Bastogne: where the Battle of the Bulge happened!

One of the most famous battle sites of World War II was Bastogne, the crossroads there that had 7 main routes which included the road leading to the northwest to the port of Antwerp and another road going into Luxembourg. The United States had joined the fight over in Europe and were making great strides eastward towards Germany after jumping into France from the UK. While going eastward towards Belgium, the US forces were counterattacked by surprise to where the majority of the Allies forces was actually encircled and surrounded as Germany was focused on completely destroying the troops there in order to force a possible peace treaty so he could close one front (Western) by going through the diplomacy route and then put back all those Western resources on the Eastern front against the Russians. This was Hitler’s one big gamble that his men could outflank, surprise, counterattack, and completely destroy the Allies because otherwise the road to Berlin was going to be eventual one.

modern day bastogne battlefield belgium world war 2 ii field yard battleground

This is Bastogne today after years after the battle. It’s definitely not like what it looked like back then after all the years of healing.

museum world war ii french belgian country borders grounds

In commemoration of the battle, a museum has been built for the Battle of Bulge at Bastogne.

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This is a 50 cal machine gun. Amazing, how someone must have found this and eventually got put into the Battle of the Bulge Museum.

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This is a German machine gun also known as a MG42. A lot of US troops hated going against these things.

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Common US small arms weaponry: M3 grease gun, M1 30 carbine, and the famous M1 Garand rifle.

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It’s a bazooka or rocket launcher. The US military used these to shoot the underbellies of German tanks to disable them.

Many of the US troops who died in the Battle of the Bulge were later buried at Luxembourg in a special cemetery there. Even General Patton, who didn’t die in the Battle of the Bulge, was leading General of the Third Army who went in racing to relieve the US and Allies there, making it in time to prevent the complete collapse. This was a big turning point as this was the last big battle that the US military faced and basically went into Germany facing smaller counterattacks until the end of the war and eventual occupation. This occupation also led to the Nuremberg trials which saw a big portion of the Nazi leadership get tried and executed (unless they committed suicide) due to crimes against humanity for allowing concentration camps such as Dachau or at Auschwitz.

sherman tank wwii ww2 ww 2 ii allies nazis luxembourg belgium war battlefield guerra mundial dos aleman estados unidos ejecrcitos

This “blockbuster” tank was one of the Sherman Tanks that was probably part of Patton’s Third Army that went into Bastogne.

tank buster destroyer bundeswehr germany army tanks panzers heavy armor

It’s an artillery tank or better known as a tank destroyer, German-made and used. It probably got destroyed during the Battle of the Bulge and later restored after rusting around before being put into a museum.

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It ain’t a Harley but it sure looks fun to ride around in it.

Tip: The rest of Bastogne is not much to look at. Just note that even though Belgium is a dual-speaking country of both French and Dutch, in this part of the country, it’s primarily a French-speaking province. Even the people don’t speak much English. So if you want to eat a nearby restaurant, the menus might not be in English nor the staff able to speak English. So know some French!

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Luxembourg – the city and the cemetery

So what exactly is there to do in Luxembourg? The country hidden between Belgium, France, and Germany? Other than the usual city stroll to see the architecture and old buildings…. there is something unique to this country.

luxembourg city ciudad capital buildings edicios pais pequeno small state

Luxembourg is not a big country but it’s still worth going through.

church small plaza luxembourgish church egilse iglesia kirche

Walking around the city will let you see all kinds of old European architecture.

The one unique thing that most people don’t know is that US Army General George Patton, the famous World War II general, was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. He actually didn’t die of any war-related gunshots or artillery fire, but instead of an automobile accident which re-affirms that the fact that cars are still the deadly weapon of choice of killing people, intentionally or un-intentionally. Even with self-driving cars, they have not been perfected…. yet. Perhaps, in time, we’ll see if they improve to where they don’t get people killed. Then again, the need for speed is a very powerful motivator in people’s lives.

Cemetery memorial luxembourg us army world war ii 2

This place is a real, complete underrated location that is not really well-visited so there was no one there when I visited it – even I missed it the first time I went to Luxembourg!

memorial shrine

A memorial shrine to recognize the sacrifice the troops made in dying in foreign lands while overseas during war.

luxembourg cemetery Battle of the Bulge headstones us army military world war 2

This cemetery is a lot bigger than I imagined it to be. Most of the troops who died and were interred here at this cemetery were casualties from the Battle of the Bulge, another famous battle-site.

patton's grave lieutenant general final resting place

General George S. Patton, commanding the Third Army in World War II, was one of the most well-known US military leaders due to his colorful personality and actually getting things done. His troops were the first to race into the Battle of the Bulge in order to relieve the US troops surrounded there.

But at least they gave him a grave at the head of the troops and near the top of the easy-sloping hill unlike Bruce and Brandon Lee’s graves which were more centrally-located in the cemetery. That way, General Patton, like coming out of the Living Dead TV series, would lead the zombie army to hasten the zombie apocalypse. Oh well, but that could be for all cemeteries and that’s one thing about Europe that you have to take note – going to these graves/final resting places of famous people whether they were royalty, inventors, military figureheads, leaders, artists, etc. You’ll find a lot of them in Europe. So if the un-dead find a way to rise back to life – you can be sure the leaders will quickly take control to lead the charge…. or fight among themselves for power like they’ve doing for years and years in Europe.

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Hamburg, Germany – the underrated version of Amsterdam and don’t forget the football team, Der Dino – Hamburger SV

If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, it’s full of tourists which I think some of them are just there for either sex or drugs or both. There is a reason why I never posted anything about Amsterdam – there is not much to post about. It’s just there that it’s pretty easy to travel in/out of. I basically went there just to look around and see the Rembrandt Museum and Von Gogh Museum; everything else was just an added bonus. Yes, the Anne Frank House is there as well but after seeing the friggin’ long-ass line which I figured out that I would have to wait 4 hours just to go in and see everything in 15 minutes? Nah. I’m going to pass.

mayor's haus house main government building city town hamburg hamburger gov't local city-state stadt die Regierung

It’s funny how you walk, you turn and look – and bam! There’s the Rathaus aka the Mayor’s House or main City Office/Building. Right in the city.

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Unfortunately, Hamburg got bombed quite a bit during World War II so a lot of the buildings suffered some damage. But I think this St. Peter’s Church made it out okay (or they did a good job patching it up).

Hamburg is different. Like Amsterdam, this city has canals and water but it’s a lot nicer and cleaner than Amsterdam because this German city doesn’t have the reputation of a “trash-the-city-it’s-party-time!” Nope. It’s more laid-back and efficient as a river port that used to be a city-state for a long time meaning that it was effectively its own country for a long time until the French Emperor Napoleon just merged all the German-speaking regions and small kingdoms into one.

Hamburg Freie und Hansestad imperial city of the holy roman empire

In the distance on the left hand side is the Rathaus (main city government building). Like Amsterdam with its water, this city is a lot calmer with less tourists.

riverport hanseaten ships vessels trade merchants goods commercial trading selling buying germany german

Hamburg being a river port, you’ll see a lot of boats, kayaks, ships, etc. in this city.

Hamburg is not that exciting so I recommend going there for a football game! I got the good fortune of going to Hamburger SV / HSV (SV meaning Sports-Verein or Sports Club), the last great Bundesliga (German Football) team that has never been relegated from top-flight football. Well, actually, they did get relegated at the end of the 2017-18 season but I got to go and watch them before they relegated “Der Dino” or “Der Dinosaur”…. the last remaining original Bundesliga founding team to finally go down from Bundesliga and into Bundesliga 2.

hamburg stadion stadium estadio futbol jugadores club verein sport fussball people hamburgers HSV north germany

Volksparkstadion, home of Hamburg SV, and the last remaining team that had never gotten relegated from top flight German Bundesliga until in 2018, it finally happened.

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It was interesting at this game that they had a pregame concert and they even elevated the band!

They had some great success in the 1970s and 1980s, but in the later years, the team has struggled despite being in a rich city and having a rich backer. The team was so proud of its “never relegated” status that they had a clock which showed how long the team has been in top flight Bundesliga. That clock got reset on the last game of the 2017-18 season when they finally got relegated. Even the people of Hamburg thought that they would pull a Houdini-escape-trick like they did a few times before in the past when they were on the brink but escaped to stay in Bundesliga 1. However, time finally caught them and pulled them down to earth (or even further down depending on how they do in future years).

hamburg football team equipo l'equipe d'alemania aleman gut spielen schlect

And they’re off! Playing in the game that they needed to win. The team is also called the Rotenhosen meaning red pants as they generally play in red shorts. But not always as I’ve see them play in blue shorts before as well.

goalie midfielder handling ball MF G tor goal field pitch

This is something that I rarely have seen but the goalie is bringing up the ball to mid-field! It’s a sweeper keeper but generally not always the best tactic as someone on the other team could steal it and loft it over to score an easy one.

Another team that is good to watch is St. Pauli who also play in Hamburg. Hamburger SV and St. Pauli can really get into it that fans will go ballistic. With Hamburg’s relegation from top flight football after the 2017-18, the Hamburg Stadtderby (also known as Nordderby) is on again after several years of not playing each other. People will get the rare chance to watch these two Hamburger teams go at it again before Hamburg will likely achieve promotion back to first league. Unless of course, HSV get complacent again as they did during the 2000s which resulted in their relegation in 2018. St. Pauli has only played at top flight a few times and I feel that their liberalism is what causes them to not make as money as Hamburger SV so they cannot make it long-term in Bundesliga 1. For example, they have a skull and crossbones as their flag.

Tip: I recommend going to Hamburg to see it for your own eyes. There might not be much to do in Hamburg due to the aerial bombings during WW II so that’s why go to a football game to make the trip worthwhile.

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Lots of see in Berlin, Germany, which also includes the football club: Hertha BSC

Yep, it’s Berlin – capital of Germany. A world class city and the largest city in Germany (and of the German-speaking world) with plenty to do including museums, night life, history, and of course, football!

I’m going to state there are a lot of museums but I’m not really a museum guy so I skipped the vast majority of them because I just didn’t care especially after going to the Topography of Terror aka the former headquarters of the famous and notorious Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) who were the ones who did surveillance, spying, and enforcing rules and laws which ultimately left them responsible for the Holocaust such as the death prison/concentration camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, and many others. Anyways, the Topography of Terror was just a bunch of reproduced photos and didn’t really show that much. That’s probably why I got museum-ed out and said, “Let’s cut the museums out.”

One of the places that should be seen is the Berlin Wall as it still stands from the Cold War days which the world saw the superpowers of the West: United States squaring off against the East: Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall was one of the greatest symbols of that time since it was well-publicized particularly after the Wall went down. Some of the Wall still stands as a reminder of that time period as tourists can see the remnants of the Soviet Union trying to keep East Germans in and prevent the West Germans and the Allies from coming in to break down the wall.

berlin wall Mauer Deutschland cold war innercity concrete fences gates soviets americans english british military fighting security tourist

It’s one section of the Berlin Wall… in other parts of Berlin, the Wall is completely gone as development took over and many people didn’t want to be reminded of those days of separation.

Another interesting place that relates to the Berlin Wall is Checkpoint C (C meaning Charlie). One of several checkpoints that allowed traffic in/out of West Berlin and East Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie was the more famous one as it was literally on the west-east border as the crossing point so it symbolized the Cold War there because of the standoffs between the Allies (US, UK, France) versus the Soviet Union. After the Berlin Wall came down, a lot of development occurred around the area only leaving the old guard shack remaining.

checkpoint famous in spy movies military shack guard guardia soviets standoff americans berliner

If you ever see the pictures of Checkpoint Charlie, it’s quite different back then. Now it’s got tall buildings all around it as Berlin has grown and developed over time since the reunification of West and East Germany.

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You might have also seen this sign which is famous as well as it depicts that you’re leaving the Allied side of Berlin.

Another quick and easy sight to see are the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag which are close to each other. The Brandenburg Gate is pretty famous as many people think of the gate and they immediately think of Berlin. Built by the Prussians, it’s been a testament to surviving the times especially since it had to get re-patched due to all these bullet holes that riddled the gate until it finally got a makeover and fixed them all…. only after the end of the Cold War since the Berlin Wall was constructed near it. The Reichstag also needed huge repairs and renovations before the German government could finally use it again as their main government building.

german symbol of unity berlin capital mitte gate cold war germans fighting cleaning

Built by the Prussians in the 1700s, it marked the start of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg an der Havel, which was the capital of another smaller German duchy/kingdom at that time.

weimar old german republic diet assembly government tourist spot

This building was constructed for the usage of the Weimar Republic, one of the old unified German empires, well before World War II when it got heavily damaged. After a lot of work, the building is back up and running again as the German government/parliament… and it’s also a  famous tourist attraction.

The reason why I input the football club here is because the team plays at Olympiastadion, a famous stadium that actually held the 1936 Summer Olympics that when the Nazis came into power, they used the Games for propaganda purposes of the Nazi cause and Aryan dominance. They even built a special area for Hitler and his special staff to watch the games only to see Jesse Owens, a African-American, win an Olympic-high off 4 gold medals and humiliate the Nazis on their own home turf. Well, maybe… Germany actually won the most medals in those Olympic Games so it’s debatable.

hertha bsc berlin sport club football olymics history soccer blues final

Olympiastadion, another German building that has a lot of history and underwent some renovations to be more modernized.

After the end of World War II, the British Military took over Olympiastadion and its surrounding area as its headquarters and it eventually became a training ground to where they used to parade and celebrate the Queen’s Birthday every year with the local Germans in attendance until the British Military left. Other notable events in the stadium include various concerts, the FIBA World Cup, and the of course, the Champions League Final in 2015 where FC Barcelona defeated Juventus FC (Italy) to win the Champions League trophy which made it a treble since they also won the La Liga and La Copa del Rey trophies in the same season as well.

But Olympiastadion is also the home of Hertha BSC, the local football club that plays there regularly until they get a new stadium (which may or may not happen – it really depends on the local fan support and how well the team does). So, there’s a lot of history in this Olympiastadion that many other arenas or stadiums cannot say the same because they are too new. I don’t know why Hertha wants to move but they do.

I know this question will come up which is why is the football team called Hertha BSC? Hertha is actually the name of a boat that the local football team came up with and then the team later merged with BSC which stands for Berlin Sports Club.  That’s why it’s called Hertha BSC and not FC Berlin or something like that. There is another Berlin football club called Union Berlin which has roots in East Berlin so the team is more East German but that team has never done that well as it’s pretty much plateaued at the second level of Bundesliga so the Berlin Derby (two Berlin teams playing against each other) has been more of a rare thing. It happens only when they are in the same league level or play in the German Cup, but unlikely. I would imagine that it would be a bigger game like FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid, but to a lesser extent.

hertha football fans stadion stadium arena pitch cloudy day

It’s wide open and it’s got a lot of seats so chances are that you can get a ticket easily to a Hertha BSC game (unless it’s a top flight club). Notice the blue track surrounding the field which they use for track and field as well so the stadium is more than just for football games.

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Sunny days are far better in Olympiastadion. I recommend showing up early to the game so you can walk around the stadium as it’s part of a bigger sports complex which was used during the 1936 Summer Olympics and it’s still used for other sports.

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The Ostkurve (or East Curve) is where the primary hardcore Hertha BSC sit.

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Germany is unique in that they have an opposing fans section. And in this case, the fans of Bayern Munich packed the opposing stand with a lot of police over-watch.

Tip: One thing that I recommend that you do is if you’re already in Germany then travel to Berlin via train. Their main train station is huge! It’s almost like a mall in there with restaurants! It’s also centrally located which makes it perfect to take a taxi from there or even the metro to somewhere else within the city.

berlin train station main primary big place metro restaurants stores glass building

Main train stations in Germany are known as Hauptbahnhof or Hbf for short. Berlin is just enormous compared to other train stations or main train stations.

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Colditz Castle (also known as Oflag IV-C)

If you happen to make it out to Leipzig then I recommend going out to Colditz Castle which is in the town of Colditz. It’s about an hour’s drive from Leipzig to Colditz and there are generally very few tourists who go out to this direction.

Tip: You have to rent a car to go out to Colditz Castle as it’s not a well-known location for tourists such as Berlin or Munich. There’s no known public transportation to and from Leipzig which is the closest big city to this location. All the more to go see Leipzig and see JS Bach’s house, RB Leipzig, and then his former POW camp/castle.

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If you were an Allied military officer who tried to escape a POW camp many times during World War II, then this would be your welcoming view to your new home, Colditz Castle.

Colditz dorf village town country Saxony street strasse

Walking through the town of Colditz… very quiet and more serene than the more popular tourist hot spots of Europe. But if you were a prisoner of war back in World War II, then this would have been a bad place to be in when escaping the prison because the townsfolk would have likely reported you.

Colditz castle was converted back in the 1930s during World War II into a POW camp (also known as Oflag IV-C) for Allied officers. It was selected due to being on a top of hill overseeing a small creek (which would vary in water levels during certain times of the seasons) which was supposed to deter the prisoners from escaping as if it really scared them (the Germans moved prisoners, who kept trying to escape other prisons and prison camps, to Oflag IV-C). Instead, it probably made the prisoners bolder in trying to escape.

One idea that the prisoners had was creating a glider in order to escape the castle! Such a glider was created but never used as the prisoners were rescued before they got to use it. And there was also the question whether the glider was for real or not but that was settled year later when a photograph of it surfaced which quelled the debate. So what happened to the glider then? People believe that a few years after World War II, the locals went to the castle looking for anything to burn because it was an unusually cold winter and one of the things they found was the glider which was probably cut up in pieces and burned for heat.

A few years back, a documentary team took up the task of using the approximately the same type of materials the prisoners had access to in order to re-create the glider and then later tested its flight capability. On its test flight, parts of the plane were broken upon impact but the glider did in fact glide in the air and would have safely transported 2 prisoners onto the grass plain across the river. The remnants of the glide are now stored within the castle which is now a museum and a hostel (yes, you can stay there if you wish!).

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It would have been intimidating coming into this castle which was the POW’s new home. But after figuring out what’s what and where’s where, the prisoners hatched plans to escape.

glider replica world war ii escaparse de carcel prison world war 2 prisoner of war guards prisoneros

This is a glider replica but shows how it would have been made behind a hidden wall. They never used the glider but the theory was actually put to the test, many years later on.

launch pad glider escape prison pow castle schloss

Even though work was being done on Colditz Castle, this would have been the glider’s launching spot – right off of that roof. The documentary crew also used this spot to launch the glider.

creek arroyo stream green field campo cesped verde from pow camp

Here’s a great view of Colditz but the target area for the glider was that green patch across the creek. The documentary team launched the glider and did in fact get across the creek and onto the green field. So the glider would have actually worked!

It’s an interesting place that I recommend going to in order to see this place of a converted castle into a POW castle/camp during World War II.

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