Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fort de Queuleu

This afternoon Susie and I went for a longer-than-anticipated walk in the woods and countryside just southwest of Georgia Tech-Lorraine. We started out by visiting the Fort de Queuleu, which the French started building in 1868 as part of a system of detached forts on the periphery of Metz. After the Moselle department became part of Germany in 1870, the fort was completed by the Germans. Today, the Fort de Queuleu is a municipal park.

The fort's layout recalls the designs of Vauban from 200 years earlier, with successive concentric fortifications. Some of the structures are typical of what Vauban would have created--high walls with dry moats; the moats, like the rest of the fort, are now pretty much overgrown with forest.

Most of the principal structures are fully or partially underground. In recent years the doors to these underground spaces have been systematically blocked because they were dangerous.

The saddest years for Fort de Queuleu were 1943-1944. The Nazis converted part of the fort to an internment/interrogation center, called SS Sonderlager. Between 1500 and 1800 members of the French resistance were imprisoned and tortured here; those still alive were shipped to concentration camps in Germany as the Allied army advanced toward Metz.

Today, these buildings house a memorial museum. An excellent unofficial Fort de Queuleu Web site has extensive pictures of the fort, including the museum. Here's a view of the other side of Casemate A, where the members of the resistance were held.

At the entrance to the fort stands a 1977 monument to France's martyrs of the resistance and deportation; from the monument the visitor has inspiring views to the northwest into the valley of the Moselle.

The current version of the fort as a city park is a happier place. For children there are playgrounds and fields.

And for adults there's a fitness walk that loops through the fort. Fitness stations with instructions and, where appropriate, equipment are distributed along the paths. We saw runners and fitness walkers.

After visiting the fort, Susie and I extended our walk by heading around the fort, then south and east, to the village of Grigy and then along a stream, called La Cheneau, back to the Technopole and GTL. Our route started out in the forest of the Fort de Queulue, with occasional open views to the west.

As the trail wended south and east, we passed through groves of flowering trees.

Eventually our route left the forest and emerged into the open fields of the farmlands west of Grigy. This area is high--adjacent to the high ground on which the fort was built--so there are nice views back toward Metz and the Technopole. We could see the GTL building, as is clear from this telephoto shot.

We talked for ten minutes or so with a woman from Grigy who was taking her own stroll, although in the other direction. She expressed her delight to meet a couple of Americans out in the countryside near her village. With her family she was evacuated to Gourdon, in the Lot, at the start of World War II. She remembered her feelings at the liberation, and particularly remembered that the GIs handed out chewing gum. Our impromptu cultural exchange took place in front of the Ferme de Haute-Bevoye, a very old farm complex with turrets, an elegant residence, and a huge stone barn.

Our village friend said that the Ferme de Haute-Bevoye had been a going concern, working the fields near Grigy, until World War II. She thought that the farm had been abandoned for a while but that now at least someone was living there. Indeed, shortly later we saw a man open the gates and drive his car through. (An update has definitive information about the farm.) About the same time, the sun likewise started to drive through the clouds that had hung around all day, with great rays that fanned out toward the farm.

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