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Caen and Normandy

             Our trip to Caen has been absolutely excellent. In many ways, it has mirrored the very journey that the Allied soldiers made through D-day and the Battle of Normandy. Our journey began in Portsmouth on the Southern tip of the UK. We enjoyed one final dose of English fish and chips and boarded a boat across the channel. The waves kept me up most of the night. I had just enough sleep to drag myself out of bed and my bags down the ramp to our bus. I can’t imagine having made the trip across the channel, the Normandy invading force boarded boats and proceeded to scrap their way through 70 hours of combat. We on the other hand had a nice dinner in Caen’s center village and visited the nearly century old castle ruins in the city center. The next morning, we toured the beaches. We began at Omaha beach near high tide. The water was frigid, and the sea foam splashed up on the rocks at the edge of the beach. We turned around for a moment to observe the sea wall that the soldiers had to fight their way up, we even entered a few of the German bunkers as we hiked up the hill. It must have taken us 15-30 minutes to climb up; while it took the American soldiers nearly 6 hours to make the same distance. At the top of the hill we saw where many of the American soldiers from the battle were laid to rest beneath white marble head stones. It is a victorious and honorable place. On the other hand, just a few hours later we visited another cemetery, this dedicated to 30,000 of the German soldiers who perished in Normandy. Sixteen-year-old German boys buried alongside true mass murderers. The entire cemetery is dominated by the shadow of a large black cross atop a burial mound in the center of the area. The cemetery was earie, nearly empty, and one of the most profoundly sad places I have ever seen; it was a stark contrast with the feeling of pride one feels at the American cemetery. I truly believe that the American beaches at Normandy are a necessary pilgrimage for all Americans, especially those who have a personal connection with someone of the generation that experienced the Second World War.