Atlantic Wall, V-bases, Pas de Calais
All along the coast from Dunkirk westwards, the northern coast of France
is still littered with WWII
remnants, in particular those enormous fortifications and bunkers that the Nazis
left behind here.
Collectively these are known as the Atlantic Wall – a (too) literal translation of the German "Atlantikwall". In addition, there are numerous memorials to particular battles (esp. Dunkirk) and associated WWII museums, some of them excellent.
Of particular interest to the dark tourist may be the former launch facilities for Hitler
's V-weapons, the V1 and V2
in particular, but also the site of the planned V3 "supergun", which never became operational (basically to obliterate London, which would have been its primary function). This site is at Mimoyecques
. Opening hours: 9/10 a.m. to 6/7 p.m. between April and September, admission 5.50 EUR
A former V2-base, which also has an original launcher with a replica V1, is to be found at an enormous bunker (named "Blockhaus") at Eperlecques.
Opening times, May to September 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., April and October 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., March 11 a.m. to 5 pm. November 2:15 p.m. to 5 p.m., closed December and January; admission: 9 EUR.
The highlight probably has to be La Coupole
, an enormous concrete dome, which was used as an assembly and launch site for the V2 in WWII
– today it houses an excellent museum (including an authentic, restored V2). The exhibition not only covers the war in general and the V-weapons in particular, it is also of extra interest to the dark tourist in that it goes beyond this and covers the aftermath, i.e. the Cold War
and the role those weapons played in it. After all, the German
V2 was the basis of both the US
and the Soviet
rocket programmes. Even though this also led to great scientific achievements, e.g. the Apollo moon landings, initially and primarily these rocket programmes served military purposes and were (together with the atomic bomb
, of course) at the very heart of the Cold War confrontation throughout.
La Coupole is located south of Calais, off the A26 near Helfaut.
Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in July and August, closed from just before Christmas to early January), admission 9.50 EUR.