"The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that." - Norton Juster.
This log covers August 20th to September 8th, 2006. Over such a short time we do so much as we travel the canals north from Paris, France to Arnhem, Netherlands. So much history and beauty. What a privilege to experience this as a family.
|Picture of our actual map used to navigate France's canals.|
Sunday, August 20th – Compiègne and The Clearing of the Armistice.
|The Clearing of the Armistice.|
As stated above, the first Armistice
was signed on November 11, 1918, in Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s personal railway
coach in this clearing just northeast of Compiègne. The coach was preserved as
a monument, but on June 22, 1940, during World War 2, the Franco-German
armistice was signed in it again, this time in Adolf Hitler’s presence, where
Hitler is said to have sat in the seat Marshal Foch sat in when signing the
Armistice of World War 1. The victors switched seats so to speak. The Armistice
site was demolished on Hitler’s orders three days after the 1940 signing of the
Armistice. The carriage was taken to Berlin as a trophy of war. Sadly it was destroyed
in April 1945 to prevent its recovery by the advancing allies. After World War 2 the clearing site was restored by German POW laborers. On Armistice day 1950, a
replacement carriage was re-dedicated. It was an identical one built in 1913 in the
same batch as the original, which was also part of Foch’s private train.
Foch's reconstructed railway carriage.
Alsace-Lorraine memorial, depicting a German Eagle impaled by a French sword. It all
started when Alsace-Lorraine was the name given to the 5,067 sq mi (13,123 sq
km) of territory that was surrendered by France to Germany in 1871 after the
Franco-German war. The loss of Alsace-Lorraine was a major cause of anti-German
feeling in France in the period from 1871 to 1914…the start of World War 1.
Germany initially wanted Alsace-Lorraine to act as a buffer zone in the event
of any future wars with France. In the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, the
victorious powers (Great Britain, the United States, France, and other allied
states) returned Alsace-Lorraine to France as one of the many imposed punitive
provisions on defeated Germany
As previously noted, the clearing where the Armistice’s were signed were destroyed, and all
evidence of the site obliterated except this statue of Marshal Foch. Hitler
intentionally ordered it to be left intact, so that it would be honouring only
a wasteland. Today, The Clearing of the Armistice still proudly contains the
statue of World War 1 French military leader and Allied supreme commander
Marshal Ferdinand Foch. The Victor in the end.
Statue of Marshal Foch.
This was an
exceptional day of learning for us all. We were astonished to find out where
and why Remembrance Day is observed to this day. The hostilities of World War 1 formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month", in accordance with the signed armistice. That truly is amazing.
Tuesday, August 22nd - s/v Tioga with s/v Dominix
For the past
month or so we have been in touch with the Dutch family on s/v Dominix, whom we
originally met back in Marmaris, Turkey. They have been making fast ground on
us as they travel up the canals on route to the Netherlands. We have been
hoping for a reunion and last night it came. The early morning fog makes for a
cool picture of our boats tied to the dock awaiting to head out for the day as
we plan to make some ground with them.
Foggy morning on the canals.
A spider was
hard at work overnight building a web to catch its prey. Another great photo in
the fog and the big French Panache barge boats we share the canals with.
Beautiful art of a spider.
We spend the
day traveling with Carlo and Merima and their two young daughters from s/v
Dominix. Unsure exactly how it happened, but s/v Dominix ends up getting stuck
in the mud of the canal. Did they venture too close to the edge or is their
draft deeper than ours. We end up tossing them a rope and we literally pull
them out. Gerrit spends some time that afternoon making Carlo a “Stuck in the
Mud” certificate, which he proudly presents that evening.
Stuck in the mud certificate.
are deep and can be tricky. As the boats lower, you literally walk your lines
down the lock wall from bollard to the next lower bollard. In one of the locks,
there is a bollard missing for us to lower our lines down to, resulting in our
lines having to stay on the now high up bollard, thus being extended to their maximum length. Our long lines allow TIOGA’s bow to swing
way out in the lock rather than staying secured to the side of the lock. Joel
quickly grabs a pole and tries to fend TIOGA off from hitting the other side of
the lock. Oddly the pole collapses and he falls into the turbulent lock water.
Sheila jumps from the helm and leans down to grab his hand as it comes up in
the murky water. Thankfully, Carlo speaks French and quickly calls the lock
keeper when he sees Joel has fallen. The turbulence stops, Joel is rescued, and
an unexpected favour is returned. Thank you Carlo!
Steep walls inside some of the locks.
12:53 pm: From Peronne to Arleux via Canal du Nord and Ruyaulcourt Tunnel
pushing north for the Belgium border with s/v Dominix via the Canal du Nord.
Tunnel Ruyaulcourt is the last underground tunnel of our trip. Initially dug
around 1908 – 1914, the World Wars interrupted the work until 1959. Finally in
1965 the tunnel was completed and put to use. We sit tied to the wall with s/v
Dominix waiting our turn to enter the tunnel.
1 kilometer into a 4.5 km tunnel.
is around 4.5 km long with a 1 km passing point in the middle. The headroom is
3.7 meters so tons of room plus it is nicely lit making the transit super easy.
We stop in the middle for some photo opts and to let traffic going the other
direction to pass before continuing along to the end which took about an hour.
Mid tunnel stop.
Douane Belge = Belgian Customs
Whoo Hoo we
are officially in Belgium. Back in the day before the European Union, this
would have been an official check into the county location. Thanks to a united
Europe, we keep on cruising up the Canal du Centre towards Mons where we plan
to leave Tioga for a quick inland trip to some war memorial sites. This is
where we say see you soon to s/v Dominix as they continue their push for home.
Belgium Customs prior to European Union (EU).
Sunday, August 27th - Tanks in Town - Commemorating the Liberation of Mons.
Once again, the timing gods are on our side and we arrive in Mons for the huge celebration of their liberation. On September 2nd, 1944. Mons was the first major city in Belgium territory to be liberated by the American 3rd Armored Division. The rest of the county was liberated within the next few days and this significant event is commemorated annually across the country.
|Thankful citizens of Belgium.|
|Tanks in Town :)|
Monday, August 28th - Road Trip to World War 1 Memorial Sites.
Canadian National Historic Site - Vimy Ridge Memorial
With TIOGA safe and sound in Mons, we are on the road again for our last get-away in a rental car. There are more than 7,000 Canadians buried in the 30 Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries within a 20-kilometer radius of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. We plan to make a bit of a loop and take in some of these war memorials, starting with Vimy Ridge.
In 1922, the
French government granted use of the 117 hectare site for the Memorial and battlefield dedicated to the people of Canada “freely and for all time.” The memorial stands on Hill
145, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of Vimy
|Strategic view regained by Canadian's in 1917.|
|Canada's coming of age.|
|Memorial forest scars.|
|Natural lawn mowers with Twin Pylons memorial in distance.|
|Tunnels being reconstructed.|
The trenches were muddy, wet, and rat-infested during the war. Today parts have been reinforced with concrete to be preserved for tourists.
Canadian and German trenches at Vimy Ridge were only about 45 metres apart – so close soldiers could hear each other on quiet nights. In fact, it is said there was even a Christmas Truce where German and Canadian troops came out of the trenches and were quite friendly.
|Tunnel at Vimy Ridge.|
|Maple leaf carved in tunnel.|
The memorial took ten years to complete and was finally unveiled on July 26, 1936 before a crowd of more than 100,000 spectators.
We leave Vimy Ridge feeling profoundly altered. Even though it is located in France, the land belongs to Canada, Canadians fought hard for it and we must forever be thankful and proud.
Cabarett-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez, France
Next, it is a short drive down the road to visit the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Seeing the white crosses row on row within the beautifully manicured lawns is a sight more people in the world need to experience. The land has been gifted to Canada from France, and we wonder who keeps it so manicured? Apparently The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is currently responsible for the care of war dead at over 23,000 separate burial sites and the maintenance of more than 200 memorials worldwide. Their efforts keep the grounds impeccable. Thank you CWGC.
At the request of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Canadian government became part of a project to create a tomb of the unknown soldier for Canada. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was asked to select one of the 1,603 graves of unknown Canadians buried in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Grave 7, in Row E of Plot 8 of the Cabaret-Rouge cemetery was chosen as it was near the memorial at Vimy Ridge, the site of the first major battle where all four Canadian divisions fought together as a combined force.
|This soldier now lies in rest in Ottawa.|
|Tombstones as far as you can see...shocking.|
|Honouring Australian divisions involved in the war. |
|Thiepval Memorial to the Missing - Somme Battlefields|
|Joel and Gerrit walk through the piers.|
|The Stone o Remembrance.|
|Second of two National Historic sites outside Canada.|
Early on July 1, 1916, after the first wave of Allied soldiers were obliterated when they went over the top of their trenches into no man’s land, the commanders decided to press on. At 9;15 am the Newfoundlanders were ordered to attack from their trench behind the front line. Weighed down by backpacks weighing 30 kgs they had to move across this open ground in full view of German machine guns and artillery trying to reach their mark of attack represented by what the soldiers called; The Danger Tree.
|Danger Tree replica in the far distance of this open ground battlefield.|
The soldiers of the First Newfoundland Regiment were slaughtered in an attack lasting less than 30 minutes. The losses were devastating. Of approximately 800 soldiers who fought that day, only 68 were able to answer roll call following the battle. The regiment suffered 710 casualties -- 386 wounded and 324 who were killed, died of their wounds, or missing and presumed dead. To this day July 1st represents Canada Day to the rest of the country, but it is Memorial Day in Newfoundland, an official day of remembrance.
|Bronze Caribou standing watch.|
Richthofen was an ace German fighter pilot in World War I credited with 80 air combat victories.
On April 21, 1918 the Red Baron's final flight took place as he swooped low in pursuit of an enemy fighter. He came under attack from Australian machine gunners on the ground and a plane piloted by Canadian ace Arthur Roy Brown. The Baron was able to land his plane in this field despite being struck in the torso by a bullet causing wounds to his chest and lungs. Almost as soon as witnesses arrived the Baron tried to speak and then forever fell silent.
Canadian ace Arthur Roy Brown got official credit for the victory, but debate continues today over whether he or the Australian infantrymen fired the fatal shot.
From here it is back to TIOGA to head north again.
Wednesday, August 30th - The Strepy-Thieu Boat Lift - An Engineering Wonder
Still traveling north via the Canal du Centre, we had heard about this lift being along our route. Put into service in the early 2000's the funicular lift is one of the most beautiful technological feats of modern Belgian civil engineering.
TIOGA tied to the side waiting our turn.
|Massive lift up.|
|TIOGA tied beside a bit bigger boat :)|
|View back of the Canal du Centre but 73 meters higher.|
|Meuse or Maas...much larger and more traffic.|
|Green light for us on a Maastricht street. |
|Super cool ride.|
Wednesday, September 6th - Back on the road...water...whatever. Heading north!
|Enjoying the travel.|
The weather is fine and the travel comfortable. No fetch from the seas on the waterways. Arnhem is in our sights.
|Flat, flat bike trails. Easy going. |
|So typical Dutch.|
|Mass-Waal Canal entrance.|
|Large shipping container.|
Once onto the Waal River we are really into the big traffic. The Waal is the Rhine River coming north out of Germany and it is a major shipping waterway. All eyes on deck watching for traffic and signals from the ships as to their intent. We must travel the 20+ km against the natural flow of the water so it is slow going with TIOGA's engine at maximum throttle to make way.
|Boats coming at us from every direction.|
|Sheila and her cousin Marjol, Joel, Sebastiaan and Gerrit.|