Thursday, February 28, 2013

Orador-sur-Glane (France), the ghost town

After the Allied landings in France on June 6, 1944, the French partisans began a series of actions such as the kidnapping of the SS Colonel Helmut Kampfe. The commander Diekman was sent to Oradour by false information which indicated that the colonel was held in the village. Feeling frustrated by being cheated, he ordered the murder of all the inhabitants of Oradour. 642 people died. All men were called and were taken taken to shelters where they were shot and burned. They also locked all the women and children in the church and set fire. Only six people survived the slaughter. The whole village disappeared. He reconstructed the town around the original but keeping intact the scene of the massacre, as a memorial and reminder of the horrors of war. Today, we can visit this ghost village and walk the streets as they were left after the June 10, 1944. This area is called the Village Martyr .

  • By car: click here to see the location. Roads in France are pretty good so it's the easiest way to arrive there.
  • By train: from many cities you can take the TGV train to Limoges. From Limoges there are buses that leave leave you in half an hour to the Oradour's center of memory. You can check here the bus schedule.
  • By air: Limoges has an airport. There are flights from Paris (Orly) with TwinJet (1h10min) or with Ryanair from London or Liverpool (1h40min) for low cost. Another option is to take a plane to Bordeaux . Once in Bordeaux there are direct trains to Limoges for about 30 euros ( 2h 30min ). You can check schedules and prices here . From Limoges to Oradour by bus (30min).


 If you want to spend the night in Oradour itself there is not much choice. You have the Glane Hotel  beside the Village Martyr and the b&b Le Moulin de la Fauvette 2km. If you prefer to stay in Limoges there is a lot more variety . Also if you stay here you can go to the Resistance Museum .


 Photo: Babsy

Location : here .  
Official website:  
Openning hours: (last admission one hour before closing)
From 1 February to 28 February: 9:00-17:00
From 1 March to 15 May : 9:00-18:00
From 16 May to 15 September: 9:00-19:00
From 16 September to 31 October: 9:00-18:00
From 1 November to 15 December: 9:00-17:00
16 December to 31 January closed. 
Admission: 7.80 euros

It opened in 1999. It is the main access to the Village Martyr. This is a museum created to commemorate both the history of Oradour as the German invasion of France. The permanent exhibition "Understanding Oradour" includes a campus tour through the years 1933-1944, the days June 9th and 10th 1944, the reconstruction of the town and a universal message.


The Village Martyr is the area which includes the ruins of the village. You enter through the Centre of the Memory but you can access the ruins without making the tour of the museum. The admission is free.

 Photos: JLPC

After the ruins, we find the cemetery where they buried the victims of the slaughter. You can also visit a memorial located in an underground crypt with objects found in the ruins of the buildings. It is located at the entrance of the cemetery.


Fort Eben-Emael & Fort Breendonk, Belgium

If you travel to Belgium there are two interenting stops that you can make. Belgium is a small country and the distance between one place and another allows to make round trips in the same day.

View larger map


Location here. It is located 115 km away from Brussels.  
Official website:
For individual visitors only open one weekend a month . Dates vary each year. You can click here to see what they are.
Open to visitor groups all year except holidays listed on the web . If you go in a group will have to book by filling this form at least 15 days before your arrival. You can choose the language of the visit between English, French, German and Dutch. The duration of the visit is from 1 hour (5 euros per person, minimum 60 euros per group) to 6 hours (12 euros per person, minimum 180 euros per group).  

How get to fort Eben-Emael from Brussels? You can rent a car in Brussels and take the E10 (see full itinerary ). To arrive by public transport the best option is to take a train from Brussels Central Station to  Tongeren (for times ). The journey takes 1hr 50min. Once in Tongeren you have to take in front of the station the bus 39 that will leave you at the fort in 30 min.

Eben-Emael was a fortress built as a defense against a possible German invasion. It was completed in 1935 and its structure of steel and concrete made ​​the Allies think that it was impenetrable. They thought they would be able to stop the German invasion long time. The German army carefully studied its structure and they even built a replica for assault practices. Finally, in 1940, 85 Fallschirmjäger landed on the roof of the fort by gliders. After a strong assault managed to retain the Belgians until the arrival of a German infantry division, they had to surrender. Today, the fort is still military property although the Association of Fort Eben-Emael allows the tours.
The main weapons were distributed between turrets and casemates. It is divided into: Blocks I, II, III, IV and V, Dome 120, North and South Domes, Visé I and II, Maastricht I and II, North and South Canal, Mi-North and South Block O1.

Entry . Foto:

Maastricht II . Foto: Scargill
Interior hallway.

Dome 120.


Location here . It is 25 km away from Brussels.
Open every day except January 1, 24 and 25 December and the annual pilgrimage.
Official website:  
Opening hours: 9:30 to 17:30 (last admission 16:30)  
Admission: 7 euros
The duration of the visit is estimated a minimum of 2 hours. There are audio guides in English, Dutch, French and German.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Visiting Auschwitz Birkenau

Auschwitz concentration camp was the largest Nazi death camp. It's estimated that about 2 million people (Jews, mostly) perished in it. It was declared World Heritage Site in 1979. It was directed, under Himler's supervision, by Rudolf Hoss until 1943 when it was replaced by Arthur Liebehenschel and Richard Baer .
It housed some famous prisioners as the prestigious psychiatrist Viktor Frankl , who survived and wrote his memoirs in the camp in " Man's Search for Meaning "or the beatified St. Maximilian Kolbe , who died after voluntarily changing the position of a condemned man.

The complex is divided into three camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III. Today you can only see the I and II..


The best way to get to the camp is to catch a bus at the main bus station in Krakow (location here ). It runs every half hour and the ticket is purchased directly on the bus. The ticket price is 20 zlotys outward / return ($7). The bus direction is Oswiecim (signposted both the bus and on the platform where parking). It takes half an hour to arrive and it leaves us in the parking of Auschwitz I, next to the entrance. If you go by train to Auschwitz, you will have to walk 1.2 miles to the entrance of Auschwitz I.


Location here .
Official Website:
Open every day except 1 January, 25 December and Easter Sunday.
Opening hours:
  • 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 PM from December to February
  • 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 PM March, November
  • 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 PM April, October
  • 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 PM May, September
  • 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 PM June, July, August

From November 1 to March 31 admission is free, but guided tours are 40 zlotys ($13).  
Guided tours schedule:
• Polish: 11.00 am, 1.30 pm (except 27/01/2013)
• English: 10.30 am, 11.30 am, 12.30 pm, 1.20 pm (except 01/27/2013)
• French: 12.30 pm (except 13.11.2012, 14.11.2012 and 01.27.2013)
• German: 12.30 pm (except 01/27/2013)
• Italian: 24:30 (except 14.01, 23.01, 27.01, 09.03, 17.03 and 03.18.2013)
• Spanish: 12.30 pm (except 27/01/2013)
From April to October is mandatory ent with tour, 40 zlotys ($13).  
Guided tours schedule:
• Spanish: April, October: 12.00 am from May to September: 10.00 am, 12.00 am, 2 pm
• English: October: every hour between 10.30 am and 3.30 pm from May to September: every 30 minutes between 9.30 am - 3.30 pm
It is estimated that the tour lasts about 4 hours.

It's better to visit the camp during the fall-winter months. In the summer months there are many visitors and the visit is more uncomfortable. Moreover, in summer months it's required to enter with a guided tour and it's not the best way to see it. I would recommend to spend a full day to visit the camp on your own, without a guide. You can cross the entrance with the guided group and once inside go by yourself.

If you want to plan your visit, the official website offers a virtual tour where you can find what is in each barrack. You can click here go there.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Visiting Volgograd (Stalingrad), Russia

Volgograd is a Russian city, which was known as Stalingrad between 1925 and 1961. The famous " Battle of Stalingrad ", was the most cruel and bloody battle of the World War II . It took from August 1942 to February 1943 . It is estimated that almost 3 million soldiers and civilians died.

After a destructive bombing of the city by the German army, the fight began on both sides for the control of the ruins. Despite the difficulties of the German army, Hitler refused to give up because he knew that the city was the port of entry to the oil-rich Caucasus and the checkpoint of Volga River. After a winter chill and being encircled by the Russians, Göring proposed a plan of aerial delivery that resulted impossible. Dying of cold and hunger, Hitler forced them to stand within the city but contradicting his wishes General Friedrich Paulus ended up giving in to the Soviet army. 
The outcome of this battle changed the course of events of the war.


  • From Moscow: Almost 1000 km separate the two cities so there will be a long trip, unless you go by plane. Airlines like S7, Aeroflot or Utair have daily flights from 200 dollars one way/return. The flight is direct and its duration is 1h 40min. A cheaper option is the train (not much more if you take the express) and it will take about 19 ​​hours (even 24 hours depending on how many stops does it make). You can spend the night on the train to save time. The official website of the Russian trains where you can consult timetables: .


Besides the regular tram there is what they call the express tram (CT). In you can consult timetables and routes.  The basic fare is 2 rubles (0.07$). Here you have a plane with the stops. The blue lines correspond to the tram and the red ones to the tram Express:


  •  Mamayev Kurgan memorial
Location here .
Official website (in Russian):

After the great battle, the land of Mamayev Kurgan hill remained dry and black, metal filled with the rests of the fighting. It was in 1959 when they began to build a memorial. The 105-meter sculpture of Motherland crowns its summit. At the foot of the statue are buried some prominent characters of the battle as Marshal Vasily Chuikov, Vasily Zaytsev the sniper (known for being responsible for the fall of more than 200 Germans at Stalingrad) and Ruben Ruiz Ibarruri, the son of Pasionaria who perished in the battle. Memorial is accessible through a row of steps. The memorial complex is divided in several parts:

Motherland, Hall of the Warrior Glory and All Saints Church .
- "Memory of Generations"
- "Avenue of Poplars Pirameidales"
- "Square of those who fought to Death
- "Walls of ruins"
- "Square of the Heroes"
- "Monumenal Relief"
- "Hall of the Warrior Glory "
- "Square of regret"
- "Mother Earth Calls"
- "Church of All Saints" is one of the largest memorials complex world that are dedicated to World War II.

 Hall of glory of warrior.
 Square for those who fought to Death
 Hall and the Heroes Square
Sculpture nurse at the Heroes Square.
  • Panorama museum
Location here.
Official website (in Russian):
Hours: 10:00-17:00 (winter) and 10:00-18:00 (summer) the ticket office closes 30 min. before closing. Admission: 100 rubles ($3) . If we want to take pictures you will pay a fee of 100 rubles ($3) and videos 200 rubles ($6).
Directions: tram CT, 8, 8a and 12. Bus 30, 30a, 77, 33, 55bis and 93 to the stop Площадь Ленина ( Lenin Square).

It is located in front of the Volga River. It was opened in 1985 . It contains about 4000 samples that shows us the battle. Among them, we can find letters, weapons, personal belongings of the soldiers, decorations ... As main attraction it contains an overview of the battle from the hill.  It also shows the rifle of Vasily Zaytsev .
Next to the museum, stand the ruins of the mill that served as an important point guarded by the Red Army during the battle.

Around the museum, there is also a small outdoor exhibition of war vehicles.

  • Pavlov's House

Location here .  
Tram stop: Площадь Ленина (Lenin Square, CT line)

This is an apartment building defended by the Red Army under the command of Yakov Pavlov during battle. It is a symbol of Soviet resistance. The Germana failed to conquer it although there used to be little more than ten soldiers defending it. He even said that more Germans died in this building than in the liberation of Paris.

Today, you can read the inscription on the wall "In this building fused together heroic feats of warfare and of labor. We will defend / rebuild you, dear Stalingrad"

  • Heroes Alley
Location here

Tram stop: Комсомольская (Komsomol'skaya, online CT)

Foto: Redboston

On both sides of this avenue you can find sculptures raised with the names of  Soviet heroes during the Battle of Stalingrad.

  • Fallen Soldiers Square
Location here .
Tram stop: Комсомольская (Kosomol'skaya line CT)

Located on the site of the old Alexander Square, where it ends the Avenue of Heroes. It contains the tomb of over 100 Red Army soldiers, under a plaque that states "Here lie the soldiers of the Army 62nd and 64th buried heroic defenders of the city who died heroically in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-1943"

Photo: xVodolazx

  • Defense committe bunker of Stalingrad bunker
Location here .
Tram stop: Детский центр (lanes 1,2,4,10)

Photo: Redboston

  • Tractor Factory Memorial
Location here .
Tram stop: Улица 39-ой Гвардейской Дивизии (Ulitsa 39-oy Guardeyskoy Divizii line CT)

This factory was responsible for producing T34 tanks and military equipment during the battle. In October 1942 the 24th Panzer Division and the 389th Infantry assault and managed to stop production.

 Photo: Redboston

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Visiting Dachau, Germany

The Dachau camp is located 20 km north of Munich (Germany) and it has an easy acces for tourists. It was built in 1933  as a work camp and since 1941 it began to be used as an extermination camp. It mostly housed political prisoners and homosexuals. Among his most famous prisoners was the German carpenter Georg Elser, who attempted unsuccessfully against Hitler in 1939, placing an explosive device built by himself in the brewery Bürgerbräukeller. For 13 minutes he did not succeed and he was arrested and taken first to Sachsenhausen and later to Dachau where he was treated as "privileged prisoner" (it's believed to be because Hitler assumed he was a pawn in a larger conspiracy). In 1945, 20 days before the camp liberation, he was killed by direct order of Hitler.

It's estimated  that 41,000 people were killed in the camp as well as many others that did not survive the appalling conditions in which they were (in 1945 a typhus epidemic swept).
The camp was liberated on April 29, 1945 by the 20th Armored Division and 45th Infantry Division of the U.S. Seventh Army .

 Plaque commemorating the 20th Armored Division.


You can click here to see the exact location of the camp. To get there, you must take a train from Munich (line S-Bahn S2 Petershausen direction). These trains depart every 20 minutes and takes about 20 minutes to get to the station Bahnhof Dachau . You can take this train at any station of the S2 line: Ost, Isartor, Hbf, Marienplatz ... From Munich Hbf station (the main station) you can also catch a RE (regional express) that leads to the Dachau station in 10 minutes, but it happens less often than the S2.
To check schedules can click here .
Once you reach Dachau Hbf you have to go out the main entrance cross the street, in the square, you will see a post that indicates concentration camp memorial site . There, you will have to take the 724 or 726 bus which stops at the entrance to the camp (KZ-Gedenkstätte). If you show the train ticket you will not have to pay ticket.
If you want to walk from the station to the camp, be aware that there are more than 3 km (about 50 minutes). You can follow the signs to " KZ-Gedenkstätte ".


Friday, February 22, 2013

Reminiscent of the WW2 in Kiev, Ukraine

Ukraine was one of the hardest damaged countries by the Second World War. The years before the war under the Soviet army, were very difficult for the country's population. So when in 1941 the German army invaded Ukraine many people received them as liberators. When they saw German brutality became opponents and fought with the Red Army. The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated between five and eight million.
At the battle of Kiev , the city was acclaimed as a " Hero City ", because of the resistance offered by both the Red Army and the local population.
Today the city of Kiev offers some memorials and museums that commemorate the years of occupation.


Kiev is quite large so some distances are too long to go walking. There are buses and trolley buses that connect all parts of the city. A faster and more convenient option is to take the subway. I leave a plane with the lines:

Location here .
Metro station: Arsenalna
Bus 24, 38 Trolleybus
Opening hours: permanent exhibition (10:00 to 17:00), military vehicles and weapons (09:00.18:00)
Permanent exhibit admission: 10 UAH (0.93 euros)
Afghanistan exposure admission: 5 UAH (0.47 euros)
Exposure of military vehicles admission: 3 UAH (0.28 euros)
Mi.24B helicopter, and Li-2 aircraft and MiG-23 exposure admission: 5 UAH (0.47 euros)
Going up to the monument of the Motherland: 50 UAH (4.7 euros) to the platform of 36.6 meters and 200 UAH (18.65 euros) to 91 meters.
Open every day except Monday

The Soviets called the Great Patriotic War to the war against Nazi Germany. The complex was built in 1981 and it's one of the largest museums in Ukraine. It's located under the 62-meter statue of the Motherland. The area of ​​the museum is divided into several parts. All of them form the Memorial Complex.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Armor Museum of Saumur, France


Location here  

Open daily except December 25 and January 1.
January, February, March, April, October, November and December -> Monday to Friday: 10:00-17:00 / Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 11:00-18:00.
May, June and September: 10:00-18:00 (every day).
July and August: 9:30 to 18:30 (every day).
Guided tours in July and August at 10:30 and 15:00.
Admission: 7.50 euros (5 euros surcharge if you want to take pictures and videos).


It is located in the Loire region. If we make a route by car to see the castles Saumur is a good choice, not only for the museum but it also has a beautiful castle of the XIX century
  • From Paris or Nantes: From Nantes you can catch a train to Saumur (the journey takes one hour and the ticket is around 20 euros ). We can also rent a car in Nantes (see map here ). If we want to go from Paris it's  better to rent a car because train will take over 4hours and we have to make a transfer. Car route from Paris here (about three hours ). Train tickets and schedules:


If you go to Saumur is quite likely that you will have to spend the night there. Depending on the type of accommodation you seek you will have several options. You can check here for hotels and hostels with prices and reviews.


If you like tanks this is your museum. Well worth a visit as it has a complete collection. We can find Allied and German tanks from the World War II. There is also a room dedicates to the contemporary world. The tour takes between 1h and 2h 30 min .

This is the plan of the museum:


Acording to the WW2, in the room of the Battle of France (1940) we can fin theese ones:

- Hotchkiss H 39
- Renault AMR 33
- Renault R 39
- Renault R 35
- Panhard AMD 178
- Renault B1 bis
- Somua S 35
- Renault UE 31
- Side Gnome & Rhone
- Renault ACG1
- FCM 36
- Laffly V15T Licorne