Sunday, May 08, 2005

Victory in Europe

VE Day Reims
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

I wasn't aware until meeting Frog that the Germans had signed their unconditional surrender in Reims. The document was signed in Eisenhower's base which was a recquisitioned high school. Whilst the room of the signing has been preserved as a part of the Surrender Museum the school continues albeit renamed the Roosevelt Lycée.

Apparently, this year is the first year that Reims has celebrated its role in the end of WW II - with a three day programme that began on Friday. We missed the ceremonies yesterday morning with the French Prime Minister Raffarin (I've been tired and sick this weekend). However, we went into the city in the afternoon to enjoy the rest of the celebrations. Unfortunately the North Eastern French weather was not kind to us or the veterans with sporadic heavy rain showers and a cold wind all day.

The city was decked out in bunting showing flags from the UK, US, France & Russia accompanied by strings of the European Union flag. Interestingly, the bunting showed the USSR's hammer & sickle whereas the large flags near the War Memorial had the new Russian flag. There were jazz bands playing around the main streets and cars parked on the main place from the war period (plus some bizzarely placed 1960's models) and the French Army was out and about showing off a couple of veteran tanks, allowing kids to climb in one by one.

The Reims celebrations were infact promoted around two events, the surrender and then the 1962 reconcillation agreement between De Gaulle & the German Chancellor Adenauer. However, there was very little evidence of the Germans in the city this weekend except for the unruly German child with his father sat next to us at lunch.

We met up for dinner with Frog brother and his wife and had planned on watching the Big Band show out by the Mairie at 10pm. However, the rain was pouring down and the temperature had dropped so I suspect that was cancelled. We drove home ending up in front of a TV documentary about the events.

One of the day's conversations between the Frog and I was how much my nose resembles De Gaulle's.

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