With the Remembrance Day (11/11 in the UK) fast approaching, I decided to share an unusual tip on how to alternate your regular travels and pay respect to our predecessors This one I explored in the French countryside but you can find it almost anywhere in Europe. War cemeteries are places for reflection and realisation that only thanks to those we got to the stage we are at today. And thanks to that, we will remember them!
Lines of monotonous stone graves are not a typical thing you find in your regular travel guide. It hardly ever enters the ‘top 10 places to visit’ list and is often talked about with tears, sadness or hush-hush. For me, however, the war cemeteries have been a source of fascination and inspiration, not to create but to think. Every time I visit field of gravestones, I realise how little I know about my past and how crazily afraid I am of the future.
Thanks to Halloween, cemeteries have been recently talked about a lot and have turned from something frightful, that evokes fear, into something interesting that provokes excitement. Nonetheless, war cemeteries are a special kind, they are frightening but the repetition and the astonishing multiples of names they represent, makes them unique.
In addition, war memorials are a different genre. They are monumental structures which celebrate the superiority of a nation. Rather than silencing they scream out how outstanding and memorable the actions of a nation were. They are still only a brief reminder of what cruelties and injustices countries had to go through to be able to celebrate the victory or peace agreement that eventually followed.
The two areas which are covered in cemeteries are Normandy, Aisne & Champagne. All of which have numerous beautiful sites to visit, for example Normandy here, but cemeteries provide a slightly less positive, yet crucially important vibe. They show our culture, how to appreciate and celebrate the past.
Maybe it is the state of mind, maybe the fear that the world is going to fast and people are faking their emotion to protect themselves. For me, showing weakness is not something I like to do, but it is unavoidable. After all, the men going to the war did not have a choice, in love or out of, with commitments or without, nothing mattered when the war started. They all had to leave and fight for their country. That is why I admire those people and, even though never in person, want to show them my appreciation and admiration for what they did and died for.
I encourage you to go and explore the places which are around you and maybe you find a new location, a new dimension, or a new source of thoughts which will help you understand the world around us. Inspired by my college studies, I am now looking more closely and carefully at things which I used to take for granted. And for that reason, I enjoy visiting cemeteries. As it is too late to help these men, it is never too late to say thank you to them.
Cemeteries, memorials, and battle monuments are a reminder that we must take nothing for granted and remember that there are thousands of people who struggled to guarantee us the comforts we have today. And thus, even if the current situation does not enable you to pay tribute to the fallen ones in person, spare a thought and next time you see a stone white cross, look up to the sky and remember them.
With special thanks to American Battle Monuments Commission. Categories: Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, and Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.