This year is one of remembrance in Europe, where significant anniversaries of war and the births and deaths of literary and musical giants will be commemorated.
Whether they take part in events associated with those anniversaries or simply visit these historically important sites, visitors to Europe can add thought-provoking experiences to their itineraries.
A number of events on France’s Normandy coast will mark the 70th anniversary of the greatest amphibious landing in military history. The D-Day Festival is scheduled for June 5-Aug. 21, with the official international ceremony on the actual date of the landings, June 6. World leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and French president Francois Hollande are expected to attend the ceremony on Sword Beach in the British landing sector,
A giant picnic will be held June 7 on Omaha Beach. Synchronized fireworks will be set off from 24 landing sites June 1-9. A new IMAX film, D-Day Normandy 1944, will be released this spring and is to be shown June 6 in Caen in Normandy and throughout the year in various French locales.
The Overlord Museum, named for Operation Overlord, the invasion’s code name, opened last year in Normandy. Located in Colleville-sur-Mer, it displays more than 10,000 objects and documents gathered from Norman soil over 40 years.
TWO WORLD WARS
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II. Both will be commemorated at battlefields, museums and cemeteries throughout Europe.
Of particular interest to American visitors are the cemeteries of American soldiers. There are at least 19 American cemeteries in Europe, seven of them with World War I casualties, 11 with World War II dead, and one with casualties from both world wars. Most of them are in France, but American cemeteries also are found in Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, England and the Netherlands. Information: www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries.php.
A new memorial, said to be one of the largest in the world, will be dedicated this year to the fallen soldiers of World War I at Nord-Pas de Calais, France.
A number of companies offer battlefield tours, among them , www.spiritofremembrance.com and www.stephenambrosetours.com.
Marking the beginnings:
World War I: The spark that set off the war was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. A plaque in the Bosnian capital marks the spot where Gavrilo Princip shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife on June 28, 1914. His weapon is on display in a Vienna museum. In France, a landscape work called the 6th Continent will be dedicated at the Somme battlefield on June 28, 100 years after the war’s start.
World War II: The first shots of the war came on Sept. 1, 1939, when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein attacked a Polish military outpost near Gdansk to begin the German invasion of Poland. Gdansk commemorates the war’s start with events annually.
FALL OF THE WALL
Twenty-five years ago, Germans on the East and West sides began to tear down the Berlin Wall, reuniting the two sectors of the German capital that had been divided during the Cold War. Special events and exhibitions will focus on the Cold War and the reunification, culminating the weekend around Nov. 9 with the symbolic installation of illuminated helium-filled balloons along the 7.5 miles of the former wall. Both locals and visitors will be able to stroll along the illuminated path.
Many sites commemorate the Wall. The Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse features a piece of the wall. A new permanent exhibition on the fall of the wall will be unveiled on Nov. 9. The DDR Museum focus on everyday life behind the Iron Curtain. The Wall Museum (Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie) features the Cold War. An East German watchtower can be seen at Potsdamer Platz. New this year is the Museum at the Kulturbrauerei with a exhibition of everyday life in the Communist sector. For other sites, click on www.wall.visitberlin.com.
On a personal note, I visited Berlin a few days after the wall was breached. What impressed me most were the thousands of East Germans who flocked to the western sector to marvel at the lights, the plentiful goods and the modernity that they never experienced in the Communist sector. I remember one man whose young son was tasting a banana for the first time in his life.
THE CHANNEL TUNNEL
Twenty years ago in May, the rail tunnel opened under the English Channel, finally achieving a project that was first proposed in the 19th Century. The 31.4-mile tunnel links England and France, with a shuttle that allows people to take their cars from one country to the other. Since the opening, 250 million people have passed through the tunnel, which has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
To mark the anniversary, the channel operators have made a special offer: Take a day trip from Britain to France on May 18, 19 or 20 for about $33 per car round-trip The trips run between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France. Tickets are very limited. www.eurotunnel.com. Another promotion: Book by April 2 for travel London-to-Paris to Aug. 31 at 20 percent off, or $149 one-way. www.eurostar.com/us-en.
• 50th anniversary of the Foundation Maeght, which owns one of the largest collections of 20th Century art in Europe: The museum, near Saint-Paul de Vence on the French Riviera, will showcase “Fifty Years of Masterpieces” June 28-Nov. 11. Information: www.fondation-maeght.com
• 150th anniversary of the birth of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec: A special exhibit will be mounted from Oct. 25, 2014, to Jan. 25, 2015, in the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi, the town in the Pyrennes where the fin de siècle artist was born. Information: www.museetoulouselautrec.net
• 25th anniversary of the death of Salvador Dalí: While many of his celebrated works are displayed in Florida in St. Petersburg’s the Dalí Museum, visitors to Europe may want to visit the surrealist’s home/museum in Port Lligat, Spain, on the Mediterranean coast close to the border of France. Information: www.salvador-dali.org/
• 100th anniversary of the birth of the celebrated Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas: “A Dylan Odyssey” will stage a series of events and tours between May and November as part of the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival in Wales. www.literaturewales.org or www.dylanthomas100.org.
• 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss: A number of locales in Europe will stage concerts in this composer’s honor, among them Dresden, with new productions of some of his famous operas; Munich, Germany, with a Strauss Jubilee June 9; London, where the Philharmonic Orchestra will present a series of concerts ending in June; Garmisch, Germany, with a Strauss festival June 11-19; and elsewhere. www.boosey.com/cr/news/Richard-Strauss-150th-anniversary-events-worldwide/100316.
• 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, a son of Johann Sebastian Bach: He was an important composer who bridged the period between the Baroque and the Viennese Classical with many rich and varied works. Concerts and other tributes are planned in German cities where he lived and/or worked — Hamburg, Berlin, Potsdam, Leipzig, Frankfurt (Oder), Brandenburg and Weimar among them Bachfests in Weimar April 30-May 4 and in Leipzig June 13-22. Information: www.cpebach.de/ (click on “English,” upper right)
• London is celebrating the 450th anniversary of his William Shakespeare’s birth with a number of events. Shakespeare’s Globe theater will stage new productions of Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, The Comedy of Errors and a new production of Hamlet that will go on a two-year world tour. The Globe also has just opened an new indoor theater, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a reconstruction of a Jacobean facility that Shakespeare would have felt at home in, and an exhibition on Shakespeare’s life is on view year-round at the Globe Exhibition and Tour. www.shakespearesglobe.com. Elsewhere in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum has mounted a special exhibition on Shakespeare that runs to Sept.. 28, and the rebuilt 1587 Rose Theater, which staged Shakespeare plays before the Globe was built, will show Richard III April 26.