I managed to get my hands on a rental car this morning, so I spent the day out in the country. I covered plenty of interesting roads, some with posted speed limits as high as 135 kph but most were much much slower because they passed through many small villages with really narrow streets. I let me GPS device do most of the navigation, so I don't know if the drive would have been much different had I done the trip without it. One thing is for sure, it would have probably taken much longer to cover the distance because many of the turns were somewhat complicated.
I went to St Die first to visit the area where my ancestors are from. It took much longer then expected to get there because the main road going that way goes through a tunnel and it was closed due to construction. The detour sent me through all kinds of little villages which are not setup up to handle the traffic, so I spent a lot of time barely moving in long traffic lines.
By the time I got to St Die it had started to rain a bit so I didn't take too many pictures of the area, besides due to the history of the town most buildings don't date back to the 1600's when my ancestors where there. However, I did photograph a couple churches that do date back that far, well sort of.
This is l'Eglise Saint-Martin. It was built in 1902 and it's the 2nd such church at this location. The previous church, built in 1728, was destroyed by fire. As far as I can tell from the French literature, there was a Saint-Martin church prior to 1728, however I'm not sure exactly when it was built or where it was located. From what I understand that original church was too small for the community and was replaced by that built 1728.
Here's the inside of Saint-Martin.
Some of the stained glass in the church.
This is Saint Die Cathedral. The first church was built on this site in 669. It was destroyed by fire in 1065 and then rebuilt in the 11th century. That one was also destroyed by fire in 1155 and was rebuilt to what we see today, well almost. The church built in the 12th century is what became the Saint Die Cathedral in 1777, but the building we see today mostly dates back to 1974. Half of the original cathedral was destroyed by the Nazis in WWII and it wasn't until 30 years later, 1974, that it was rebuilt. To make a long story short, this site is definitely one that was around when my ancestors where here back in the 1600's before they moved to Canada.
The inside of the cathedral. Note the scaffolding at the far end. Like many of these big churches this one is in need of some repairs and some are currently underway.
Some of the more impressive stained glass in the cathedral which dates back to 1285.
Most of the windows (53 of them) are not as elaborate as that above, they are much plainer like that below which dates to 1986-87. They were created following an overall theme of "Death and Resurrection" symbolizing the recent history of the cathedral and the town, both destroyed during WWII and then rebuilt.
One of a few photos that were on display showing the destruction caused by Nazis in 1944.
Looking from the eastern gallery of the cloister towards the cathedral.
The porch tower of Notre Dame of Galilee adjacent to the cathedral.
A view of the cathedral from the cemetery on the hill to the north west. I did a quick look through the cemetery and only saw a few grave markers dating to the 1700's. None of them where my ancestors.
I didn't visit anything other than the above two churches in Saint Die, because after stopping in at the tourist office, there really wasn't anything else in the area that interested me.
Even though I had my GPS device, the drive through the country side was busy because there are no long straight roads here like back in Canada. I think the longest stretch I went without turning was about 30 km, so I had to keep a constant watch for up coming turns. That means I only took a couple pictures of the country side. This is one as a I crossed back over the small mountain ranges on my way from Saint Die to Schoenenbourg where I toured one of the Maginot Line fortresses.
This is the entrance to the Schoenenbourg Fortress, which was part of France's Maginot Line.
The whole self guided tour was underground, so I started by descending this elevator shaft, walking the stairs around the outside.
Once at the bottom, I followed along several long tunnels like this to explore the fortress.
This sign is an excellent example of the poor English translations that exist at many sites here in Europe. It should really something like "Do not enter, the route is not marked from this direction".
Most of the fortress is intact and open for viewing as shown in the photos below. Many rooms and tunnels had a sound system generating sounds that would have existed when the place was in operation. The entire area I visited underground covers a few kilometers. The air down there wasn't great. It smelled like a mixture between an old damp basement and a mechanics shop.
This is the generator room. There were four large engines like this one but only two were required to power the fortress, the other two were backups. These generators were only used when needed as they also had power brought down from the surface. Apparently these engines sat untouched for many years after the war and yet they still run today.
These are large carbon filters to clean the air coming in from outside.
Some of the men had some real close quarters down here.
Several rooms were set up as displays of one sort or another, this is one of the guns.
One thing I thought was kind of neat was how they raised and an lowered the gun turret. I got to see the equipment for real, but due to the close quarters, the photos of that wouldn't make much sense so here's the drawing of what it is.
One of the rooms in the command center.
My drive in the country sure reminded me a lot of the area around North Hatley, Quebec. It was mostly rolling hills with plenty of trees and everything was green. There are also no straight roads here, but most are a bit wider and much better condition than those in southern Quebec.