An Eastward Homage, Day 28: Brave Soldiers and Broken Steps

6

June 23, 2014, Metz-  Metz on a work day is quieter along the river, but no less frenetic about the streets and alleys.  I was given to overthinking about certain directions I was given, before finding the store where I could get the laundry soap I so desperately needed, with eight days worth of dirty clothes.  It’d be the last chance I had to get the clothes done, before heading back to the States on Sunday, since Frankfurt’s laundries pretty much shut down at 8 PM, Friday night.  So, thanks to ResidHome, a big headache was made less.

Walking back along Avenue Foch, towards the University District, I saw more activity than on Sunday (Photo courtesy of marc.metz.moselle.eklablog.com)

Metz_Avenue_Foch_R01

You can see that this rather industrialized city goes to considerable lengths to maintain beauty.  Now, let’s look at Saint-Pierre aux Nonnaines, near the Water Park, which I visited on June 22.  The young lady minding the church waited for me to complete my meanderings, before closing up and heading for the rest of her day.  This never ceased to touch my heart- the way the students who kept watch over tourist sites went out of their way to accommodate.  At any rate, this edifice began life in 380 AD, as a Roman gymnasium.  It was converted into a church in the Seventh Century.  Since 1970, it has been Metz Water Park’s concert hall.(Photos, courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

Metz_-_Eglise_Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnais_-_Vue_du_côté_Est

Metz_-_Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains_-_Collatéral

My next stop, in Coeur de Ville, the Heart of Old Metz, was Temple Neuf,which overlooks the Moselle. This German Lutheran church was built in 1904, while Lorraine was under German rule. (Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgangstaudt).

Temple Neuf

Having spent time around Metz Cathedral on Sunday evening, I focused the rest of my time in Coeur de Ville checking out L’Opera Theatre and reading my e-mails, courtesy of Nicolas, the kind clerk at Metz Tourist Office.  Below, is L’Opera Theatre. (Photo courtesy of tout-metz.com)

opera-theatre-metz

It was lunch time, as  I left Coeur de Ville, and headed into the University District.  “Boogie Burger”, a tiny, new emportee (take-out) establishment, fit my mood perfectly.  I selected my second, and last, American-style cheeseburger and frites of the trip, and found a nice picnic spot along the Moselle.  It was a bit of a challenge finding a spot that was not within eyesight of couples trying for a few minutes of mid-day privacy, but I did find it, and reveled in the quiet warmth.

Walking along the bridges and alley, west of the University of Lorraine au Metz, I came upon Le Pont des Morts, so named because it was built in the thick of Metz’s being ravaged by the Black Plague. You can spot Temple Neuf and Metz Cathedral, to the north and west, respectively. (Photo courtesy of http://www.metz.fr)

Metz_Pont_Moyen

I made a brief visit to the campus of the University of Lorraine au Metz, just to get a feel for the ambiance of a collegiate setting in France.  Many people were about outside, as it seemed to be the tail-end of the lunch hour, which in France is still nearly two hours. (Photo courtesy of poncelet.sciences.univ-metz.fr)

University of Lorraine at Metz

The route to the great towers and ramparts of northwest Metz took me past three more houses of worship.

First was L’Eglise Saint-Vincent.  This Gothic church is, along with Metz Cathedral, a reminder of the three-hundred years when Metz was a Free City, within the German Confederation.(Photo courtesy of saintvincentmetz.wordpress.com)

L'Eglise Saint Vincent,Metz

The next house of worship was the Synagogue de Metz, built in 1609.  Louis XIV visited this temple, with his younger brother, in 1657. The future Louis XVIII would visit there as well, prior to the social conflagration which led to his brother’s and sister-in-law’s deaths.  (Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)

Synagogue_de_Metz

L’Eglise Sainte Segolene, named for an Albigensian Christian, Segolene, who preached a gospel of simplicity and fervour, in Metz, during the Thirteenth Century, was itself built in 1250, on the site of an earlier chapel.  (Photo courtesy of  edifices.religieux.free.fr)

Metz - Eglise Sainte Ségolène

As I did not enter any of these buildings, and want to keep this as authentic an account of my own sojourn, in the absence of my photos, let us continue onward, to Le Tour des Esprits, and the Ramparts.  Here, I encountered small groups of families, enjoying an early day of summer vacation. The largely Roma, North African and Congolese residents of this area, and of the apartments near Bellecroix, view outsiders with a fair amount of suspicion.  It was with surprise and relief, therefore, that a woman whose child had tossed a soccer ball outside the fenced play area, saw me waiting a safe distance away, while she went and retrieved the ball.

First, you see the Rampart Walk, along the moat built by the Council of Metz, to keep out raiding neighbours, in the chaotic Thirteenth Century. (Photo courtesy of marc.metz.moselle.eklablog.com)Les Remparts des Esprits   The walls, of course, were more formidable.  This is Tour des Esprits. (Photos courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)        640px-Metz_-_tour_des_Esprits-2               Tour_des_esprits_Metz_513

Commons.wikimedia.org also offers this view of Pont des Griles de la Basse Seille, the bridge which connects Tour des Esprits with the rest of the fortress.

Metz_-_Pont_des_Griles_de_la_Basse_Seille_et_tour_des_Esprits_-731

As you can imagine, I was one of five or six visitors who got up on the ramparts and followed the walkway, as well as going down and exploring the moat path, until it was blocked by a medieval wall.

Here is a view of Tour du Diable, the easternmost segment of this fortress.

stock-photo-tour-au-diable-medieval-curtain-wall-of-metz-lorraine-france-137577719

I proceeded to Tour des Chandeliers, one of the towers built by guild members, to safeguard their trades.  The candlemakers put up this impressive fortification. (Photo courtesy of commons.wikipedia.org)

Tour des Chandeliers

Now for the piece de resistance of the Metz Ramparts:  Le Port des Allemandes.  This magnificent structure was built by the Knights Teutonic, an order of health care providers, who offered a hospice nearby, as the area dealt with the aftermath of Black Plague.  The bridge spans the Seille River, which flows into the Moselle, a bit further to the south and west.  I was not permitted to enter the fortress, for safety reasons.  There seemed to be a fair amount of renovation going on. (Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)

Metz_Porte_des_Allemands_R05

After tooling around in the woods between east Metz’s business center and the apartments just north of Bellecroix, I got as close to the hilltop fortress, as current conditions allowed.  The stairs to the hilltop were broken, and a length of yellow “Interdit” tape stretched across the base.  So, here are some views of the wall’s base. (Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.com)

Metz_-_Double_couronne_de_Bellecroix_-080

(Photo courtesy of stewdgm.wordpress.com)Bellecroix

(Photo courtesy of tout-metz.com)bellecroix1-580x434

This narrow portal connects the old road to Bellecroix with the housing schemes to the north and east.  It is the south gate of Double Couronne, the twin crowns, or fortresses of Moselle and Bellecroix. (Photo courtesy of structurae.net)Bellecroix Porte

My visit to Metz was coming to an end, but, as you can see, it was a full one.  I will leave off with two final photos:  Place Saint-Louis, where the young and restless unwind, after a day or work or study, and a shot of one of the apartment megaplexes, where the poor and struggling look out towards Bellecroix, and wonder who would defend them, in time of danger.  It is in pondering these scenes, and being confronted briefly by some children who were wondering why I was in their neighbourhood, while en route to Bellecroix (“Monsieur, the other whites are not nice to us here.  We must be wary.”), that gave me pause to consider the depth of the camaraderie I saw in places like Paris and Rennes. (Photo below courtesy of commons.wikimedia.com)

Place_Saint-Louis_(Metz)_-_2

(Photo courtesy of bellx-57070.skyrock.com)The homes of the masses, Metz

I fully intend to return to Metz, and Strasbourg, take more photos and listen further to the voices of the dispossessed.  It is, after all, what Aimee Cesaire would want a world citizen to do.  Besides, American soldiers did stand for the people of Metz, in 1944.  They were the Iron Men of Metz, from the 95th Infantry Division. (Photo courtesy of en.tracesofwar.com)

11-01-11 Metz US Memorial

An Eastward Homage, Day 27: Rousing Send-off, Cautious Welcome

2

June 22, 2014, Metz- Today is the 28th anniversary of my father’s passing.  I think he is pleased that I was able to visit the home city of his paternal ancestors:  Rouen.  He would also approve of my visit to Luxembourg, a small, hard-working city of unpretentious people. I started the day with another visit to Luxembourg’s Baha’i National Centre.  This time, I met the caretaker and was allowed to take some time to pray and meditate in the large meeting room, although it was officially closed.

14814658279_f4ec87cbef_n

He graciously took me over to the home of another Baha’i family, for a devotional gathering, followed by a delicious brunch. I was very much touched by the melodious voices of the Baha’i youth, who joyfully sang their prayers and devotional tunes.  We all joined in chanting “Allah’u’abha” (“God is the All-Glorious”),and several adults said prayers in French, Portuguese, Persian and Magyar.  Yes, I said a prayer in English, for the success of an upcoming gathering at the Baha’i House of Worship, in Frankfurt, which I would visit later in the week.  Here is the group, my finest Luxembourgian friends.

The chef, sixth from left, prepared an exquisite meal for us

14814700140_c7be7edfd2_n

So, my friends in Nashville, John and Mary, that is the REAL reason I went to Luxembourg 🙂

14978367746_b607ae4e48_n

After the brunch, Madame showed me her prolific garden.  I gladly accepted a bag full of sour cherries, from this tree.

14814745888_739bea9d3b_n

The back yards are long and narrow, but every centimeter is put to good use.

14998266231_d42d7ca8ab_h

With this lovely send-off, I was driven back to Hotel Vauban, and made my way to the train station.  I was soon en-route to Metz, capital of Lorraine.  It did  not take more than an hour to get there. The train station in Metz is majestic. ( If you sense a difference in the quality of the photo, it’s unfortunately very simple.  My photos from Metz to my departure from Frankfurt were lost in a mishap with the computer.  I will be accrediting the photos that are not watermarked, as I am borrowing them from Google.)

20050722021116_metz train station

(Above, courtesy of @ arielbravy.com.)

(Below,courtesy of ResidHome, LLC.)

ResidHome-Metz

I walked at a brisk pace down the road a bit, to ResidHome-Metz, a large, modern hotel, which seems to cater to single male workers.  The desk staff is courteous, but firm with the rules.  The young women who are chambermaids are attentive to their tasks, but want no contact with the male guests.  This could very well be the fruit of some rather nefarious acts, in times past.  All I wanted there was exactly what I received:  Professional courtesy.

I had lots of daylight left, so the destination was first Avenue Foch, named for the great French commander of World War I, then to the banks of the Moselle and its canals. Here are some of the row houses, which accommodate immigrant workers, along Avenue Foch.  (Photo courtesy of forum.skyscraperpage.com)

METZ_51_1204

Metz Cathedral,by day and night, is a spectacle worthy of an hour or more.  I had the former, and again was most impressed. (Photo courtesy of panoramio.com.)

Metz Cathedral

cathedral-of-metz-france

(Above photo, courtesy of hdrcreme.com.)    (Below, courtesy of en.wikipedia.com)

Cathedrale_metz_2003

Let’s go down to the Citadelle, and along the banks of the Moselle and its network of barge canals.  It seemed much of Metz was there, on that bright, beautiful Sunday afternoon and evening.  I enjoyed a kebab sandwich, ice cream cone and mineral water, amusing the college-student servers with my earnest, but halting French.  The furtive young couples in the Citadelle did appreciate my quick exiting their little nooks. (Photo courtesy of fodors.com)

metz-france-citadelle

Fathers and sons were fishing.  Teen boys were pestering teen girls.  A toddler was in awe of the swans and ducks, which were prolific along the Moselle.  Bicyclists were also prolific and moving with a purpose that reminded me of Ghent and its jam-packed sidewalks.  The bridges were certainly jam-packed in Metz.

??????????????????????????????????????

(Photo below, courtesy of flickr.com)

Metz-France-420x0

moselle-river-flows-ancient-town-metz-france-28404984

(Photo below, courtesy of indigoguide.com)metz

I made a  mental note to explore the university quarter and old city more thoroughly, as well as going up to Bellecroix, on Monday.  It would be one of my longest and most intense days of this journey.  Today, though, had been a pleasant day among many carefree Lorraignais.

An Eastward Homage, Day 26: An Old City Stands and Cheers

8

June 21, 2014, Luxembourg-  It was the Solstice!  How to ring in the Summer?  For me, there was no better way than to walk down to the Alzette River, passing the three segments of the old fortress district of Luxembourg-Ville along the way. The path to these magnificent sites passes along Rue Marche des Herbes.14993102801_082c2a9077_b

The walker passes Luxembourg’s Palais de Justice.

14809657277_36069037a1_n

Around the corner is L’Eglise Saint-Michel, honouring the Archangel.

14809496219_4160c069b8_n

14973199926_a93a64a424_n

Then comes Rocher de Bock.  This is the oldest area of Luxmbourg-Ville, having been built  by Count Sigefroy, on the site of an old Roman castellum, in 963 AD.

14996177765_cdf4b41d13_n

This is a view of a casement, under the Bock.

14809535210_fbf4313b24_n

From the Bock, a viaduct, built first by the Romans, then restored by the Spanish, still shows usefulness.

14993094051_c44cc4eb6e_h

The “new Luxembourg” of the Europe Center is visible in the distance.14973198366_6339fe710b_n

14995810842_62384a8886_n

Ville-Basse, the lower city, has its vibrance and trendiness, much as do the city centre and Quartier Gare, both in Ville- Haute.

14993094701_d1ca0807d3_n

14814540568_d7c7b24c08_n

Maybe Not Bob’s is an eatery that has been open for 21 years.  The name comes from a compromise between the two owners.  One wanted to call it Maybe’s and the other, Bob’s.  So they disagreed in the middle, but continued to serve good food, or so I’m told.  I saved my appetite for New Color’s, later that evening.14809570808_bd872795ef_n

On I went, past the confluence of the tiny Pertrusse with the moderately-flowing Alzette, towards Wenceslas Wall.

14809527600_353dd7c096_h

14809486009_e3a860affc_n

The Alzette offers a short, but tranquil, walk in shady woods.

14809484769_3703e5165c_h

Then, the woods clear, and the Spanish Turrets (Tres Tours) of Wenceslas Wall let us know why this city was called Gibraltar of the North.14809568318_d709ced914_h

Wenceslas was an early Duke of Luxembourg, allied with the Spanish, during the days when Spain was ruled by the Hapsburgs.  His wall was intended to keep out the French.  This worked until the War of the Reunions, which I mentioned in the previous post.  Vauban, who led the french to victory, left his own fortress.

14809481769_f6ace5f136_h

There is a third fortress, Thungen, in the Kirschberg District, but I did not get over that way, this time.

Instead, I circled around and took in Ville-Basse’s small but scintillating garden.

14814447469_d3e06d8557_h

14978157146_281863ea08_n

15001143315_bdfa42016d_n

After this brief respite, it was back up to Ville-Haute, past the area where the Wenceslas and Vauban strongholds blend.14814493190_a95ea58ebe_h

15000776502_f7b1506a1e_n

14978383866_f774a16b3c_n14998264931_319d17c90b_n

New Color’s is a brasserie, built by some of the employees of Color’s, a now defunct eatery, which ruled the Luxembourg dining scene for several years, or again, so I’m told.  All I know is that this new establishment provided a delectable five-course meal, and has one of the most energetic staffs I’ve seen anywhere.  I was the first dinner guest, and by the time I left, there was zero room on the patio.  Hugo became a friend, and I gave my payment standing up, so that he and his wife would not lose four guests, for whom mine was the closest table to being available.

Then, the show was about to start.  Luxembourg Philharmonic presented an evening of Disney and movie themes.14814835467_d5facf1e74_n

15001360995_dcf80c690d_n

The Orchestra ended its performance at 10 PM.  In Place d’Armes, however, Dany Kohll and Maxim were just getting started.

14978372336_3149ab9359_h

14814659149_2c0a1cd825_n

Graceful Mme. Kohll and her troupe, which includes her husband, Felix Schaber, a horn virtuoso, kept everyone gleeful, with a mix of pop, show, blues and rock anthems.  We all got to join in for “Silly Sally” and Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home”, with which Dany sent everyone home, right at Midnight.

This was the most eclectic day of my journey, certainly, and what an honour to have been able to take part in the little nation’s big weekend.  By the way, the Duke whose birthday is the basis for this celebration was the first Grand Duke of an independent Luxembourg:  Adolphe I.

NEXT:  Morning in Luxembourg, Evening in Metz.

( I must let everyone know, all the photos taken during the last week of my time in Europe were lost yesterday, in a computer mishap.  I am looking into long-shot possibilities for restoring the SIM card, or extracting the photos, but Best Buy says its impossible.  The remaining posts, therefore, will have accredited photos by other sources.)

An Eastward Homage, Day 25, Part II: LX Is More!

5

June 20, 2014, Luxembourg- I arrived at Luxembourg-Ville’s Central Train Station around 4:30, on this overcast, but cool, Friday

afternoon.  It being rush hour, the streets were filled with people in suits needing to be somewhere, yesterday, tourists

looking for hotels, street people looking for coins and observers of human nature, like me, taking it all in.  This is one of

Europe’s most densely-populated countries, and one of its most expensive- sort of a land-locked, French-speaking Rhode Island.  It quickly became one of my favourites.  I happened upon Luxembourg as it revved up for the Grand Duke’s Birthday, the country’s National Day.

SAM_1471

After some twenty minutes of navigating, on Luxembourg-Ville’s excellent bus system and on foot through the city centre, I found Place Guillaume II, and my hotel, Le Vauban, named for the great military commander of Seventeenth Century France, Sebastien de Vauban. He broke the siege of Luxembourg, in 1684, making the Grand Duchy a nominal satellite of France, until 1697, when it passed again to the influence of the Holy Roman Empire (the conglomerate of duchies and small kingdoms which occupied what is now Germany).  The back story of all this is that France and Spain were fighting in what is called the War of the Reunions, mainly over which royal family, the Bourbons or the Hapsburgs, would control the Rhine, the Danube and their tributaries.  These included the Moselle and the Alzetter, which flow through Luxembourg.  The fortress city overlooked the Alzette, making its strategic value quite high.

Anyway, here is Hotel Le Vauban.  Many people in the hospitality field in Luxembourg come from elsewhere, and many commute from Arlon, and other nearby towns in Belgium.  “Florine”, our maid, came from Guinea.  Our desk clerk, “Marco”, is from Portugal.

SAM_1457

Place Guillaume II is named for Grand Duke Guillaume II, who ruled during the mid- 19th Century.  Prior to then, it was a Franciscan monastery, until the French Jacobins chased the monks out, in 1797.  Thus, the place, in Letzebergsch, is called Platz Kneudler, or Place of Knots, after the knots tied in the sashes worn by Franciscan monks.  Letzebergsch is a dialect of Middle German, spoken only in Luxembourg, and is the country’s second language, after French.

Guillaume II overlooks his square, which is the centerpiece of many national celebrations.  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra would perform here on Saturday night, as you will see.

SAM_1459

I spent a couple of hours walking around the government district, just east of the Place.  Here is the Chamber of Deputies, where Luxembourg’s Parliament meets.

SAM_1461

The government buildings, and nearby Luxembourg Cathedral, are tightly packed, and thus easy to defend.

SAM_1463

Here is the front of Notre Dame de Luxembourg.

SAM_1468

As the armed guard indicates, this is the Ducal Palace.SAM_1509

This performance artist portrayed Jeanne d’Arc.  She was less than amused by those who took her for a statue.  It must have been a long day, under the greasepaint.SAM_1614

I was very much taken by the city’s affection with cones.

SAM_1507

SAM_1513

SAM_1525

L’Eglise Saint-Michel honours the Archangel.

SAM_1516

SAM_1520

SAM_1523

All is not stone and plaster, however.  Luxembourg has three grand parks:  Ed Klein, Pertrusse and Kirchberg.  Below is a smaller park, between Place Guillaume II and Hamilius Bus Station.

SAM_1479

At Place d’Armes, preparations were being made for the weekend’s festivities.  This totem pole is an indication of the country’s, and the region’s, fascination with indigenous cultures of other nations.

SAM_1503

As with any great event, balloons were here in abundance, as well.

SAM_1501

As the daylight faded, around 9:30 PM, I headed to Place de la Gare, to see what was happening in the business district.

There was a carnival in full swing.  When was the last time you saw an old-fashioned carnival, in the middle of a national capital?  This was just awesome, seeing families and delighted children having clean fun together.  I thoroughly relished the Red Hot sandwich and limeade, from a Portuguese sausage vendor.

SAM_1473

With this as a greeting, I headed back to the hotel, knowing that breakfast on the patio would soon signal another lovely day.  Great things lie hidden in small packages, and in mini-states.

NEXT UP:  Old Luxembourg

An Eastward Homage, Day 25, Part I: Mardasson and the Seven Roads to Hell

7

June 20, 2014, Bastogne- Of all the battles fought against the Nazis and their collaborators in World War II, none was more necessary, or difficult, than the Battle of the Ardennes.  Hitler was obsessed with the low mountains of eastern Belgium, and with Bastogne in particular.  It is said he visited the occupied town, at least once.

The Allied Forces liberated Bastogne, in November, 1944.  Less than a month later, the German Army struck back, as the tired Allies prepared to celebrate Christmas, and to send some troops to Paris for the holidays.  The German goal was to recapture Bastogne and Namur, and push up the Meuse Valley, clear to the Port of Antwerp.

At the eastern edge of the town of Bastogne, there is this homage to those who stopped that advance:

SAM_1405

American and British forces, helped by Belgian partisans, kept the encircled Bastogne from being overrun.  This is the miracle of the “Battle of the Bulge”, and would be the final turning point in the defeat of the Nazi regime.

I walked the two kilometers to the Mardasson Memorial.  It honours those American troops who helped make real the response of General Anthony McAuliffe, to the German surrender ultimatum; “Nuts!”.  All fifty states, and all units invovlved in the defense of Bastogne, have their names engraved in this splendid memorial.  As it happened, I met a Mr. McAuliffe, of Massachusetts, and distantly-related to the general, who had been at the battle, serving with the 87th Infantry Division.  His story, and those of several men from Ohio, who were there during the siege as well, having served with the 101st Airborne Division, mightily augmented the awful beauty of this terrible, but ultimately blessed, series of events.

I present to you Mardasson Memorial:

SAM_1416

SAM_1419

SAM_1421

There is a crypt, on the day I visited closed to the public, which contains the remains of many who died in the days of the battle.  An American Cemetery nearby holds many others.  A German Cemetery is also nearby, underscoring that even those in service to the wicked are themselves viewed as worthy of respect, in death.  I stood at a bunker, from which American soldiers looked out at the encircling enemy troops.

SAM_1417

On a clear day, one can see well into the Wiltz Valley of nearby Luxembourg.

SAM_1418

Climbing to the top level of Mardasson Memorial, I could see still further.

SAM_1433

SAM_1434

SAM_1436

A detailed description of Mardasson is offered, in French.

SAM_1438

The memorial also offers a five-panel listing of the Divisions and Units involved in the successful defense of the town of Bastogne.  After reading several of those, it was time to visit the Bastogne Historical Center, or “War Museum”.

SAM_1441

Each of us put on a headset, which described the events as recollected by those present, in our native language.  There were four accounts, dovetailing with each other, as we proceeded:  An American lieutenant, a German soldier, a Belgian teacher and one of her students.  They all ended up in the boy’s parents’ tavern.  The harrowing several days in that crowded safe haven, in the cold of winter, can not be minimized.  The German became a prisoner of the Americans, and told of having been treated with utmost respect and attention paid to his wounds.  The actual soldiers both revisited Bastogne a few times, with their families, after the war had ended.

SAM_1443

A Sherman tank is presented here as well.

SAM_1442

SAM_1447

Outside Mardasson, there are two small memorials to those who gave their all to the battle. This is the honouring of Combat Command B.

SAM_1408

A second memorial honours Belgian Corporal Emile Cady, who gave his life in the initial defense of Bastogne, in 1940.

SAM_1411

The spirit of both efforts is best exemplified by this sculpture, which honours the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles.

SAM_1439

Bastogne, and its determination to honour those who kept it safe, in the darkest days of war, are well-kept in mind, and well-worth visiting, to all who would recognize that “Freedom isn’t Free”.  My heart was touched by many experiences and people in Belgium.  I am glad, and blessed, for having been among the Flemish, the Walloons, and all those from other parts of the world who have found their way to this beautiful and time-tested crossroads. I walked back to Bastogne, collected my bags, enjoyed a late lunch, served by yet another lovely lady, and was guided to the “early” bus by a friendly, but intoxicated, Bastognais. It would soon be time to board the country bus, which would take me to Arlon, where I would board a train for the short ride to Luxembourg-Ville, and its National Day weekend. Thank you, Brugge, Ghent, Brussels- and Bastogne.  It was a pleasure.

An Eastward Homage, Day 24, Part II: Leo at Home and Loup Garou

9

June 19, 2014, Bastogne- I got off the bus, at the now shuttered Gare de Bastogne, in mid-afternoon.  A college student sitting outside directed me to Place McAuliffe, a scant 200 meters to the east.  General Anthony McAuliffe was the American commander who, when informed of a German ultimatum to surrender at Bastogne, replied, “Nuts!”, and kept his forces in the fight.  Thus, the Battle of the Ardennes, or “Battle of the Bulge” was fought, and eventually won, by the Allies.

SAM_1344

This small park, in the center of Bastogne, features a round Visitors’ Center, and a Sherman tank.

SAM_1348

SAM_1345

Some kids were being helped by their father to climb up for a closer look.  I was more interested, at that point, in taking my bags over to my hotel, which has the captivating name, Leo At Home.  It was a few steps away, in Bastogne’s solid business center.SAM_1351

SAM_1353

SAM_1346

As it happened, the town was hosting another of  its regular Youth Fests. Teens and young adults from all over Wallonia were there, gathering in the town’s main park, and at brasseries throughout the city centre.

SAM_1356

The park is as nicely landscaped as any in Belgium.

SAM_1359

SAM_1355

SAM_1361

Along the main street, Bastogne has such attractions as the Bastogne Pig Museum.

SAM_1386

There are an American Indian Museum and Bison Ranch, on the south side of town.  I didn’t go there, but it is popular with Europeans, including the surprising number of Germans who visit the battle site.  Bastogne keeps its war-related in-town historical sites in good order.  Here is L’Eglise Saint Pierre, where many took refuge during the siege of 1944.

SAM_1362

The town has its own memorial to those who worked to defend it, and the Ardennes, in those harrowing days.

SAM_1382

An old farm woman who donned a helmet is memorialized in this sculpture.

SAM_1383

The most moving symbol of the town’s fortitude and resilience, though, is Porte de Treves, adjacent to L’Eglise Saint Pierre. This is the sole remaining portion of the wall which once surrounded Bastogne.

SAM_1388

The eerie light which highlight’s the entrance to the gate came to mind later, when I checked out the bicycle path that runs from Bastogne, north to Liege, or east, to the Luxembourgian town of Wiltz.

SAM_1371

It is there, on a moonlit night, that local legend says one will encounter Le Loup Garou.

SAM_1372

The story of the werewolf, and other legends of the Ardennes, is told at Musee de Piconrue, in an old convent, across from the bicycle path.  Bastogne was nonetheless quite lively, with various war buffs and young adults from all over, staying at the Leo corporation’s two hotels.  The concern also operates a fine restaurant, in a refurbished train car.  There, I enjoyed sea bass and new potatoes, while being closely observed by two little girls there with their parents. “Yes, this my darlings, is how one properly uses a fish knife and fork.”

NEXT:   Navigating “The Seven Roads to Hell”.

An Eastward Homage, Day 24: Brussels to Bastogne

4

June 19, 2014, Arlon-  La Brabantiere, standing straight in this north Brussels square, signals the resolve of the Belgian. SAM_1307

Frequently viewed as a hybrid people, because of the relatively modern establishment of their country, Belgians are making an intense, honest and often raucous effort at nation-building.  To some outside observers, it almost seems like the nation is ripe for a split.  I see a country that is no more likely to fall apart than is Canada, Switzerland or the U.S., for that matter.  The Flemish and the Walloon French are each a hard-working, proud and stubborn people, with solid pasts and vibrant, rambunctious and highly intelligent youth.  They will argue and bump heads, so to speak, but these people came together by choice, mainly to break away from their three larger, overbearing neighbours:  France, Germany (then Prussia and Westphalia) and the Netherlands.  They accepted the German Saxe-Cobourgs as their royal house, and have built a genuine national culture.  Brussels reflects that blend.

I began the day at L’Eglise Notre Dame des Bon Secours, whose Roma caretaker slyly accepted “tips”.  She keeps a clean house, so I obliged a few euros.

SAM_1243

SAM_1246

SAM_1247

This unidentified piece evoked Munch’s “The Scream”.

SAM_1248

SAM_1249

For some reason, Vasco da Gama has found his way in here.

SAM_1250

SAM_1252

I felt blessed enough to continue my journey, heading up to north Brussels, for a brief visit to the new Baha’i National Centre of Belgium.

The Walloon caretaker, and the Flemish secretary and treasurer are all best of friends, as is the Baha’i way.  Jacquo is a skilled engineer and craftsman, who did the bulk of the renovation to this lovely center.

SAM_1308

SAM_1310

Toos and Yolande keep the operation running smoothly.

SAM_1315

The watchful eyes of Baha’ullah’s sons always guarantee that we place His Teachings first and foremost, especially in matters of Faith.

Mirza Mihdi died young, in a tragic fall through a skylight, in the mid- Nineteenth Century.

SAM_1311

‘Abdu’l-Baha lived to oversee His Father’s Faith, after Baha’ullah passed, and traveled extensively in Egypt, Europe and North America, from 1911-13.  He passed in 1921.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha never visited Belgium, but He is revered by Baha’is everywhere.

After a cup of tea with the ladies, I bid farewell to this beautiful center,and was soon on a train out of Brussels, headed east.

SAM_1317

I managed a shot of Brussels Cathedral, from the train.

SAM_1318

I hope to someday come back to the Belgian capital, and savour more than the glimpse of these scenes.

The next thing I knew, though, I was headed through the east of Brabant.

SAM_1320

Namur, in western Wallonia, was not a station stop, but the train slowed own enough for me to get these scenes.

SAM_1324

SAM_1326

The Meuse River flows out of the Ardennes, towards Antwerp.  It seems to split Namur in half.

SAM_1325

We headed into the rolling hills of the Ardennes region.

SAM_1328

The route took us past enticing little villages, like Jetelle.

SAM_1330

SAM_1335

You can see that, as we got further inland, the air became clearer and bluer.

SAM_1336

SAM_1339

By mid-afternoon, the train arrived at Libramont, where those of us headed either to Bastogne, or the European Space Center, got off to transfer to buses.

My bus came about forty minutes after we got off the train.  The rest of the people in my car were from London, and were off for a weekend at ESC.SAM_1341

I will devote the next two posts to Bastogne, the little town which roared back at Nazi Germany,during and after the Battle of the Ardennes (“Battle of the Bulge”).

An Eastward Homage, Day 23: Old Masters and Older Conflicts

4

June 18, 2014, Brussels-This day, I resolved to explore the royal aspects of life In Brussels, as much as possible.  Also on the agenda was a visit to the Baha’i National Centre of Belgium, which was listed as being  a bit north of the Royal Palace.  First, though, I searched for a cybercafe, as, if you recall, this trusty laptop of mine was on the blink.  My query produced gales of laughter at a self-styled “chic bakery”, but the Discover Flanders tourist office proved helpful, and an hour was spent catching up on the words and wisdom of my g-mail correspondents.

To start my walkabout, I left the area around Grand Place, after helping a group of school kids from Germany identify a landmark or two.  Crossing Place Albertine and the area near La Gare Centrale, I came upon gurgling fountains,

SAM_1255

a demure Queen Elisabeth of Belgium,

SAM_1258

a stern King Albert,

SAM_1259

Don Quixote with SanchoPanza,SAM_1306

and a gleeful Smurf.

SAM_1305

The steps past La Bibliotheque Royale de Belgique led to the first of three lovely gardens.

SAM_1262

SAM_1260

SAM_1261

SAM_1264

Brussels is a constant interplay between concrete desert and lush greenery.  The courtyard of the National Museum is certainly among the former.

SAM_1267

Angels and cherubs break the almost Soviet-esque feel of the building.SAM_1270

Someone also had the idea of planting a hedgerow in view of the Old England Pub, across from the Museum.SAM_1272

I was given the selection from among three art museums:  Magritte, Modern Art and Old Masters.  I chose the third, spending two hours and thirty minutes among the likes of Rembrandt, van Eyck, Vermeer and Reubens. The last offered a striking, for the 15th Century, view of four African men, each in Northern Renaissance garb, entitled “Four Views of a Moor”.  I stood for several minutes, pondering what it must have been like for Africans in the north of Europe at that time.  The era somewhat predated the slave trade, so perhaps life was not so bad for them, if they were indeed treated as human beings, equal to the Flemish and French.  I could have used another two and a half hours, but closing time is what it is.

I had also spent an hour in Belvue, the museum of Belgian History.  Here, the focus was on the country since its independence, in 1830.  The constant interplay between Fleming and Walloon, elite and peasant, business and labour is all outlined, along three floors and in ten galleries.  There is no mincing words about Leopold II, the dour overlord of the Congo, and his depredations in that hapless land.  Leopold III, infamous in Allied circles during World War II, for his surrender to the Nazis, is given a bit more leniency by the Belgian people nowadays.  Many see him as having wanted to stay and suffer with the common folk.  He may well have wanted to also act as a counter to the twin Belgian Fascists, Jef van der Wiele, of the Flemish, and Leon Degrelle, of the Walloons.  Regardless, after the war, Leopold was unable to keep the throne, giving way to his brother, Charles I and then to his son, Baudouin II. Of the two Nazi collaborators, neither were apologetic after the war.  Van der Wiele spent the rest of his life as a prisoner and parolee.  Degrelle was basically a “guest” of Spain, from 1944, until his death in 1994.

Parc de Brussels, across from the museums, is another grand oasis and respite from the overabundance of concrete and stone.

SAM_1282

SAM_1283

The Madonna and Child, with Cherubs, take a spot in the center of the park.SAM_1284

This gazebo is the centerpiece for concerts, on cool summer nights.SAM_1286

Many a person would have loved to have dived into this lovely pool.

SAM_1287

SAM_1288

SAM_1294

Coudenberg Palace was once the seat of the Dukes of Brabant, the province around Brussels. Today, it houses a couple of museums of royal life.

SAM_1281

A curiosity in the Square de Coudenberg is a statue of Godfrey of Bouillon, a sketchy character from the days of the Crusades.  He stands in front of L’Eglise Saint Jacques sur Coudenberg.

SAM_1277

The Academy Palace, across from Parc de Brussels, was built for William of Orange, in recognition of his services at the Battle of Waterloo.  He didn’t enjoy it for long, though.  The Belgian people sent him packing in 1830, and became independent of the Netherlands, as we have seen.

SAM_1290

I am no great fan of Neoclassical, or Protosoviet, architecture.  The Royal Palace built by Leopold I, and kept by his successors, is much more regal.

SAM_1296

SAM_1298

Making my way to the address listed online for the Baha’i National Center, I found it was neither Baha’i, nor any kind of a center.  Two young construction workers explained they were renovating it, and had no idea who the next tenants would be.  The Baha’is, they said, were “somewhere northeast of here”.  ( I would find the correct address later that evening.  The actual center will be featured in my next post.)

The day ended with a visit to L’Eglise de la Madeleine.

SAM_1300

SAM_1302

I did not seek out Mannekin-Pis.  It is not the image I wish to convey of the people of Brussels, no matter how I might have giggled and chortled at it, when I was ten or eleven, looking through my grand-aunt’s “Travels Abroad”.  I did find this little gem, though, near Belvue.

SAM_1299

With that, I took a bus back to Grand Place, and enjoyed dinner at a brasserie.

Reflection Time

4

 August 16, 2014, Prescott- I will continue with my posts on Europe tomorrow.  They are sparsely read, anyway,so this is a good time to switch gears.

As always happens when there are events that hit close to home, I’ve done a lot of reflecting this week.  Tonight, I watched a film about the human brain.  That’s all I’ll say about the film, for now.  I have also done a lot of thinking about which direction my life should take.  That’s still up in the air.  These things are clear:

Prescott, and my current residence, are good places, and will suffice for now.  I have a lease that’s good until April, and my term as American Legion Post Chaplain runs until June.

Work has dried up, with the public schools, but I give it until December, to see which way the wind is blowing.  Small minds tend to call the shots, in many places, oddly enough, especially when it comes to forgiving small slights.

I have two commitments out of state, this Fall:  A business convention in Salt Lake City, in September and meeting my son in Honolulu, and possibly following him back to San Diego, in October.  Once those are finished, I will look to the area’s charter schools, for a fresh start with substituting or helping out in a classroom.

The other night, I had a vision of what I might do next.  With the world the way it is, I ‘m not going to get too specific, but it involves a slogan, for which I could get a trademark.  I could use this to do some good, and follow my heart.

These things have been running through my mind, the past couple of days.  I have a lot of good friends, of all ages and both genders, and I know the true ones will be on my side.  I’m not concerned about a relationship.  At my age, and income level, it is secondary, anyway.  I want, most of all, though, to do more good, on  a wider level, than attending meetings and being on someone’s “IGNORE” list.  It’ll get done, because I was not left here to stagnate.

Thanks for reading this.

An Eastward Homage, Day 22, Part II: Navigating Brussels, Afternoon and Evening

6

June 17, 2014, Brussels- It might have been an omen, of sorts, but when I attempted to debark from the train at Brussels Central Station, I found myself being pushed back INTO the car, by a crowd of homebound commuters.  After about three minutes of this, a tall, big-boned French-speaking woman shouted “ARRET!”, and threw her arm in front of several of the people who were pushing, literally sweeping them aside, so that I might squeeze through.  This was, thankfully, the sole instance of crowd meanness I faced during my trip.  I was very thankful for her assistance.

I soon found myself, bag and baggage, in Grand Place, Brussels’ magnificent central square.

SAM_1193

The spire of Brussels Town Hall can be seen from the train station, making this navigation relatively easy.

SAM_1194

My first impression of the structure was that it may have been the inspiration for the Belgian waffle.  St. Michael the Archangel stands atop the Guildhalls 8-12.

SAM_1195

No one, including anyone on Google, seems to know whose statue is on top of the south guildhalls.  If I had used that much gold, I would know, believe me.SAM_1198

I was given three conflicting sets of directions from Grand Place to Hotel George V, which is in a rich and vibrant neighbourhood of Africans and Arabs, just west of downtown.  It was supposed to be “nearly impossible to find”.  Despite that mindset, I managed to find it, using a common thread in the three divergent sets of directions.  As I had to go back to the main street, Boulevard Anspach, to get cash to pay for the room, my navigation lesson was underscored.

SAM_1200

I rested a bit, then went back to Place de la Bourse, for what was a topsy-turvy, but peaceful evening of celebration, first by some Algerians, then by Belgians, as Team Belgium came from behind to beat Algeria, 2-1.

The crowd gradually grew in size.

SAM_1206

SAM_1209

SAM_1210

SAM_1215

SAM_1216

SAM_1220

SAM_1227

SAM_1230

The crowd gradually dispersed, peacefully, into the surrounding neighbourhoods, and regrouped at their favourite bars and brasseries.  My favourite, Bella Pizzeria, is right up the street from Hotel George V, and is managed by a sweet and very helpful young couple from Corsica.  This was Rue Claire-Marie, en route from Place de la Bourse to my hotel.

SAM_1232

As it was, I felt it had been a full day, from Gravensteen to the World Cup celebrations, and so drifted back to the room and to sleep.

By the way, this is what the Bourse looks like, most of the time.

SAM_1241