From the Chief of the Paris Bureau of the Times

This guy looks for the same type of historic connections that I do. Here in Vienna I have hunted down old apartments (now unmarked) where Hitler stayed as a starving student. Haunting. Not sure I could sleep in a bedroom where Voldemort once slept. Wonder if the rent is low, high or normal. To see the neighborhood that he haunted when he was a nobody is somehow spooky. I also like the archeological dig at Carnuntum, which was once a fair sized Roman city. They dug up a stretch of the main street and to see the ruts in the stone caused by chariot wheels was just amazing. Made it all real and imaginable. What remarkable run-ins with history have you had?

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

There is a small city nearby here called Bassano del Grappa that is famous for, among other things, being the birthplace of grappa and most of all for it's famous picturesque bridge. The town has quite a WWII history as well which is on full display even to this day. The buildings on either side of the bridge still contain the bullet holes in them from the battle where the Italian Alpini soldiers drove the German soldiers out of the city. Much less well known and decidedly more macabre is a road on the outskirts of the old town called Viale dei Martiri. On this road in 1944, the occupying German army d 31 local citizens by hanging. The trees that line the street from which they were hung are still there and on each tree there is a plaque depicting a noose along with the name and date of the person who was hung on that tree and in some cases an accompanying picture. Locals to this day continue to lay flowers by the trees. The name of the street, Viale dei Martiri, means "Way of the Martyrs" in Italian. Few tourists to Bassano even know of its existence but I visit it everytime I go.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Layers upon layers of history in Europe. A couple of years ago I spent a week in London, staying at the Arosfa Hotel on Gower Street in Bloomsbury. Most days I walked along the Tottenham Court Road to and from the Goodge Street Tube station. Each time, I walked past an open space not far from the Tube station, and near a church, where if I recall correctly, vendors sometimes set up tables although I never stopped to see what was going on. It was only after I got home that I learned that the open space was the site of the last strike in central London by WW2 German V2 rockets (March 25, 1945), with 11 fatalities. Two more V2s hit locations farther out of the center on March 27, and those were the last. I don't know that I'll use this map (dang, can't get the link to work: it's at to spot more V2 sites on my next trip, but this after-acquired knowledge made a vivid impression on my mind of the horrors of war faced and endured by the people in London. And of course although the details are different, by civilian populations elsewhere, which is beyond the scope of this topic.

Posted by Mona
Santa Barbara
231 posts

We lived next to the Teutoberger Wald for 7 months on the outskirts of a large city. I'd go walking in the Wald several times a week. One day I noticed an area of craters among the trees with kids riding their BMX bikes in and out of the craters and trees. I wondered how they sculpted that BMX "park" in the Wald. Then it dawned on me that those were bomb craters from WWII and the trees were about the right age/size for growing up through the craters.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9108 posts

I regularly walk through the woods and pastures around where I live with my dog. One of our regular walks through the mountains above the town of Hemsbach goes right by an old, but completely unmolested Jewish cemetery. I wonder how this particular cemetery survived the Third Reich undamaged. Kind of chilling, though, is that all of the graves seem to predate the 1940s, which pretty much tells you what happened to the Jewish community in Hemsbach. Hiking through the Odenwald region, I regularly see all kinds of historical remains, from castle ruins, to old road markers, border stones, medieval and even Roman watch towers, stone crosses, etc. Constant small reminders that the settled history of this region goes way back.

Posted by Emily
256 posts

It's in America, but my city saw a lot these past 100 years. I used to walk past the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre frequently, as I lived about 2 blocks away until 3 years ago. Nothing's there, just some trees next to city-subsidized senior housing, but dogs freaking out as they go past is not an uncommon occurence. I've sat in Al Capone's favorite booth at the Green Mill on several occasions. I sat on the stoop of the little church on Clark St, across from Lincoln Park, where the pastor and some parishoners tried in vain to pull cops off thousands of teenagers and adolescents making their way downtown to the fixed convention of 1968. From the stories I heard, there were a lot of bashed skulls and bloody faces. The bar on my corner was a speakeasy :)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8745 posts

Thanks for the thread, Thomas.... And thanks for the stories, all. Especially Suz, with that V2 map and the associated stories. It particularly hit home for me. My father's family were all bombed out of their home in Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds, standard HE (high explosive) bomb. After they got resettled that house was bombed too. That was 100 miles west of London. Both times they were in the shelter and there were no casualties in our family but there certainly were in the road. For the first one my grandfather was at work (secret factory) which was bombed at the same time. Again, he survived but many others didn't. You've brought back many memories - luckily for my family all good ones.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
744 posts

Boston History - When I lived in Boston in the 70s, I lived on Beacon Hill and learned one day I was living in an apartment building where one of the Boston Strangler's vistims had lived (same builing NOT same apartment). After that I found I had to track down all the other buildings where the Boston Strangler had killed women. I guess it was a spin off of Boston's Freedom Trail?

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Living in Germany I come across "stolpersteinen" - stumbling stones - all the time. They are little brass squares ed into the pavement in front of houses where Jews and other victims of the Holocaust used to live. There's two right across the street from our apartment. Pretty sobering. Most recently my trip to the Balkans had a lot in the way of recent history - bullet holes and shelled buildings became a frequent and familiar sight. For history a little further out, we stayed in an apartment in Sarajevo on the street that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assisnated on in his motorcade. It was really trippy to think of him driving past our apartment window, to meet with his fate two blocks down, an event that more than anything else shaped 20th century history (because it kicked of WWI, and without WWI, there would be no WWII, and so on...)

Posted by James
1790 posts

This is what helps to make Budapest so remarkable.   You can walk in the footsteps of Schindler, Wallenburg and g-d forgive Himmler along with a dozen others from each side;  good and evil.  The relics are all there and intact, offices, homes, bullet holes, prisons, deportation train stations, stumbling stones and the occasional find of unexplored ordnance.  When you get your fill of WWII move on to the '56 revolution and the Cold War.  Again the relics are there; socialist realist statues, massive atomic fallout shelters, museums dedicated to the terror and bullet hole riddled buildings.  If anyone ever intends to go to Budapest let me know and i can give you a reading list that will bring all of this to life when you see it.  You will also discover that despite all thy have gone through that these are some pretty remarkable and beautiful people.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2688 posts

You can see the car in which Franz Ferdinand was riding in Sarajevo on that "fateful day" at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna. Not far from it is the glass display housing his blood stained tunic. You can find historical run-ins, lots and lots of them and all types on WW I and II, if that's what you are actively going after.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Twelve years ago I returned to Paris for the first time in 31 years. I rode the HOHO bus around town. We stopped near the Arch de Triumph, the Arch thru which both Nazi and Allied troops marched in WWII at the beginning and end of the war (not together). The daily ceremmony of laying a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier was taking place as we waited and observed.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

I find this post and and of the posts very interesting. I am old enough to remember there was a war going on during WW2. My Father and 2 of his brothers were interpreters during the war. Being Cajun French and part jewish from Louisianna they spoke french. My daughter and I visited 8 countries in 8 weeks a few years ago and took the tour of Normandy with Battle Bus tours. We also went to the American Cemetary outside of Luxembourg City. It sure enlightened my daughter. I have no idea why, but I have always been interested in WW2. Probably seen most of the movies on WW2 also. My daughter's college friend married a man from Czech Republic. He and another friend talked with us for several days about their experiences after the war. Their parents lived under the German rule and the Russian rule.
The live in Karlstejn, Czech Republic

Posted by Martin
207 posts

A rather weak article I have to say. St. Denis in Paris, the Jewish cemetery in Prague or the Holocaust memorial in Berlin are some of the best known and most frequented sights in Europe. Nothing you stumble upon. And the Jewish cemetery a place "where the urban buzz and crush of big crowds slowly fades away. A place where I can lose myself."? Yes, 20 years ago...! But anyway. You can find such places in every village if you search for them. On my usual bicycle tour I first pass the lime tree where Napoleon spent the night when he returned from Russia. I then cross a field from where field marshal Dauns Austrians shelled and completely destroyed the town in the Seven Years' War. Next I use a preserved road that was already used in the Middle Ages as the main trading route between Prague and the northern Holy Roman Empire. Which is followed by a forgotten castle ruin of some robber-knights. The next castle was the planned old-age residence of Bohemian king Charles IV. Kafka also spent a afternoon there and was really bored. The forest around the castle were hunting grounds for several Saxon kings.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

My whole country is run-ins with history. But one of the places that really got to me was in Wyoming, seeing the pioneers' wagon ruts on the Oregon trail and Inscription Rock, where they carved their names on their way west.

Posted by Marilyn
Mentor on the Lake, OH, USA
251 posts

Chani, Love your comment about Israel. The farm my grandmother grew upon on was the site of the scalping of my great-great-great-great- aunts who were scalped by Indians. In Paris climbing the stairs in Notre Dame, which are worn from people climbing them down the centuries.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Being in the Underground tunnels really resonated with me. I was with my friend and her mom - we finished dinner and were going back to their apartment, and in the tunnel her mom told me that people in London hid in the tunnels during the Blitz. I knew that but didn't think about it until she said something. I'm glad she did because I could appreciate it while I was there. I was awed at being in the tunnels where all those brave Londoners hid. I felt the same awe in St. Paul's, the church that became such a symbol during the Blitz. In Canterbury Cathedral I went into the crypt and saw columns from the original church that stood on that spot. The columns dated from maybe the 6th century and I touched one, blown away by how old it was and how many people had touched it and the history it has seen.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Very interesting post. Although I never served the military, I seem to have an affinity for the European WWII front. Belgium was of particular interest. The Siegfried line is still intact west of Aachen; amazing, it would be too expensive for current owners to remove, so they remove a few of the obstacles to get their farm equipment through. The mini-series, "Band of Brothers" got my attention; there are many small Museums scattered throughout Belgium. Visiting Bastogne and related areas was the highlight of our WWII trip. No trip would be complete without a visit to the American Cemetary in Luxenburg. We also found the City of SPA, Belgium to our liking.