 trucks took this route daily so Verdun so it was not isolated, 2 500 000  French soldiers took the tour at this route during this conflict alone.

On September 12( my b-day!)  ,1918 the First Army of the USA enters the conflict in this area led by General Pershing (He who upon touching French soil hail the famous words “Lafayette ,We are Here” ) ,and they took position at the salt mines of Saint-Mihiel with the help of the 2nd French Colonial Corp. On September 22nd, Pershing has its HQ at Souilly. By September 26 in the area of Argonne that Americans and French fought shoulder to shoulder as well as reaching Verdun by October 10 the Argonne is completely liberated, on the river Meuse right bank  17th French Army Corp and two American divisions march on towards Damvillers. The Americans cross the river Meuse first by Stenay, the enemy retreats and they will never entered Verdun!!!

You should make your solemn visit to the Memorial Centre Mondiale de la Paix (World Center of Peace) right in the palais episcopal designed in 1723 by  Robert de Cotte, architect of the king,  it is by the Cathedral, and the Monument à la Victoire (Monument to the Victory) with 73 steps right from the esplanade bordering the river Meuse, there you will see the book of gold showing those who have won medals of honor for their valor in the battle, a moving niche between a rocky hill.

There is so much to see need more time, like the Ossuarie de Douaumont (keeping the remains of millions) and in front a French cementary of 15000 soldiers. Memorial de Verdun, in the train station of the village of  Fleury-devant-Douaumont, one of the towns destroyed in the conflict sitting right in the battlefield and built by the Veterans group themselves.  Tranchés des Baionnettes tells the story on June 12 1916 of the 137th  Infantry Regiment isolated with an intensive bombardment in a trench . The only witness were bayonets coming out of the ground!  Fort de Vaux, showcase the heroisme of the French soldiers in resisting attacks by superior forces. See the Citadelle Souterraine or underground citadel, the HQ of the French army was kept here, a virtual city of support to the front. Here on September 13, 1916 ,Verdun received the decoration of the Légion d’Honneur, the Croix de Guerre ,and  six other decorations from allied powers and Verdun  becomes the most condecorated city in all of France!!!

Here too on November 10, 1920 after the peace at Rethondes the chosen wounded soldier  Auguste Thin of the  132th Infantry Regiment was given the task to choose amongst eight coffins dress with the French flag the body of a French soldier found in the eight battlefields around WWI.  Armed with a simple bouquet of  flowers he was to choose one, to be  buried at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, in memory of all those fallen in combat. Slowly  Auguste Thin  chose one after adding the digits number of his regiment and choose the Sixth coffin , the Unknown Soldier tradition was born here!

While we were there we were hungry so we try the local places. I did so at La Péniche, quai de la Republique near the river, traditional Lorraine cuisine ,very nice formule and the St Jacques in whisky is yummy! plus a very nice lounge with wonderful views of the town . This resto closed and has reopened as La Barge own now by sisters who also own other sites in town.

And as a wonderful souvenir , in Verdun do try the Dragées de Verdun (sweet made of almond and chocolates now of many things traditional all over France but the ones here are at the top of the ladder ) at établissement Braquier, recipe from 1220, and the firm doing it since 1921. I give you their webpage here: https://dragees-braquier.fr/fr/

So now you have a brief overview of a great small town, worth the visit and glad we were there. Verdun is one of those places that one can become attach to very much. Credit when credit is due, they held high the flag! Hope you too can visit this wonderful town of Verdun.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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