Fort Douaumont

The Fort Douaumont has changed my entire idea of what happened between France and Germany during WW1. Basically, our common idea of “history” is just BS. The pictures are only glimpses that explain nothing. One has to come here, read the topography and the documents. It’s mindboggling.

The fort Douaumont is around 400 meters long and covers three hectares.  It was designed to be manned by about 800 men.
In the fall of 1914, only 57 French soldiers defended the fort. On February 25, 1916, a heavy German bombardment drove the small number of French defenders away from their positions.  A small group of 10 German pioneers made their way into the ditch.
French troops in the nearby town of Douaumont believed them to be a returning French patrol and did not fire on them.  Sgt Kunze made his way into the northeast casemate.  (I believe the second from the left in the panorama.)  Fearful of an ambush, his men followed only later.
Then another group under a lieutenant entered the fort.  The two groups advanced underground through the tunnels, taking the garrison prisoner.  The only casualty was a scraped knee.  What was considered the strongest fort in the world had been captured by a small group of Germans in an amazing feat. German schoolchildren were given a day off and all the country was celebrating.
Near the northern tip of the fort is the 75mm gun turret along with the nearby armored observation post.  The turret held two short barreled 75mm guns and could be rotated 260 degrees and raised or lowered by hand cranks.
The Germans subjected the fort to fire from 420mm weapons, the massive ‘Big Berthas’ successfully used against the Belgian forts.  Later, the French used their 400mm weapons against the fort.  Incredible amounts of earth were blown off the top.
Machine Gun Turret and Armored Observation Post
Armored Observation Post.  German 420mm artillery shells have removed much of the top.
Incredible amounts of earth were blown off the top of the fort, as can be seen here, in this case exposing the reinforced concrete cylinder that an armored observation post rests on.
Some direct hits.
Millions of munitions were fired over the course of the 2 battles of Verdun.   Although much of the fort’s interior can be visited, some sections are unstable from the massive bombardment the place was subjected to.
They say that there are probably many thousands of unexploded shells in the area. 80,000 dead soldiers are estimated to remain unburied in the fields surrounding Verdun.
I had to ask about this contraption. The guide said, “Lavabo” (laundry).
In the course of 100 years, the dripping water created these stalagmites.
The bunk beds are still there
The Germans occupying the fort endured an incredible disaster on May 8, 1916 when an accidental explosion in a grenade depot started a fire in the flamethrower depot. Something between 800 and 900 men were killed.  Of those, 679 are buried behind this cross.  Around 1,800 were injured in the incident
God is on our side, right?
A German 420mm round made a direct hit on a casemate on December 16, 1916.  All 21 Frenchmen inside were killed as the casemate collapsed.  Seven bodies were not recovered and still lie behind the walled off entrance on the left.

Île de Ré / La Rochelle

Straight ahead: Le pont Île de Ré connecting the island with the continental France.
The salt marches where the famous salt is harvested.
Surprisingly, there are lots of vineyards on the island. It’s not just the potatoes!
The disappearing locks of Ile de Re. Of the 140 at the beginning of the 20 century, there are only about 12 left.
The old way of fishing, by catching fish in the locks during the low tide, is completely gone now.
Building and maintaining the locks requires thousands of man-hours. The rocks are not cemented in any way so unless constantly repaired the walls disappear into the ocean.
One last look before heading back to St Martin de Re
Salt for sale, self-service.
The low tide at Couarde-sur-Mer. The entire island is as flat as a pancake.
Getting on the 3-mile bridge to La Rochelle. It’s surprisingly easy to cross over. However, navigating in La Rochelle is not so.  To get to the old town you must bike through the vast commercial area.
Finally, Cafe-au-lait in La Richelle
Pam sketches the Vieux Port as the beggar pigeon pesters me.
The campsite at St Martin de Re is located inside the massive Vauban fortress.
The old port, La Rochelle
The famous Île de Re potatoes are grown here.
The farmers leave a lot of them on the ground. Gleaning  is easy.
The ride to the western point of Île de Ré. Salt marshes and bird sanctuaries in the wetlands.
Ars-en-Re. A stop to take a look at its remarcable church.
Ars-en-Re. The spire is slightly leaning due to a lightning strike in 1836. The black and white design distinguishes it from miles away.

Shooting Film in Japan

Spring market. Unlike America where most old people are almost never seen, the Japanese are active regardless of their age.


Young people are busy at work / school so you don’t see a lot of them in the day time.

As the night begins to fall the restaurants get their menus ready.

The typical Japanese city bike: front basket, step over frame, vertical stand, embedded lock on rear wheel. Danny Choo’s video on Japanese automatic velo parking. 

This brief moment when day  and street lights coexist in an unstable balance.

Finally, the artificial lighting takes over.

Outside America, Japan is probably the only other country where baseball is popular.

Japanese work quite long hours. To come home late is a daily ritual.

The bikes remain in the night.