Thursday, 17 September 2009

Off the beaten track

One of the many cool things about visiting friends is that, being locals, they can tell you about all the interesting stuff tourists don't get to - like the Stasi prison in Berlin. Here's a few other examples from my trip Germany and France.

Osnabruck Rathaus

No, not where they keep German rodents - it's the very old town hall. This one is particularly cool as The Treaty of Westphalia was hammered out here.

The Gasometer

A 161m tall cylinder that used to be hold gas from a coal mine. The mine has gone but the Gasometer remains as an exhibition space. They had a really cool display on the Solar System.

Ulf touches the Sun

The bottom floor was impressive but the top ... wow. It was almost filled with a balloon painted to look exactly like the Moon. It was 25 metres wide and one of the most awesome things I've ever seen.

The Gasometer is symbolic of the Ruhr region. Once it was the greatest industrial zone in Europe, famous for coal, steel and smoky factories. Almost all of the mines are gone now and they have made a big effort to green the area and turn the old industrial sites into tourist attactions. The result is an attractive but rather strange landscape, filled with things like the Tetrahedron below.

View from the top.

The Ossuaire at Verdun

The year-long Battle of Verdun in World War One was the longest and bloodiest of all time.The hills of this area of eastern France are now covered in trees but beneath the leaves the land is still pockmarked with the craters of the 40 million shells that were fired. In the midst of the battlefield is the Ossuaire. In the grounds are the graves of some 15,000 soldiers whose remains were identified. Within the building are the bones of about 130,000 who were not.

For me the most moving thing about the place was a display of photographs of old soldiers from both sides and war widows. All were set against pictures of them from before the war.

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