After our long day of exploration yesterday with several stops in places such as Saarburg, Trier, and Luxembourg City, we made sure to take it easier today. We decided to head out to explore a smaller village in the Lorraine Regional Natural Park. Today’s destination was the village of Les Éparges. Most people have probably never heard about this place, but it played a significant role in the first world war.
Arriving in Les Éparges
Les Éparges is a quite small village and we made our stop outside the local church. From there it was almost possible to see the end of the village in both directions along the street. But we were not there to see the village itself. What we were looking for was a few kilometers outside the village on the top of a ridge. The “X Point”.
The Ridge at Les Éparges
On a ridge behind the village of Les Éparges severe fighting took place during the Great War. France lost the ridge to the Germans early in the war but was determined to regain the ridge. The fighting that followed resulted in thousands of dead soldiers on both sides. The remarkable thing with the fighting was the use of mines. The marks on the landscape are still visible today.
While driving up to the hill we first came across a French National Cemetery. It has graves of the identified soldiers that lost their lives at Les Éparges. The number of crosses did of course not match the number a bit north in Verdun. Still, it’s a significant amount. A bit further up on the hill the monuments started to come. First the Monument du 106°, then the Monument du Génie, before we arrived at the “X Point”.
At the “X Point”, the landscape is shaped by the craters from the mine warfare that took place here a hundred years ago. There is not a lot of ground left untouched. Here is also a monument for the 10 000 soldiers – both French and German – who never received a grave of their own. It is difficult to imagine how much suffering happened in this (now) peaceful place. When looking at the vastness spreading head on the Woëvre Plain, it is possible to imagine the importance of this ridge for the combating armies. Today all that remains for us to witness are the monuments, the craters, and an almost spooky silence.