One last post on our trip to Europe (maybe...). In some ways this was very much a World War II trip. Someone had encouraged us to watch Band of Brothers before we went - an excellent suggestion and a great series. We spent a day at Dachau and got some feel for the German perspective on things. We spent several hours in the World War I and II exhibits at the Military Museum in Paris, and got some feel for the French perspective on things. (Did you realize that DeGaulle was almost single handedly responsible for the Allied victory in WW II?) And on the Friday before we left Paris we took a day trip to Normandy.
We took an early (7:15 am)train from Paris to Caen, where we were met by our tour guide. We spent the morning at the Peace Museum in Caen - an experience I would recommend to anyone who has any interest in World War II. We were served lunch at the museum and then boarded a bus with a couple of other small groups to visit a few of the significant sites in the area, including St. Mere Eglise, Omaha and Juno beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and the American Cemetary. I've seen The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan and now The Band of Brothers, and have a much greater appreciation for those depictions now than when I saw them, but none of them manage to fully convey the conditions that the American soldiers faced at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
I have been to the National Cemetaries at Gettysburg and at Arlington, and am duly appreciative of what they represent, but the American Cemetary in Normandy, at the top of the cliff overlooking Omaha Beach is something extra special. Nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried there, and more than 1500 additional names are on the Wall of the Missing. Perhaps some of my perspective comes from visiting it with my (then) 19 year old son. Most of the bodies buried there were around his age when they gave their lives on foreign soil for the sake of freedom. It was truly an experience that I will never forget.