Our Barge, Odysseus

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Verdun, August 26 - 30

We've been through so many old towns recently that we've become a bit blase about antiquity but this town is really old.
Verdun was already a major city in 843 when the Treaty of Verdun was signed. That was the document that divided up Charlemagne's empire among his three sons. But it's most recent notariety arises from "The Hell of Verdun"; the WW I battle that resulted in the deaths of over 700,000 soldiers. The climactic battles of the Great War were fought just after the arrival of the American troops in Verdun in early September 1918. The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 at 11 am.
There still seems to be much good feeling for Americans left over from that time, even though it was 90 years ago. There is even an exhibition in town celebrating the event.
In all over 9 million were killed in the war, 3.4 million wounded, the majority on French soil. When you see the monument in each little French village inscribed with the names of their "Sons of France killed Defending Her" between 1914 and 1918, almost an entire generation, it's easy to see why they just didn't have the heart for another fight just 20 years later.

The Monument de la Victoire stands at the top of 73 steps. Beneath it is a crypt containing all the names of those who fought at Verdun.

But aside from all the war monuments, Verdun is a very pleasant town. Being the largest city in the area, most people do their major shopping here and there's a very picturesque central city.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is also very impressive. Begun in 1048 it sits on the highest point in Verdun and has a beautiful vaulted walkway around a central courtyard.

The "halte nautique" is very nice; reminding us of some up north where you can tie up right in the city center.

Verdun is as far south as we're going to get this year. After 4 days is was time to head back north, down the Meuse to our winter stopping place.

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