Last week we made a spontaneous decision to get away for a few days with the children. They wanted to camp, I wanted to visit a different country, the Bavarian didn’t want a long drive. To cut a long story short, we ended up in Luxembourg. So, what does one do in Luxembourg with a Bavarian and three boys, you might wonder. Well, if you are us, you go to Belgium and visit the war museum in Bastogne.
As we checked in at our campsite, I noticed a flyer for Bastogne War Museum and picked it up. Both the Bavarian and I are very interested in history, social history on my part, military history on his part. The boys being boys are fascinated at the mention of war. They are only beginning to understand the horror of it. Up till now war to them has been games of toy soldiers, goodies and baddies, tanks and spitfires – all reasonably harmless.
Waking up the following morning, we had no plan of what we wanted to do. I pulled out the flyer and we had a browse. It was only half an hour’s drive and sounded like it would have something to offer all of us. We were not disappointed. The flyer said to plan two hours for a full visit. We spent three and a half hours there and could have stayed longer.
The concept the museum works on is that you take an audio guide through the exhibition. The audio guide is fitted with a sensor and begins a narrative at the start of the exhibition, introducing you to four characters – a US soldier, a German soldier, a female teacher and member of the Belgian resistance movement and a 13 year old boy from the town of Bastogne. As you move through the very comprehensive exhibition, the four characters speak at various stages, telling you about their situation. From fleeing the town to rationing to being parachuted into the forest to beng captured behind enemy lines, there is a lot of information packed into the audio guide. But the information is conveyed in such a way as to be interesting to children and adults alike.
As part of the exhibition there are several little cinema-type rooms showing films and installations. You don’t want to skip these. Even if you don’t read a single document or look at an artefact throughout the exhibiton, the audio guide, films and installations give an incredibly vivid account of what life was like during the second world war as well as specific detail on the Battle of the Bulge. [The Battle of the Bulge was the final German offensive on the western front and took place in the winter of 1944-’45. ]
The quality and range of the artefacts is excellent. From newspapers to uniforms, photos to tanks to everyday objects, there is something to catch everyone’s attention. My social history curiosity was satisfied as was The Bavarian’s interest in the tactics and equipment. The boys were fascinated and horrified, depending on what was being explained and shown. The narrative of the young boy especially struck a chord with them as he spoke about school, his father’s shop, his dreams for the future, the rationing of food and being sent away to safety, leaving his parents behind.
If you are ever in this area of Belgium, Luxembourg or Germany, visit the war museum in Bastogne. It is well worth the €36 family ticket price. You can find all the practical information here.