Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Snapshot one.

....... is what I need when using a french keyboard!

It is also the word I think of most when I look at the villages and towns that I have walked through over the past 10 days or so.

The city of Iper (old spelling - Ypres) was almost completely destroyed, but they rebuilt a replica of what stood there previously.  The Cathedral looks ancient, but it is less than a 100 years old. The only way that I could tell by looking at it is that great flagstones in the passageways were even, not worn down over the century's by the millions of feet that have trod the indents in them that are found in the authentically ancient Cathedrals.

The hotel I stayed in was also destroyed, and rebuilt from the rubble.  Again, it looked as if it had been there for centuries, with an upgrade in the plumbing!  I was told that an architect, some years before the war started, took it upon himself to record / draw all the old buildings in the city as a personal project, which is one of the reasons why they were so successful at the reproductions.  They also didn't stop there - they even used the old street plans.

Moving down the Western Front to Arras and Albert the same flair for restoration / reproduction can be seen.  The old building lining the square in Arras were destroyed and rebuilt in the original style.  In Albert, the Basilica was almost demolished.  It was famous during the war for the gleaming gold Madonna, who now sits proudly atop the Basilica spire, spent the war years balanced precariously on her side.  She didn't toppleduring that time, and since then the Basilica has been completely restored to it's former glory.

Resilience too was shown by those who returned to their villages when there was absolutely nothing left!  Nothing, save mud, shell holes, and great pools of water.  As I have passed by the smaller villages I have been struck by how "new" they look.  One chap proudly took a photo of a "typical" French village and I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say - go south young man, that is where you will find typical villages - but I didn't.

They look new, because they are.  They have been built from scratch  - many of them after they had been razed to the ground.

That is all I have time for now - more snapshots to come!

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