La couple, WWII bunker in Saint-Omer

La couple, WWII bunker in Saint-Omer

While getting settled in Lille, we decided to venture out for a day trip to Saint-Omer to see La Coupole. Here's a quick description of what it is, from their site

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This huge bunker, built by the Todt Organisation in 1943-1944 was the base for launching the V2 rockets against London. Developed in the ultra-secret Peenemünde centre by Von Braun's team, these missiles, along with the American atomic bomb, were the most innovative devices developed during World War II. The V2s were mass-produced by deportees from the Dora concentration camp in the underground factory "Mittelwerk", located at the heart of Germany.

Heavily bombed by the Allies, La Coupole was abandoned during the summer of 1944, after the Normandy landings. The V2s, which struck London and Antwerp in September 1944, were launched by mobile units established in Holland.

Since 1997, this place, which has been turned into a History and Memory Centre, a WWII museum, has welcomed more than 2 million visitors.

Fortunately I read on Tripadvisor beforehand that it's cold once you enter the tunnel to the bunker, so we brought jackets. The reviews were correct, and eerily in sync with the drop in temperature, you're also hit almost as quickly with the sobering history of WWI and WWII. The tunnel is lined with information about both wars, everything from the first British tanks to trench warfare to cryptology to medicine. We learned a lot, but mostly I learned how much I didn't know. 

Once through the tunnel, we took an elevator up to the dome, which had two 20 min films and supplementary tours with old pictures, models, artifacts and summaries of the Germans' plans for the dome, the German occupation of the region, and the horrible things they did to people. To leave the museum, you exit through the launch preparation room and see a computer animation of how the missiles would look in the space, complete with German guys that looked like toy figurines. It was all pretty unbelievable - not really in a good way - and I wanted it to be fake, but it was not. 

I'm avoiding going into much detail, because I don't want to be disrespectful. Obviously I've never lived in an Occupied territory, nor have I lost any friends or family due to a war, but the museum was fascinating and terrifying at the same time. We saw a picture of the main square in Lille filled with German soldiers, and it’s crazy to me that later that day, we walked through that same square, this time filled with people heading home from work or running an errand before dinner. 

The museum also has a 3D planetarium with a show about space travel for an additional ticket price. We opted out of that, and while I'm sure it would have been cool, I'm glad we did. It probably would have been better to see before going through the museum, since after a couple hours of intense history, I wasn't quite up for planets flying at my face. 

On a brighter note, we took a rental car, Chris drove it like a pro, I navigated, and we saw some nice cows and corn fields along the way. Also the cathedral in Saint-Omer is beautiful. 

Café chien

Café chien

Palais des Beaux-Arts

Palais des Beaux-Arts