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Verdun, France - easy to get around without a car?

Verdun, France - easy to get around without a car?

Dec 29th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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Verdun, France - easy to get around without a car?

Hello,

I am plannig 2 nights in Verdun - so I anticipate one full day to see the area and its memorials (after finally arriving and settling in). I do not have a car however and am concerned about getting around. I am hearty, healthy and willing to walk - are the forts etc within reasonable distance to each other? If no, is the bus service in town a good option and easy to figure out?

Thanks!

Murphy
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Dec 29th, 2005, 02:02 PM
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Also, can anyone give me an idea of what Verdun is like beyond its war memorials/fort etc? Should I be trying to give the city more days within my itinerary? Any recommendations?

Thanks again,

Murph
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Dec 29th, 2005, 03:55 PM
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topping up
murphy89 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2005, 04:28 PM
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The town itself is fairly nondescript. It's the tour of the forts and the main cemetery that holds the most interest. The town has a good chamber of commerce (syndicat d'initiatif) with a helpful staff. The main forts are Vaux and Douaumont, both of which are quite interesting. Otherwise, nature has reclaimed the battlefield -- woods, trenches (The Trench of the Bayonets is still in place, something of a monument to those who died there), farmland, scrub -- those looking to see what it looked like in 1916 are due for a disappointment. To make a full circuit of the forts and the cemetery-ossuary-monument would be an estimated 15 miles. You could rent a cab rather than hike or rent a car. I suppose the CofC could line you up with an English-speaking guide. In all, I'd estimate a half day's time to make the circuit. You might want to see some of the Maginot Line forts which are nearby -- really interesting.
USNR is offline  
Dec 29th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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Thank you that is very helpful. I do see that Fort De Fermont is 56km north of Verdun and that interest me very much - I haven't found any mention of how to get there however - do you know off-hand if a local bus goes to any of the Maginot line forts outside of Verdun? I am always wary of taxi's - in my home city they are very expensive.

Thanks!

Murphy
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Dec 29th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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murphy89, I suspect you've read Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916? If not, it is an excellent account of the events of that year.

I'd also recommend William Martin's Verdun 1916, which is published by Osprey (www.ospreypublishing.com). It is, like all of the Osprey series, well illustrated with photos, drawings, and maps.

As part of my preparation for a trip to the area (planned, but not yet scheduled), I tracked down a copy of the 1920 Michelin Guide called The Battle of Verdun (1914-1918). This is one of their illustrated guides to the battlefields, a rather macabre series released immediately after the Great War. It includes marvelous before and after photographs; many of the places are unrecognizable in their post-war state. I got my copy through ABE Books (www.abebooks.com).

I was about to write "enjoy your trip," but that hardly seems an appropriate send-off for a visit to Verdun battlefields.

Anselm
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Dec 29th, 2005, 05:49 PM
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Anslem, Great suggestions! I know embarassingly few details of the areas history, other than a few foggy high school social studies facts. Aside from enjoying famed castles and pastries I do want to pay my respects and a big part of that should be learning more - so I will definately check out your suggestions.

Cheers,

Murphy
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Dec 30th, 2005, 03:03 AM
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Verdun's place in history is the result, as you may know, of the decision of the Germans' decision to bleed France white by attacking. Instead, the Germans -- in the face of unexpected stiff French resistance -- got sucked into fruitless charges against strong positions, resulting in enormous casualties on both sides. The battle went on for months, devastating miles of woodland and riverside hills. The result today is a town that lives in the past, haunted by history -- much like Gettysburg and Bastogne. History came, paid a visit, and left. It's very sad, especially when you visit the ossuary, a collection of the bones of the unknowns gathered and heaped in a gigantic marble building. Look for a copy of Romain Rolland's "Verdun," written from the French point of view. As Anselm suggests, get a copy of Horne's book for another slant. IMHO, Ypres is much more impressive, much more interesting, similarly macabre. In many ways, France's defeat in 1940 began here in 1916.
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Dec 30th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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This may be a bit dated, but when I last visited Verdun 5 years ago, the Tourist Office ran guided tours of the battlefield, including the Fort de Vaux, the Mémorial, the Ossuary of Douament, Fort Douament and the Bayonet Trench. Cost for the guide, bus and entrance fee was 145 FF. I can't comment on it, as we took our car.

Before visiting Verdun, you should certainly read the Horne book as suggested by others. For further reading, you might want to try Stephen O'Shea's "Back to the Front", the author's account of his 750km trek along the front from the North Sea to the Swiss border. He was repelled by Verdun, finding the memorials pompous and jingoistic, portraying the battle as a great victory. He has a point, but I don't think that anyone can come away from Verdun without a feeling for the senselessness of it all.
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Dec 30th, 2005, 06:32 AM
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The Verdun tourist office has a website describing the tours they run. In my opinion, without a car these would be the best option for a short visit.
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Dec 30th, 2005, 09:25 AM
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"In many ways, France's defeat in 1940 began here in 1916." USNR, intersting that you say that. I recently exchanged e-mails with my history-studying nephew and I put forward exactly the same opinion.

laverendrye, I have contemplated making the journey from Ypres to the Swiss border. I assume that is the same Stephen O'Shea who wrote the history of the Albigensian Crusade? I must get a copy of his book on the western front.

Anselm
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Dec 30th, 2005, 11:25 AM
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Anselm: It's the same Stephen O'Shea.

Good luck with your plans. You might also want to read Nigel Jones' "The War Walk: A Journey along the Western Front" if you haven't already done so.

For those who haven't read it, O'Shea's "The Perfect Heresy" is an excellent account of the Cathars/Albigensians and that cruel time in French history.

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Dec 31st, 2005, 10:02 AM
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laverendrye, thanks. I'll add Nigel Jones to my acquisition list.

Anselm
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