Monday, July 28, 2014

The Loire Valley & beyond

One of my favorite excursions in France was renting a car in the Loire Valley.  If you're unfamiliar, the Loire Valley is the land of a thousand castles.  It is also really close to two sites I had been wanting to visit for a while- an abandoned castle, and the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane, burned to the ground by the Nazis during WWII.  Now, there were a lot of towns and big cities completely destroyed during the what makes this one so "special"?  Read on...

Oradour-sur-Glane is an empty burned out shell of a town and has been since June of 1944.  The French decided not to rebuild it - or tear it town - for a reason.  It is a testament to what happened here...a reminder of the evils of war.  

In June of 1944, for reasons still largely unknown, the Nazis marched into the peaceful town of Oradour-sur-Glane and killed every man, woman and child in sight.  

Up until that fateful day, the town had remained completely untouched by the war.  But on the afternoon of June 10th, the Nazis rolled up with a vengeance.  The villagers, fearing nothing but a simple ID check, were rounded up and separated.  The men were lead to the garages, while the women and children were led to the church.  The Nazis then opened fire on everyone.  Then they torched the place, burning many men, women, and children alive.  There were six survivors, out of 642 people.  It was a massacre of epic proportions. 

No one knows exactly why the SS chose to massacre this town.  The most prevailing theory seems to think that the Nazis just wanted to make an example of a French town, amidst the recent uprisings of the resistance forces and the growing disrespect of the French.  One thing is agreed was premeditated. 

We visited after hours and Riki and I were the only ones there.  So often when you're in the midst of these historic monuments, it's hard to feel anything.  You understand the significance of it all, but it still is hard to be moved.  Not so here.  It really was crazy to see things completely untouched.  Burned out cars, kitchens, sewing machines, bikes, pots and pans, baby carriages...all in the same exact spot as they were 70 years ago.  As spoiled Americans, it's just too impossible to imagine the atrocities that took place here.  It's unfathomable.  So, as you look at these pictures, just try to imagine what took place.

Here is a fantastic article on the place if you're interested.  Apparently, Germany just recently officially apologized and is currently reopening the case against six former SS Officers, still believed to be alive somewhere.  I guess we'll see what happens.  

The roofless church where the women and children were gunned down and burned alive.

The small town of Amboise would be our home base for a couple of days.

Chateau de Chambord is the largest of them all.  Construction on this beast started in 1519 and lasted until 1547...and it's still not completed.  And oh yeah, it was used a hunting lodge.

King's quarters.

One of the great joys of this trip was just driving through rural France.  Our GPS was taking us on all the little backroads, which led to some random and interesting stops.

Chateau de Chamonceau, circa 1513.

That is one freaky portrait. 

Our trip to the Loire Valley was way too short, but we were running out of both time and money at this point.  One thing's for sure, the land of a thousand castles is truly one of the most beautiful parts of France, and that's saying something.  It's no wonder the kings and nobles chose to build their palaces here.  Oddly enough, as impressive as the chateaus were, my favorite part of the Loire Valley was just driving through the crazy country roads (many that were only wide enough for one car) and tiny little villages.  Highly recommended if you ever find yourself in France for more than a week.  Just rent a car and let the wind take you!  

So long from Tours.

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