on November 24, 2012
It would be wrong to say that I am a 'fan' of War Memorials. If I did, I would probably be missing the point a little. Karl Malantes, in his fantastic book 'What its Like to Go to War' perhaps summarizes the situation best when he talks about the importance of remembering, but not celebrating conflict. With that in mind, I feel it is probably best to say that I have an interest in war memorials and find them extremely interesting. I find the combination of the often gripping design and historical poignancy to be quite the cocktail.During the course of my travels and my life overseas, I have seen several interesting memorials that have captured my imagination. For example, in Shenyang in northern China I found a fascinating monument commemorating Soviet soldiers who were killed in the final few days of WWII as they fought the retreating Japanese. The memorial was beautifully designed in a very Communist style with imposing cyrillic lettering and an abundance of large red stars. I absolutely loved the design and was also very interested to find a trace of a little documented piece of military history (Stalingrad, D Day, Iwo Jima and the like tend to take more attention). I also found it deeply sad because it had been allowed to fall into disrepair and to detract from its very reason for being.There is little chance of something similar happening in France. War memorials are treated with far greater respect. The greatest example of this is the resplendent Arc du Triomphe in Paris. There are also lots of small memorials in Nice that are well-maintained and full of historical insight. There are three or four attached to cathedrals that commemorate members of the congregation or local community who were killed in the two world wars. And, there are several small plaques dotted around the city to mark where members of the Resistance were shot by the Germans during WWII. I often these particularly sad as they are often in side streets - there is one down the steps from the train station - which shows how quick and cold the killings would have been.The largest memorial in Nice is a truly stunning sight. It is, to my mind at least, one of the most visually impressive sights in Nice. It is situated on the Quai d'Etats Unis and is carved directly out of the cliff face. It commemorates those killed in both world wars. The memorial is almost cylindrical in shape, but very much reminds me of a mine - whether this is intended or not I do not know. It is sheltered by an alcove of white stone that has been taken out of the cliff. At night, this is lit to truly dramatic effect. It is a magnificent sight especially as the white stone contrasts beautifully with the lush greenery of surrounding palm trees. It can be seen from quite a distance away as you approach Nice on the road from Monaco. I would imagine it is also easily visible from out at sea.The War Memorial in Nice is a beautiful sight. Its white stone creates a true sense of solemnity and its epic scale tells of the sacrifice involved. It is easily reached by strolling along the Promenade des Anglais. I would heartily recommend a visit.
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