Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Did YOU Do With Your Saturday??


I'm still wondering why the guy was walking down the main street of Oudler, Belgium, wearing a black suit and carrying a trombone.

It’s thoughts like that that pop into your mind as you’re driving through three different countries in one day, much like we did today.  The three countries in question are Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, but before you think this was a big feat on our part, realize that driving through those three different countries was like driving from Marquette to Munising with a side-trip through Eben.  They’re that close to each other. 

Speaking of Eben, that was, in a way, one of the two reasons we did what we did today.  On our way to meet someone, we stopped in Beiler, Luxembourg, where this man—

Carl Swanson of Ishpeming, died somewhere in these hills—

On December 20th, 1944.  Swanson was in an infantry company trying to stop the Germans from advancing during their Ardennes offensive, the Battle of the Bulge.  This, by the way, was just as Swanson returned to his unit after being wounded in France several months earlier.  After we paid our respects in Beiler, we met up with an amazing young man.

World, meet Carl Wouters—

Carl lives near Antwerp, and is a (and I’m saying this with only slight exaggeration) world-reknowned expert on the 106th Infantry Division, in which Eben’s Toivo Alto served before he died on December 28th, 1944.

That’s Alto on the left, by the way, standing next to his brother Charles.

Carl led us to many places where Alto served during the final two weeks of his life, beginning with the woods where his unit had dug foxholes to guard a road.  How much of an expert on the 106th is Carl?

Well, he found the foxholes Alto’s unit had dug; I’m sure that if we’d asked him to look into it, Carl probably could’ve found out which foxhole was actually Alto’s!  He then showed us around a little more, ending the tour on the hill on which Alto died that fateful day, while trying to capture the town of Manhay, Belgium.  You can see both the field and the town in the picture—

By the way, I erred yesterday when I said Carl’s 26 and a law school student.  He’s actually 23 and a law school graduate.  Oh, and he speaks 8 languages.  Quite the amazing guy: we’re glad we had the chance to spend some time with him!

The weather today was weird; it would be sunny & 75, and then 3 minutes later the temperature would drop 15 degrees and the rain would just come pouring down.  So if the following pictures aren’t as bright and cheery as they usually are. . .well, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany weren’t as bright and sunny as they usually are.

But nonetheless, we did see nice towns—

Nice churches—

Nice rivers—

And a poster for a town festival, a festival in which the main musical act is a band named Stagefright.  I’m hoping the Germans who form the group named it out of irony, and not because of some misguided translation!

Finally, speaking of music, we never figured out why the man in the black suit was walking down the street of Oudler carrying a trombone this morning.  He just was, and we zipped by too quickly for me to get a picture.  It’s just one of those things where, when you see it, you think to yourself—

“Only in Belgium”.

Tomorrow, we head back to Germany, this time to stay for the night.

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