Being born and raised for the first seventeen years of my life in a small village somewhere in Western Ukraine, I must admit I have slept through most of history classes. The names of the cities where major historical events took place did not make much difference to me. They were too abstract, they were too far, almost like in a different universe. Never could I have imagined back then that I would one day be able to travel and experience the world. As such only a few days before our trip to Paris and Reims for pre-Christmas celebration I found out that it is in Reims that the capitulation of Germany and the declaration of the end of World War II has been signed. It instantly became a must see, much so because it was on Chris’ “you must go there” places. Not going was not an option.
It was a strange experience, one of those that make you think about time and empathise with humans. History is worth knowing, it should make us reflect on the mistakes of the past so that they can never be carried into the future. Unless you have been through it to experience on your own, the war was always too abstract for me. I could never have enabled my imagination enough to grasp the fear and horror that people not so long might have been through. Even hearing about it from grandparents hardly made me consider it for more than one evening.
Being in Reims where such an important event took place somehow put the shiver down my spine. What I have discovered from the short trip to the museum is that the war in some ways have been glorified, made grand and played with innocent human sense of belonging to their nations, while in fact the only thing it actually was – the brutality humans can inflict on others just for the sake of power and influence. There is only hope that the hard lesson that we have received will change the human approach and make us act only with kindness in any situation we face in such a fragile future.
The city itself has a few other merits – The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims, another UNESCO World Heritage and the place of coronation of the kings of France. The region of Reims is the heart of champagne industry, though hard as we tried we did not find much of the vineyards, only cabbage or something of that sort was growing on the soil along the way. We did however visited champagne house Champagne Charles de Cazanove before departure to Paris, which made the trip back even more pleasant.