Back to Bases of wartime

Unexpected visitor

Last week I received a message of Magdalena, a friend of mine who is currently on Erasmus as well.

– Hey you know what? I’m coming to Bordeaux tomorrow!

– Wow that spontaneously – that’s the Erasmus spirit!

So, of course, I made sure to have some time on my hands. As she arrived so did the rain, Bordeaux was cloudy, wet and grey. Experiencing the typical Bordeaux-weather right from the start we ended up in a café talking for hours as we couldn’t wait to exchange some Erasmus experience. Doing her semester abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands, right now she left me with the urge of wanting to pay a visit to Utrecht as well.

Anyways, back to Bordeaux. Being the perfect visitor, Magdalena liked everything about Bordeaux. The southern flair of the old town with its light houses, the city being so bright when the sun was shining. It makes you feel closer to the sea already.

– The food is so much better here than in Utrecht!

One point for France. Another one for cultural diversity, a lot of interesting museums and people speaking French all the time. Well, there are two sides to the last point, but I couldn’t agree more. If you want to improve and practise your French, you’ll get an opportunity for sure as a lot of people seem to expect you to speak it. At night we strolled along the Garonne admiring the beautiful red and green lights of the lanterns lining up at the walking path next to the river. We ended up at the place de la bourse which is even more impressing during the night with its lights reflecting in the mirror d’eau.

Back at the Place de la Bourse with the buildings reflecting in the water of the mirror d’eau

Back to wartime

We also made sure to check out some places on the other side of the river, leading us to some remains of wartime. The submarine base. A bit outside of Bordeaux, not really known among tourists (which is great, you most likely will be there alone) but not one bit less interesting. The base was built by the Germans during the second world war between 1941 and 1943 after the French surrendered in 1940. Situated right at the haven it offered room for 15 submarines. As it was a delivery point providing the exhausted soldiers with food and supplies it played a significant role during wartime. The building itself is a giant concrete block, 19-meter-high, 245 metres in length and 162 in width, made from 600 000m3 of cement. Its and walls so massive and strong they even resisted several bombs during wartime. Before it was conquered at the end of the war it was heavily attacked but only barely damaged. The colossus resisted all efforts to take it down. Today, I offers you a different picture. It’s quiet, just a few pigeons flying converting the tiny windows of the bunker into their nests. Who would have thought the base would be a home for pigeons one day?

The massive walls of the base from behind
A pigeon flying to her new home

In the 2000nds, the base has been transformed into a room of art. Artists can present their expositions there or can even include the bunker in one of their artworks transforming it into a piece of art itself. After abandoning the building and letting it be for several year, not knowing what to further do with it, it was restored and opened in the year 2000 for its first exhibition. Some artists used the walls of the base to present theirs films which were reflecting in the water at the haven. We visited the base a bit too early so it was closed, just a big poster hanging outside announcing the current exposition. Next to it we also found a poem on the wall of the base:

Like the night

The night has forgotten me
However, I am always here
Between the run down walls
Of a remorseless industry



The poem on the wall of the base – in french

A boat carrying childhood memories

At the haven we spotted a little boat directly in the middle with something that seemed like dirty bags or trash all over it. When we took a closer look discovered is wasn’t trash, but teddy bears all over it. Dirty and grey they were popping out of the boats window and ceiling. We wondered if this might be a piece of art as well – and turned out it is. Constructed in 2013 it is a project of B-a-r-b-b-art which encouraged the visitors of the base to leave their children plush toys behind to put them on the ship wreck. Slowly Noah’s ark made of toys was built. It’s depicting farewell, laying in the haven for 5 years now.

Take a closer look and you can spot the teddybears – grey and dirty being on the boat for 5 years now

Walking around we could even spot some other pieces of art – street art. In this industrial corner of Bordeaux you can find graffiti all over storage halls and other older buildings. Covered in paint their colourful images were reflected on the water, as they are laying right next to the haven as well.

The colourful walls of the storage halls reflecting in the water

Making some new friends

Leaving the submarine base behind we came across the colourful tent of a circus. A lot of straps and trapezes outside in the garden, but no one there to be seen practising. Then we followed some old rails on the ground leading us the way directly outside of the bases area. A few cars and industrial buildings outside, but not a lot of people, we were the only ones walking around. A bit farther away we could spot something black and moving.

The old rails leading our way

– What is that? A dog?

– It doesn’t really look like one – but what the heck?

As we came closer we could see it more clearly. A goat! Chained up at the rails, walking around in circles as far as the chains let her. In front of the goat, we even found a dog as well. Looking at me with its dark brown eyes I couldn’t resists and instantly rushed there to play with him for a while. Chained up at the rails like the goat as well, I’m sure he enjoyed my company as much as I did his. Magdalena kept her distance a bit but snapped some pictures of me and my new friend. After a while though I had to stop as we needed to get going. Really sad to leave him behind I proceeded trying to make friends with the goat as well – which appeared to be a bit harder as she was really scared and running away from me every time I came a bit closer. So I let her be but took some pictures of her as a compensation for her lack of love.

Who could resists these big brown eyes telling me “Come play with me!”
Getting a picture of the shy goat as well

Then went on to walk around the area, not much to see, just a typical industrial area of a city. Just following the rails we came along the second bridge of the Garonne, trying to get some good pictures of it as we were quite close already. It wasn’t the best place to take photos so went on walking around seeing what was yet to come. Farther away we discovered a street with a lot of waste on the sides, wondering what this waste had to do on the side of the road in an otherwise really clean city like Bordeaux. Still, it was a little adventure – abandoned places like these are the best to go to as all of them have a fascinating history – or if you don’t know you it you can free your fantasy make up a story about it on your own.

We really found way to much trash laying around here

After our little trip Magdalena soon had to leave for the airport already – a short and spontaneous visit came to an end way to fast. Now I already promised myself to visit her in Utrecht as well. I also need to get some insight of Erasmus life in the Netherlands!




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