Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Distressed and Inspired - August 26 2011

Other than the fact that the D-Day Landings had happened four days earlier, there was nothing particularly unusual about a June day 65 years ago in Oradour-sur-Glane. But in just three hours that fateful afternoon, the entire 642 villagers were dead and the village itself was a smouldering ruin.
The village has been preserved, as it was, as a permanent memorial to those killed that day and as a permanent reminder that wartime atrocities such as these should never happen again. Unfortunately the visitor's book here does not include the names of those subsequently responsible for the Killing Fields, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan and so on.

We were on our way north from the Dordogne towards Le Mans. The direct route through rural France went very near this village. We were glad we had made it a stop-over point, as it is a very poignant reminder of the horrors of war and the inhumanity that mankind is capable of when in the grip of an ideology and given power without rational checks and balances.
The 200 Nazi SS soldiers would each have had a mother of their own but that did not stop them herding the mothers and children into the church before gassing and machine gunning them and shooting the men, then setting fire to the town.

All around the town were poignant reminders of the families who lived there. Sewing machines, burnt out motor cars. Various shops were possible to recognise, the church had not escaped either. This was a very sombre place, and the weather reflected this too. Heavy storm clouds were all around us, but fortunately a lull in the rain allowed us to walk around.

We carried on through the rain until we reached Saint Savin, where the sun finally came out for the first time that day. This attractive town has an 11th century abbey church, now protected by UNESCO. The interior contains an amazing series of 12th century Romanesque frescoes. They cover the Old Testament stories from Creation to the Ten Commandments.

Not far from here is Angles-Sur-L'Anglin. This features as one of the attractive small towns of France, and we agreed. Set on a river, with the remains of a ruined castle up on the cliff top, this town would rate among the high-lights of the trip. We should have been so overwhelmed by it's beauty, that we took a hotel room there, but instead, we found the closest camp site in a village nearby and
no sooner had we put up the shell of the tent, when the heavy rain we had experienced for most of the day returned. But all was not lost, after it cleared up again, we walked to the restaurant in the small local town, and enjoyed the best meal of the trip so far. No tourist town this, no English spoken, but we figured out the menu and had a beautifully presented, truly gourmet meal.

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