I’ve read about the “Maginot Line” while googling on places to include in our Weekend Sightseeing List . I was already curious, even making plans, that while we are in Alsace, to schedule some days dedicated to world war trails (see my earlier post: Tracing the remnants of World War 2: Germany). It is in Alsace that one can find the highest number of material reminders of the two world wars because of its location which makes it an easy target for the invading nation i.e. Germany.
So last Sunday while on a driving exploration along the French side of the Rhine and just when were about to exit the town of Hatten that we noticed the road sign “Sentier Ligne Maginot”.
“Let’s go back, quick!” I exclaimed to H and he immediately made a turnaround.
We drove through huge residential houses a la Germanic style (which is prevalent in Alsace) and finally came out into an open area leading to a single house with the sign “Musée de l’Abri”.
The French word “Abri” means shelter and this place houses an underground barrack that was built along the Maginot Line from 1930 onwards.
The Maginot Line is a line of fortification which was planned right after World War 1. The French, after the high toll of destruction they suffered during the war, has always been suspicious that the Germans might invade yet again so they began building a series of military defences that run along its borders with Germany. In Alsace alone, this line extended up to 200 kilometers comprising nearly 2,000 fortifications which included bunkers, artillery observation posts, concrete and steel structures equipped with gun turrets and loopholes, underground barracks to house the men, and various types of defensive barriers and military equipment which, in the end, were not much of use as the smarter German generals made their attacks where fortifications did not exist – along the Belgian border.
The museum is closed for the winter and will open only in March but there are military planes, helicopters, tanks, turrets and other things scattered on the museum grounds which caught our attention.
Not to be defeated that our stopover has been futile (well, the sight of the planes, the real aircrafts that flew in battle are there standing right before our eyes, is fascinating enough!), we decided to follow even a miniscule portion of the Maginot line – about 3 kilometers one way. The sign points to the direction of a footpath running along the edge of a new housing development.
Lucky for these residents who get to see these planes everyday of their life, lucky for them who were not even born when the most destructive battle of the 20th century took place and these houses are standing where the blood of our heroes (French and German alike) were shed…
These fields and mature trees along the Maginot line witnessed the horrors of the two wars. So glad that it is finally over and peace is upon us and now it’s us who are reaping the benefits. All we could do is to keep the memory alive, visit these places and write about them so the whole world especially the new generation may know and learn from the mistakes of the past.
Lucky for Charlie, too, who gets the chance to do a historical walk such as this.
About 1.5 kilometers from where we started, we came across this old railway station stop of Rittershoffen. The sign says it operated from 1893 to 1965. Again, another witness to the two world wars.
The buildings seem to remain as they were before the shutdown in 1965. Having seen much older train stations in Italy who are now abandoned, this looks like the old public restroom.
.. and this is the Station itself, now a private house.