Monday, July 02, 2007

History comes with names attached

I just got back to Amsterdam after a week of holidays in Northern France in Normandy with my family. Really lovely although the weather could be described as pretty shitty. But then again, when you come from Amsterdam, even two sunny days in a week is a cause for celebration.

Normandy is really beautiful - no wonder Impressionists like Monet were taken by it. We rented a dovecoat (basically a 4-floor tower) from a beautiful small village called Offranville and spent the days by sipping cider, playing with the nephew (not at the same time), learning basic phrases in French (favourite being Mon Dieu) and so on. I can highly recommend a visit.

Before the visit my relatives were going on and on about the D-Day sites like Omaha Beach and the American Military Cemetery in the village of St Laurent. I must confess that I wasn't too eager for a prospect of a three-hour car ride to see battle fields but decided to go along.

I am so glad I went. Seeing the American cemetery with over 10.000 crosses and the German one with more than 20.000 men buried there is a powerful reminder of what happened only some years back. I especially liked the fact that both graveyards stress the great loss and do not build a narrative of heroism around such a tragedy. The feeling, however, is quite different in the German and the American one. When the American one is a collection of white marble cross on a beautiful seashore, the German one has more than two men buried in every grave and is situated next to a motorway.

I spent a marvellous week in Normandy with the people I love. The thousands of tombstones with names of men my age or even younger remind that the beautiful coastline was the end for all these people and a starting point for their families and loved ones. After visiting the cemeteries I did not feel like going to the battlefields. I had seen what I came to see - a strong manifestation for peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! It's little bit late to comment on this one, but I'll do it anyway..

Just wanted to say that happy you enjoyed our trip, and we love you too:)!

I will send the pictures/CD soon!