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  • 028 - Sedlec ossuary, Czech Republic.jpg
  • 029 - Pyramida Lenin.jpg
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  • 063 - Pico de Fogo.jpg
  • 064 - Trinity Day.jpg
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  • 066 - Wolfschanze.jpg
  • 067 - Hiroshima by night.jpg
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  • 075 - Darvaza flaming gas crater.jpg
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  • 093 - Nikel.jpg
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  • 100 - Peenemünde.jpg
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  • 105 - St Helena.jpg
  • 106 - Stutthof, Poland.jpg
  • 107 - Merapi destruction.jpg
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  • 114 - Grutas Park, Lithuania.jpg
  • 115 - Zwentendorf reactor core.jpg
  • 116 - two occupations, Tallinn.jpg
  • 117 - Trunyan burial site.jpg
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  • 120 - Marienthal with ghost.jpg
  • 121 - Murmansk harbour - with an aircraft carrier.jpg
  • 122 - Berlin Olympiastadion.JPG
  • 123 - Bastille Day, Paris.jpg
  • 124 - Spassk.jpg
  • 125 - Theresienstadt.jpg
  • 126 - B-52s.jpg
  • 127 - Bledug Kuwu.jpg
  • 128 - Friedhof der Namenlosen, Vienna.jpg
  • 129 - Auschwitz-Birkenau barracks.jpg
  • 130 - mummies, Bolivia.jpg
  • 131 - Barringer meteor crater.jpg
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  • 134 - Mauthausen Soviet monument.jpg
  • 135 - pullution, Kazakhstan.JPG
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  • 140 - flying death, military museum Dresden.JPG
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  • 144 - Indonesia fruit bats.JPG
  • 145 - Alcatraz.JPG
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  • 155 - at Monino, Russia.jpg
  • 156 - blinking Komodo.jpg
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  • 158 - Mount St Helens, USA.JPG
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  • 160 - Vucedol skulls, Croatia.JPG
  • 161 - colourful WW1 shells.JPG
  • 162 - Zeljava airbase in Croatia.JPG
  • 163 - rusting wrecks, Chernobyl.JPG
  • 164 - San Bernadine alle Ossa, Milan, Italy.jpg
  • 165 - USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.JPG
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  • 167 - thousands of bats, Dom Rep.JPG
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  • 169 - Perm-36 gulag site.JPG
  • 170 - Jasenovac, Croatia.JPG
  • 171 - Beelitz Heilstätten.JPG
  • 172 - Kremlin, Moscow.jpg
  • 173 - old arms factory, Dubnica.JPG
  • 174 - Pervomaisc ICBM base, more  missiles, including an SS-18 Satan.jpg
  • 175 - Cellular Jail, Port Blair.jpg
  • 177 - control room, Chernobyl NPP.JPG
  • 178 - Podgorica, Montenegro, small arms and light weapons sculpture.jpg
  • 179 - Vught.jpg
  • 180 - Japanese cave East Timor.jpg
  • 181 - Ani.jpg
  • 182 - Indonesia wildfire.jpg
  • 183 - Chacabuco big sky.jpg
  • 184 - Bunker Valentin, Germany.JPG
  • 185 - Lest we Forget, Ypres.JPG
  • 186 - the logo again.jpg

Cite de la Mer 

   
 5Stars10px  - darkometer rating: 5 -
  
Cite de la Mer 03   main hallThis is a large naval/maritime museum complex in Cherbourg, Normandy, France, that features as its star exhibit the world’s only nuclear missile-carrying submarine in the world that is open to the public. But there are also other parts that are of interest to dark tourists, in particular the “Titanic” section.  
  
More background info: The “Cité de la Mer”, meaning ‘City of the Sea’ in English, was opened in 2002 after a long period of campaigning and preparations that had started in the early 1990s. The whole idea came about with the decommissioning of “Le Redoutable”, but was also inspired by the fact that the museum’s main building, the huge Art Deco hall that was the transatlantic terminal is the largest monument of its kind in France.
  
Construction of this terminal had begun in the late 1920s and it opened in 1933. It was here that passengers transferred from trains to the ocean-going liners making the journey to the USA and the rest of Americas (cf. also German Emigration Centre and BallinStadt!). And before the terminal’s construction, the site had also been the last stopover of the “Titanic”, on 10 April 1912 to take aboard passengers in Cherbourg, before its fateful crossing of the Atlantic that ended so tragically with its sinking on 15 April near Newfoundland, Canada.
     
The 1920s/30s terminal suffered significant damage in WWII, e.g. losing its once grand campanile, but it was partially rebuilt after the war and reopened in 1952. However, with the decline of the transatlantic liner services after the arrival of long-haul jet planes that cut the journey time between Europe and the Americas to hours instead of days and weeks, the terminal was finally abandoned in the early 1970s. It fell into decline and some parts were demolished, before its revival as part of the inception of the Cité de la Mer complex.
   
The museum complex was developed in stages, beginning with the construction of the purpose-built 133-metre dry dock to house “Le Redoutable”. The exhibitions also came one after the other, such as the “We Walked Under the Sea” installation in 2008, or the “Titanic” section that was set up to coincide with the centenary of the ship’s sinking in 2012.
  
   
What there is to see: Not quite the only reason, but by far the most important reason for a dark tourist to visit Cherbourg and this museum is its biggest artefact: the world’s only missile-carrying nuclear submarine open to the public, which is therefore given its own separate chapter here:
  
  
  
Closely related to this real vessel is the associated exhibition about the history of submarines in general and SSBNs like “Le Redoutable” in particular.
   
More real submersibles can be seen in the deep-sea exploration hall right behind the entrance to the museum. This features some famous bathyscaphes such as the real “Archimède” that reached a depth of almost 10,000 metres (over six miles) in 1962, as well as a replica of the famous deep-sea submersible “Alvin” by means of which hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor were discovered, and which was also involved in the exploration of the wreck of the Titanic in 1986.
   
The director of the famous movie “Titanic”, James Cameron also took part personally in the exploration of the wreck, and it must have inspired him to go even further, i.e. deeper, which he did in a specially commissioned, solo pilot deep-sea exploration vessel called Deepsea Challenger. In this Cameron reached the deepest known point on Earth in the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in 2012 (only missing the record depth reached by the bathyscaphe “Trieste” in 1960 by a few metres). A replica of the Deep Sea Challenger is also on display at the museum.
   
Given the fact that there is absolutely zero light at such depths and in view of the dangers involved going there, this might also be considered something “dark”.
   
The museum also features a 50-minute-long semi-interactive, immersive “virtual journey” to the depths of the ocean called “We Walked Under The Sea” (also called “Walking into the Depths” in some brochures), a kind of group activity/tour enhanced with rides and video installations intended to give visitors an idea of deep-sea exploration (it doesn’t really, it’s more for kids … of all ages). Since photography was not allowed on this tour, none feature in the gallery below to give a visual impression. But that’s probably better anyway. I found it a near intolerably cheesy experience and wish I had opted out of it (and saved the extra money that this costs – see below).
   
However, what is most definitely of interest to dark tourists is the newer section “Titanic – Return to Cherbourg” about the tragic ship and its maiden and at the same time final journey. Part of this is housed in the original baggage hall of the transatlantic terminal with its Art Deco design. The rest of the exhibition features a detailed timeline, information about famous passengers as well as recreations of the ship’s interior, such as of a first-class cabin.
  
The large aquarium, on the other hand, nice as it is to look at, is probably of not so much dark interest (unless you count the sharks as something kind-of dark, given these creatures’ negative reputation, even if it isn’t really fully deserved).
   
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions whose topics will naturally vary and some may be of more, some of less dark interest.
  
All in all, the Cité de la Mer is without any doubt Cherbourg’s No. 1 attraction these days, both in dark terms and otherwise. Unmissable! (Except for that “Walking into the Depths” theatrical nonsense, that is).
  
  
Location: alongside the Quai de France in Cherbourg’s harbour, east of the navy base and outer marina, west of the current ferry terminal.
   
Google Maps locator: [49.6463, -1.6176]
  
  
Access and costs: easy enough to find, and within walking distance from the city centre; not cheap, but you get a lot for it.
  
Details: For those coming by car, the “Cité de la Mer” features plenty of parking spaces. But those on foot can also walk it – it takes roughly 20 minutes from the train station or city centre, first along the inner harbour basin, then crossing the lock at Port Tournant, turn left and walk along the eastern side of the tidal part of the harbour towards the huge main building, which is really pretty much impossible to miss. The entrance is on the western side of the old transatlantic terminal building
  
Opening times: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in summer (July/August), only to 6 p.m. outside the summer season, and only from 10 a.m. in March and April, when it is also closed on Mondays. Closed altogether for a period in January and early February. When cruise ships dock at the Quai de France, parts of the museum complex (especially the old luggage hall) may be inaccessible.
   
Admission: 19 EUR for a regular adult ticket for the entire complex, but only 15.50 EUR without the “We Walked Under the Sea” attraction (which I would say is very skippable indeed – better spend the extra 3.50 EUR on a glass of Normandy ‘cidre’ afterwards). There are also various concessions for youngsters or people with disabilities.
  
  
Time required: The best part of a whole day, unless you want to skip whole sections. I spent nearly six hours there, skipping a few sub-sections but staying in “Le Redoutable” substantially longer than the official recommendation, so it can balance out.
  
   
Combinations with other dark destinations: See under Cherbourg.
  
Just south of the museum you can find one of the vestiges of the fortifications the Nazis added during their WWII occupation of the city, namely a smallish but largely intact bunker. The interior is not accessible to the public, though.
  
  
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Parts of the museum complex are in themselves not really dark, but there’s more to find in the city of Cherbourg.
   
   
 
  • Cite de la Mer 01 - former Transatlantic terminal buildingCite de la Mer 01 - former Transatlantic terminal building
  • Cite de la Mer 02 - entranceCite de la Mer 02 - entrance
  • Cite de la Mer 03 - main hallCite de la Mer 03 - main hall
  • Cite de la Mer 04 - with deep-sea submersiblesCite de la Mer 04 - with deep-sea submersibles
  • Cite de la Mer 05 - ArchimedeCite de la Mer 05 - Archimede
  • Cite de la Mer 06 - Deepsea ChallengerCite de la Mer 06 - Deepsea Challenger
  • Cite de la Mer 07 - submarine exhibition partCite de la Mer 07 - submarine exhibition part
  • Cite de la Mer 08 - plenty of interactive elementsCite de la Mer 08 - plenty of interactive elements
  • Cite de la Mer 09 - original sky bridges of the Transatlantic terminalCite de la Mer 09 - original sky bridges of the Transatlantic terminal
  • Cite de la Mer 10 - to the TitanicCite de la Mer 10 - to the Titanic
  • Cite de la Mer 11 - notable names of cities related to emigrationCite de la Mer 11 - notable names of cities related to emigration
  • Cite de la Mer 12 - embarkation hallCite de la Mer 12 - embarkation hall
  • Cite de la Mer 13 - Titanic exhibitionCite de la Mer 13 - Titanic exhibition
  • Cite de la Mer 14 - reconstructed cabinCite de la Mer 14 - reconstructed cabin
  • Cite de la Mer 15 - projectionCite de la Mer 15 - projection
  • Cite de la Mer 16 - reconstructed 1st class cabinCite de la Mer 16 - reconstructed 1st class cabin
  • Cite de la Mer 17 - colours of going underCite de la Mer 17 - colours of going under
  • Cite de la Mer 18 - aquariumCite de la Mer 18 - aquarium
  • Cite de la Mer 19 - deep blueCite de la Mer 19 - deep blue
  • Cite de la Mer 20 - unused part of the terminus hallCite de la Mer 20 - unused part of the terminus hall
  • Cite de la Mer 21 - bunker outsideCite de la Mer 21 - bunker outside
  
  
 
  
   
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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