Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Normandy.

Finally, the long-awaited Normandy post.
Our day started out at 5:45 AM... or, for most of us, it was really just a continuation of the day before because we slept for maybe an hour. We went to this FREEZING train station and caught a train to a small countryside town called Bayeux, which was so gorgeous. Luckily, we picked a beautiful, clear day to go, even though it was sooooo cold. Our dear guide Oliver met us at the train station and we were on our way to Omaha Beach.

This is us at Omaha, one of the strips of beach that the US invaded on June 6, 1944. In the second picture you can see that Omaha consists of a beach surrounded by a huge bluff, which was German territory, and hence made it very easy for them to just sit up on top and mow down the Americans storming the beach. It's very humbling to think that the majority of these brave boys were just 18, only a year older than Chase. Can you imagine running off a boat, seasick and scared, only to see german guns and cannons lining the bluff right above you? Gives me chills.
After that, we went to the American Cemetery. There's a certain amount of acres that were given to America in memory of D-Day and are actually US territory. Very cool to be back in America in the middle of France.


This place was super cool. Kinda like a mini Arlington Cemetery, much more intimate. The families of the bodies they identified after the war were given a choice to either be shipped back to America or buried here, right above Omaha Beach. I think about 2,000 chose to be buried here. It was such a quiet and strangely peaceful place, and it's kind of ironically fitting that these people were laid to rest at the spot they courageously died for their country. I've never really given much thought to World War II or anything, but this place really touched my heart and made me realize what these people did so that I could have the freedom that I enjoy today. Can you imagine what would've happened had the Axis won the war? Chilling, really.

The next stop was Hok Point. It's a hill that's completely left as it was back then. There is still debris everywhere from German bunkers being blown up. There are still holes from bullets in the ground. Just 15 years ago, some of the ground sunk in and they found old German weapons still buried under the ground. It's a historical landmark, so they can't dig for more, but I'm sure there's still lots of crazy stuff down there.
Yase with an old German tank, still in the exact spot it was back then.
Old German Barracks at Hok Point
Me and Boots in a bunker

One of the coolest places we stopped was this old church. In 1999, a man came with his family on a tour and stopped at this church and he recognized it. It turns out that he and a fellow soldier made it into a medical station and saved over 80 people in that church. The Germans found them but saw that they were taking care of some German soldiers as well, so they left them alone. No one remembered this story until the man came back and remembered and showed everyone the holes from bombs still in the ceiling and bloodstains on the pews where they laid people down. Such an amazing story, it's crazy that it just recently came to light. Since then, the town made some new stained glass windows in their honor, and the man comes back every year on June 6th.


Another wonderful memory was made at this church involving me, an outhouse, and a pressing need to go to the bathroom. Really, though... a literal outhouse with a path coming down from the church. I don't think it's been used in a hundred years. Keep in mind that this church was built in the 13th century... you fill in the blanks.

Can you see that guy caught on the steeple of this other church? Okay, so he's not real, but that really did happen. The guy played dead so the Germans couldn't get him. Smart.

So this is at a old farmhouse pretty much in the middle of nowhere. See that top picture my parents are holding? I'm sure you've seen that before. Some American soldiers got ahold of a Nazi flag and had a little fun. Well, if you look closely, you can see the window behind them in that picture, which just so happens to be the same window my parents are standing in front of. Pretty cool, huh?

Our last stop was Utah Beach, another area that was stormed by American soldiers. Utah beach was much more successful than Omaha, partly because of the lack of a bluff here. And in this picture you can see Oliver... we loved him. He was super funny.


We headed back to Bayeaux, and Oliver took us to this amazing pastry shop. SOOO delicious. And the town was all decorated for Christmas and everyone was out shopping and I just fell in love. Oh, and there was a really cool old church here, too... definitely no shortage of those in Europe.

And that was Normandy! Really though, I can't give an accurate description of how awesome it really was. And I wasn't interested in going at all. If you ever have the chance to go, you have to!

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