Going to Verdun was simply a matter of convenience, there was a campsite near the town that was open and it was on my route to Belgium. Verdun, or more specifically the hills to the north of the city, is the site of one of the largest battles in the first world war.
As I walk though the city centre, I am left with the impression that it has never really recovered from such a large scale tragedy, for the each of the ten months that the battle lasted, there were between 71,000 to 97,000 casualties. The town appears run down, a relic from the first world war, where tourism has not benefited the local economy in the same way it has other cities.
The subterranean citadel (Citadelle Souterraine) situated in the west of the city, is vast in scale. Visitors can take a 30 minute ‘gondola’ tour of the site for €9. However, for a more realistic view of the conditions experienced by the soldiers, either Fort Douaumont or Fort de Vaux are better options at €4 each or €6.50 for both. Although, either of these sites should provide you with an ever lasting impression of what humans endure from other humans, in times of war.
Fort Douaumont is one of several fortifications lining the hills around Verdun.
The Douaumont Ossuary is a memorial to the French and German soldiers who died at Verdun, the skeletal remains of about 130,000 unidentified soldiers can be seen filling up alcoves at the lower edge of the building.
To the front of the monument, lies the largest French military cemetery of the First World War with 15,000 graves.
As I leave the area, the birds are singing, the wind is rustling through the trees, as poignant as this site is, it is also now at peace.