This was the cover for the November issue of the Poetical Journal'

Enjoy Bob's European blog.
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In this issue
the pictures focus
on France,
Germany, and Luxembourg.
Entrance to the "Doctor" Cellar, one of the
greatest wines of the Mosel

Opening Comments from Bob Two Great Rivers – Part II

The last issue discussed in Part I, the three weeks spent in Europe, primarily cruising the Rhine and Mosel rivers on a 300 plus foot riverboat named the M.S. River Rhapsody. In that issue, I related some of my experiences while in Switzerland as well as discussing from my perspective the overall European experience. This issue will continue the narrative focusing on France, Germany, and Luxembourg. The poems also come from those experiences. Because of the abundance of information garnered while there, the December Issue will focus on the final portion of the trip in the Netherlands and Belgium. You can read more details regarding this adventure in my blog. blog.

Two Poems this Issue

Remembered –
....The Battle of the Bulge

A general and the troops
....are at peace,
....having made the ultimate sacrifice.
The mechanic and the professor side by side,
....bullets no respecter
....of status or job.
One hundred and one crosses
....bear no names.
Those who were
....are known only to the Creator.
A lone nurse sleeps beneath the soil,
....she among those 5,076 men
....who once walked this earth.

A mile away 10,950 German soldiers are buried,
....having made the ultimate sacrifice.
Over 4,800 lie in a common grave
....where bones commingle
....gradually returning to the dust
....from whence they came.
Wild roses bloom above their grave.
A Hitler Youth, merely fourteen,
....and a fifty year old teacher rest forever,
....bullets no respecter
....of age or profession.

All these soldiers – enemies no longer.

Comments: Two large grave sites exist in the small country of Luxembourg. Each commemorates those soldiers who perished in the Battle of the Bulge, one of last major battles that brought conclusion to the European front of World War II. At the American memorial General Patton's white cross stands at the head of 5,076 other white crosses, in a sense still leading the troops even in death. (General Patton actually died following a car crash several weeks after the battle. However, because of his exemplar service to the Nation, he was buried with many of the troops he led in life.) I was aware of the American memorial. However, I was not aware that a mile down the road was another cemetery where the German soldiers who perished are buried. Of the 10,950 Germans that died, over 4,800 are buried in a common grave. The Allies, primarily led by the U.S., created this site since the Germans were in full retreat. The soldiers buried in the common grave were unidentifiable. This grave site is funded by private donations as the government of Germany distances itself from that horrible page in its history. As I gazed upon those crosses, the white and the granite gray ones, I was struck with a deep sense of sadness about lives who never were able to grow old and how the horror of war continues today.

(Over 19,000 died in the battle. Others are buried in sites in Belgium and France.)

Trier, Germany

Along the bike path
....I walk and rest
....where legionnaires
....marched millennia ago.
Later, serfs trudged
....eking a living
....from surrounding soil.
This ancient Roman capital
....of the Western Empire
....rose and fell to advancing armies
....but like a Phoenix,
....rose from the ashes again and again.
In ’45 tanks rumbled
....into the smoldering city
....adding a final death knell to the Reich.
Today, the city appears if nary an army
....ever marched on her weathered
....cobblestone streets,
....though the ruins of ancient baths
....speak of a once great empire.

As I peer upon the Mosel,
....a stone’s throw away, thoughts turn to my history,
....less than a mere speck of sand the hourglass of time.
But to me, a speck that is very precious.

Comments: When you visit Europe from a young nation like the United States, you are immediately struck with the sense of history. Buildings, four and five hundred years old, are common. (True the U.S. has a history of people that goes back thousands of years, but we do not have the large number of edifices with which to identify.) As you listen to the tour narrations, you quickly realize that every European nation over the centuries faced invaders and conquerors that shaped the people and their traditions. This poem focuses on one German city, though changing the title to the name of almost any European city or village would still make the poem accurate. The draft, as the poem hints, was written in a quiet park area along side a bike trail. I sat on a stone bench catching up on my journal. The history of this particular city especially struck as I thought again on life and how small each of us are in the sands of time. Yet most of us being very ethnocentric cannot help but place great value upon that speck we call our lives.

General Patton's cross at the head of the troops
5,076 crosses marking the American dead
Over 4,800 German soldiers lie in this mass grave
Stumbling stones discussed in my vignette below
Part of the old Roman wall that once surrounded Trier, Germany
Square area in Trier
On one of the canals in Strasbourg, France, the Venice of France
Still cruising the canals
Vignette: Part II: Remembering

The Battle of the Bulge was fought during the cold winter days of December, 1944 and January, 1945. It was Germany's last major offensive in an attempt to turn the tides of the war in their favor. Over 800,000 men were committed and over 19,000 were killed making it the single largest and bloodiest battle that American forces experienced in World War II. My stepfather, before his death, spoke of the horrors of that battle as he marched with General Patton. Thus, when I walked on those hallowed grounds of the American memorial site, I remembered Paul and thought of all who had died in this horrific battle. The tour guide spoke of how this memorial was considered American soil though it is located in Luxembourg. He further spoke of the love that many citizens of Luxembourg still have for America because of the role that American troops played in liberating this small country twice, once in WWI and then in WWII.

What I was not prepared for was the the trip by bus one-mile down the road to the German burial site. With the Germans in full retreat, their dead were left with no one to bury them. The American military undertook that task. Over 4,800 were buried in a common grave due to missing identification, body parts, etc. The identifiable were cataloged and buried side-by-side, usually four to a marker. While the American site is funded by government and private funds, the much quieter and less auspicious German site is funded only through donations. Both sites create indelible marks upon the mind.

On the cobblestone walks of Koblenz and other German cities, "stumbling stones," 4 x 4 inch engraved brass blocks, are appearing. These slightly raised blocks catch the attention of walkers. Each block commemorates by listing the first and last name of a Jew and the members of the family who perished in the Holocaust. Another sobering reminder of that infamous war.

As we toured France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Low Countries, we were often reminded of the impact that WWII had on these countries. Despite the facts that over sixty-four years have passed since the end of the War and that many of those that lived through the horror have passed on, its ghost still haunts those living today. This is not to say that these very modern and progressive countries are living in the past. Instead, they look toward the future, focusing on renewable energy and very high standards of living. Yet, they also have a strong memory of the past and the destruction that war can bring. As our young German guide stated in a very emotional moment upon viewing the old Jewish quarter in Speyer, Germany, "Though I did not live during those times, I have an obligation to be in the forefront of speaking out against oppression and prejudice." Well-said!

Scenes from the Alsace Region, France
Vineyards everywhere
Alsatian Vineyards with German Black Forest
in the background
Storks symbolize the Alsasian Region – nests can weigh close to a ton. They are considered endangered. Thus, if a stork builds a nest on the house chimney or roof, it cannot be removed. Metal backets are placed on metal poles above the home to entice the bird to build there.
Vineyards rising outside the Village of Riquewihr, France
Flower boxes everywhere – these are located in Speyer, Germany near the city square

  • Explore beyond your personal borders: You may be surprised at the wonderful discoveries you find.

M.S. River Rhapsody of Grand Circle Tours,
one way to explore beyond your borders. Of
course you do not need to leave your city to do

some new exploration.

Seen from the Rhine, a postcard castle

Looking up at the Marksburg Castle while cruising the Rhine

Ship's wake along a narrow section of the Mosel
Looking down upon the Mosel – hard to believe that river ships 100+ yards long and 25 yards wide pass along here
Homes in Trier reflected in the Rhine. Trier, founded 16 B.C., Germany's oldest city
An archbishop in the 17th C. built this palace from which to govern Trier

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