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WW one and two

I have about 10 days to hit the highlights of WWI and WWII. My husband (the history buff) and I will be starting in Brussels. We know where things took place (i.e. Normandy, Verdun, Paris). Do you have any suggestions of "don't miss" that I should book into the schedule? Is there a site or museum for the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium or France?

Posted by
852 posts

Hi Karen,
If your tour takes you to Vienna, be sure to go to the Augarten (park) to see a Flakturm (flack tower) which is an anti-aircraft concrete structure too massive to have been demolished.
If your husband is a food buff too (whose husband isn't?) you might visit Figlmüller (two locations in Vienna's old city center)for fabulous Wienerschnitzel. One Schnitzel covers the plate!
Then, go to Esterhazykeller in the Naglergasse. Quite good; quite inexpensive.
Gute Reise! ... P

Posted by
712 posts

When ever you get to London, be sure to see the British War Museum.

Posted by
9363 posts

The Amerian cemetery at Normandy has a beautiful memorial with a carillon. Even my daughter, who was then 13, was moved by the setting.

Posted by
2779 posts

Cologne and Remagen are not that far off your track. Cologne was destroyed completely in WW2 by the British and Americans and even though the famous Remagen bridge is not in place anymore you can still see its pillar and kind of reinact the battle for yourself...

Posted by
12040 posts

There is a museum on the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, but I have never visited it. I found Pointe du Hoc probably the most interesting WWII battle site, mainly because it looks as if the French simply cleaned up the dangerous debris and left the site speak for itself.

Posted by
320 posts

Karen:

In addition to the obvious locations (Normandy, etc.) there is one that we happened upon years ago that has become special to us.

In 1993 we were in France on our honeymoon. I am a history buff - we'd been to the museums and the American Cemetery in Normandy.

Later on our trip we were driving east of Paris to the Champagne region and we saw this little directional sign saying "American Cemetery". Being curious we followed the signs and ended up at a cemetery honoring our WWI dead. It was late September - the setting was beautiful. The place was deserted. We have been back a couple of times - it is very moving.

The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) does a fantastic job taking care of U.S. military cemeteries overseas. You should see the WWII cemetery outside of Florence - wow. The ABMC has a great and informative website. Have fun.

Posted by
10344 posts

You mentioned Paris in your initial list but actually and fortunately, Paris was not a significant scene of bomb damage or big battles in either WW1 or WW2 and doesn't belong on your WW1 and WW2 list for that reason. The ones you will want to consider are: In addition to Normandy and Bastogne, for WW2 there are: Caen museum, Bayeux museum, Cabinet War Rooms in London, Kaiser Wilhelm Mem. Church in Berlin, Frauenkirche in Dresden (25000 civilians fire-bombed to death in one night), and the various Holocaust death camps where several million children, women and men were slaughtered. For WW1: Verdun of course (3/4 of a million soldiers killed or wounded); Flanders battle locations; the locations of the battles of the Marne and the Sommes; and other areas between Paris and Belgium and Paris and western Germany. It's easy to forget today that, on some days in WW1 France lost 70,000 men in a day and something like half of all Frenchmen aged 18 to 30 were either killed or wounded in WW1. And the other major country combatants suffered substantial losses, and the civilian death toll from the bombing of cities in WW2 is staggering. With most cities rebuilt as replicas of what they looked like before WW2, today some North American tourists don't realize the extent of the tragedy that occurred 60 years ago in these places--tens of millions of soldiers and civilians died in the two wars.

Posted by
365 posts

Karen, 10 days is not a lot of time, and I could go on for quite some time as I have done extensive WWI and WWII touring in France. If you are in Verdun, I would recommend visiting the Underground Citadel in the city. Also, Douaumont Ossuary in the vicinity. Fort Fermont, maintained by volunteers, is also a neat off-the-beaten-track deal. You can ride in a former ammunition rail car in the fort to one of the gun emplacements.

In Normandy, the war museum in Bayeux packs a lot of neat stuff into a smallish area. Caen is fine, but I personally liked Bayeux better. Arromanches Landing Museum is also good. Drive up the coast and look at the former gun emplacements.

And see as many of the ABMC cemeteries and sites as you can. Pointe du Hoc, Normandy cemetery.

If in the Loire, the Tank Museum in Saumur (Musee des Blindes) is tres cool!

Posted by
850 posts

In addition to the ones mentioned above there is an American cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg which is not a long trip from Bastogne. The cemetery in Luxembourg is where General George Patton is buried. Many of the troops who lost their lives during the Battle of the Bulge are buried there as well.

Posted by
283 posts

My husband is a military historian, so we have done extensive battlefield tours. This response is from my perspective.

I loved Normandy. It is beautiful, easy to drive around and things are close together, for the most part. I loved all the American battlefield and cemetaris. I felt the museum in Caan was very expensive and a waste of time. I loved Ste, Marie Elgliese. If you see the Longest Day, it is where Red Buttons got stuck on the steeple. My all time favorite was the museum at Arromanches. I don't know why, but it all came alive for me there.

Last year was Verdun. The battlefield park is great, but we spent a lot of time driving around to the memorials and markers, even sought out Sargent York areas, as my husband is working on a project. The Romaignes 14-18 museum was great, and they do battlefiled walking tours, which you should NEVER do unguided. The area around there is filled with any number of WWI battlefields, monuments and parks.

Posted by
283 posts

One more thought as I ran out of characters.

In Paris, a visit to the National Army Museum at Invalides is well worth the trip. It has been (and may still be) in a state of update. It has a marvvelous collection of uniform, and includes such not to miss sights such as the taxi of the Marne.

Posted by
4555 posts

Wow...where to start! North of Paris, Vimy, sight of probably the most dramatic monument to the fallen of the First World War at the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge...lots of restored trenches and great Canadian kids to give tours (50°22'44.70"N, 2°46'21.29"E). The Menin Gate in Ypres, where they play the Last Post every evening at 8 pm to honour the Great War dead (50°51'7.28"N, 2°53'27.02"E). Sanctuary Wood museum near Ypres, containing the best-preserved trenches and dugouts, and the nearby memorials at Mont Sorrel and Sanctuary Wood cemetery (50°50'12.19"N, 2°56'45.48"E). Ploegsteert, where Winston Churchill served for several months in 1916, and where several British memorials are located. Known to the British as "Plugstreet" (50°43'35.65"N, 2°52'48.98"E). Verdun memorial, battlefield site, and museum (49°11'42.52"N, 5°26'0.42"E). Meuse-Argonne memorial (49°20'2.05"N, 5° 5'35.97"E). (continued)

Posted by
440 posts

To see important WWI sites I would go see two highly acclaimed Canadian sites in the Somme. One is the Vimy Ridge Memorial just north of Arras. The memorial is stunning and the grounds that it sits on have a number of outstanding war sites. Take a tour through the tunnels and stroll through the grounds (stay away from the cratered areas!). The other memorial site is Beaumont-Hamel, north of Albert. This is where the Newfoundlanders were massacred by the Germans. The memorial is situated next to the battleground where these brave men died. It has been preserved as it was, with walking paths circling the battlefield. I would highly recommend walking with one of the guides that works at these 2 sites. Canadian university history students, who are keenly interested in WWI history, do an excellent job of providing historical information to interested visitors. There are a number of other memorials in the Somme. You will be stunned by the number of cemetaries scattered along the roads/field

Posted by
8293 posts

I strongly suggest the Imperial War Museum in south London. When I visited it a few years ago (incidentally, the building was formerly "Bedlam", where the so-called insane were one incarcerated) there was a special exhibit on the "Blitz Experience", and it may still be there.

Posted by
239 posts

Hi Karen--If your husband is a WWI buff, I would put Ieper on the don't miss list, as Norm has said. The tour of the Ypres Salient is incredible; I am not a fan of organized tours, and I loved it. Ours was organized through our hotel, and their website has links to several tour companies: Nearly every soldier fighting in WWI was cycled through the Western Front, so if you have a relative who fought, he probably spent time in Ieper. The museum in Cloth Hall in Ieper is also very moving and worth a visit.

Posted by
473 posts

Karen, the Battle of the Bulge occurred in Belgium and Luxembourg, so there probably wouldn't be a museum for it in France. Additionally, there is no one website that I'm aware of for the Battle. However, while you're in Brussels, you'll have to see the Army Museum (described in Rick's book). In the town of Bastogne, there is a Bulge museum. We didn't see it, since it was closed when we were there. Several other options are the George Patton museum in Ettelbruck, Luxembourg www.sit-e.lu/fr/frame.html and www.sit-e.lu for the town itself. The December 1944 Museum in La Gleize, Belgium (VERY small town) is great, www.december44.com. Yes, that's a real King Tiger in front of the museum. In Diekirch, Luxembourg, the National Military Museum is awesome, with some great life-size diorams of the Bulge, www.nat-military-museum.lu

It's not a Bulge site, but the reconstructed castle in Vianden was great, www.castle-vianden.lu/english/openinghours/index.html