I'm about 9 days into a 22 day journey following my interest in military history through Europe and I wanted to throw a few photos up there for anyone
Travelling from NZ (for 24hrs) means, when you travel - you make the most of it! None of this sitting in a hotel relaxing for days on end... there's
24hrs in a day and if you stretch it long enough you can turn it into 30hrs - ok not really but when your head hits the pillow it sure feels like a
The basic itinerary of this adventure is:
Aachen - Germany (Hurtgen Forrest)
Arras - France (Somme)
Warsaw – Poland (Hitlers Wolfs Lair)
Moscow – And all it entails
Volgograd - Stalingrad
So, Amsterdam is Amsterdam... I don’t remember a lot.. I remember a few bars, a few cafes and chatting to a few people.. but it was basically 48hrs
of chill and get rid of jet lag and it worked although I feel a little spaced out... but thats what its all about!
Aachen was a cool medieval kind of city, a massive cathedral in the city center with cobblestone roads and small cave like bars.
I got naked at a German bath house... real naked... like, naked naked... there were lots of old, fat, young, skinny female and male version of the
German Specimen.. having never done it before I figured, what the hell! take it all off a strut like you own the place! And don’t look too hard at
the beautiful people!
I sat in one of the infusion steam houses where they fill the room with eucalyptus.. now that’s something I'd like to start up back home!
But Aachen was a specific place to visit.. I wanted to walk the Hurtgen Forrest…
Not only did this battle start on my birthday (19th sept) but it was the first real attempt for the Americans to push into Germany. They didn’t
know of the German strength in the Forrest and sad to say the Americans were given a spanking!
It was the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and is the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought
The battle of the Hurtgen ended in a German defensive victory and the whole offensive was a dismal failure for the Allies. The Americans suffered
Earnest hemming way says:
"It was a place where it was extremely difficult for a man to stay alive even if all he did was be there. And we were attacking all the time
and every day."
Basically, you need to take a bus to a small town outside of Aachen, find the cathedral then follow it into the forrest, its not very well sign posted
so you need to keep your wits about you!
It was freezing cold (like 5oC)raining, windy as hell and I seemed to be the only one on the 8am bus heading into the vacant lands…
Holding my nerve I got off at the stop, found the church and set off in the direction of the Forrest!
The Church was an amazing place, covered in bullet holes and shrapnel scars.. the surrounding town was devastated and it was surreal standing at the
church I’d seen so many photos of in a crumbling mess
The Bridge is where it starts, so it was time for a shameless selfie and a quick read on the sign beside me!
For some reason the local authorities closed the trail about 10minutes in, no reason just a large rope across the track and a sign saying ''HALT -
Vorbotten'' Yeah, that’s not going to stop me fella’s!
Undeterred, I went off the trail into the woods and figured I could get a look at the trail further down the way and see what the cause was. It turned
out they were logging and had large machinery on the trail, no problem.. a quick 30 minute bash through the bush and down a small embankment I found
the trail again and had avoided the loggers... I also found a few bomb craters ( I think ) hiding in the bush! Great site to see! But there were
bee’s, lots of them.. and I had read that there were many wooden mines still in the forests.. so I stepped lightly
Taking the track along the pathway you come across various places of interest.. You see where the Americans blasted into the rock to make it wide
enough for the Sherman’s, you see the tank tracks that fused into the ground after the tank was destroyed.. Many bunkers and statues of Jesus dotted
the track and of course, breath taking - beautiful scenery!
I got into Schmidt around 1130am, wet, cold and tired and keen to get back to Aachen and a hot shower, sadly the buses run at odd times, they run all
day, but stop between 11am and 2pm.. So it was a 2hr wait on the side of the road as no pubs/bars were open… not cool Germany, but I forgive you!
On the bus journey home, by pure chance, I managed to find some of the Siegfried line fortifications… I got off the bus and went exploring! Genuine
Well, that’s all part of the adventure, back to Aachen, rest, recover and onto Arras!
Arras was a battleground during the war! A small town near the Somme battlefields the Germans occupied it and it was a struggle to reclaim!... There's
bullet holes and scars of war all over the city! ... I'd love to retire in a place like this, open a small underground bar...relax and spend my
weekends metal detecting!
Again, another medieval kind of town centered around a Cathedral and town hall, signs of war damage all over the city. This was a quick 1 night stop
to relax and rent a car! I wanted to see the Wellington Tunnels, but alas time was limited and it gives me another reason to return!
Driving in France (when you are from NZ) is never enjoyable.. for 1, they drive on the opposite side of the road and for 2 they sit in the opposite
side of the vehicle.. Ok, a challenge but nothing I wouldn’t able to work out.. until Europcar give me a manual!... checkmate you bastards…
Thanks to various detours in the city, I ended up in a 1 way ‘bus lane’ at some traffic lights boxed in.. can you believe it a police man drove
past and stopped right in front of me.. I was only 5 minutes into it and I was already explaining to the French Cops that I wasn’t some idiot.. ok
yes I was the wrong way on a one way street that happened to be a bus lane but that’s no the point..
Ok, stress over back in the car… From here on in it was 48hrs of exploring the Somme Battlefields… no itinerary in mind, I had a few things I knew
I wanted to see (Cambrai, Vimmy Ridge, Hamel and Albert) but in no particular order!
I found a small B&B in Mailly Maillet that seemed suitable – it was great walking around at sunrise in the fog!
.. sitting for breakfast the first morning I strike up a convo with the owner asking if he had much ‘’iron harvest’’ In his shed I could look
at … his eyes lit up!.. No, he says! But he has something better..
edit on 30/3/19 by Agit8dChop because: (no reason given)