Monday, February 20, 2017

France: Travels in Lorraine

Lorraine is one of the departments of France. It borders on Germany and in times past was often referred to as Alsace/Lorraine which is a combination of two departments. Historically it has been under the rule of France and Germany at different times in its history. It is made up of some beautiful cities and towns and also has a very rich history. It was the site of fierce fighting during World War I and some of the remnants still remain.

Beyond being the site of fierce fighting in World War I, Verdun is a very pretty city. The basilica occupies a high spot and you will drive up cobblestone streets to get to it. You can walk through the 12th-century Chapel Gate, the last surviving gate in the city. Among the attractions at the basilica are the 12th-century crypt with frescos. Among the treasures are reliquaries holding the bones of some of the Virgins of Cologne. A museum is located adjacent to the basilica.

We drove the more than 35 miles through the French countryside to get to the American cemetery. This was supposed to be the war to end all wars and from our perspective, in the future, we know that worse was yet to come but these brave young men thought they were giving their lives to create a peaceful world.

It was peaceful in January with a light dusting of snow and the rows on rows of stones with crosses and stars of David was incredibly touching. All these young lives lost along with their hopes and dreams. We looked to find stones from people from Connecticut so that we could feel a personal connection.

In the drive through the countryside, there were many other cemeteries for the soldiers on both sides of this conflict. In all, over 800,000 lost their lives in the Battle of Verdun.

As the trip continued, we passed through Varennes. A tower in town dedicated to King Louis XVI. It was in this town that the King and his wife Marie Antoinette were captured as they tried to flee France. The town also contains a rather impressive World War II monument to General Pershing.

Nancy is a city that deserves at least a day or two. It has several very fine museums including The Lorraine Museum and The Fine Arts Museum. Several of the Dukes of Lorraine are buried in the Cordelier Church. These are just the main museums, there are other small and interesting museums all within an easy walk of the Place Stanislaus.

Lorraine is a wonderfully historic place to spend a long weekend or even an entire vacation. Beyond these three places, many others offer a variety of experiences beyond just history.

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