As we cycled through France we were struck by the number of war memorials. Every village and town, no matter how small, has a well kept memorial to the fallen, usually right in the center of town - Morts pour la France, or Morts pour la Patrie they say. Each village and town lists the name of its "enfants" who fell. The lists for World War One are horribly long, the lists for World Was Two, Algeria and even Indochine, are shorter but somehow no less horrible. All over the French countryside there are plaques for members of the resistance or Free French Army killed in battle, or "lachement fusilles" by the Germans, or even citizens killed or executed by the Gestapo. If it is true that the forgotten are the truly dead, France does not forget.
The same cannot be said for Germany. The are no memorials in the villages and towns we go through. As we pass peaceful countryside communities we can only wonder how many sons and daughters were lost, with no public remembrance.
As we cycled today along the cycle route to Ulm we came across the above sign, we thought it meant Soldiers Cemetery and decided it was worth a detour.
The cemetery, off a small paved path 1km from the cycle path and 2kms from the nearest road, contains maybe 50 graves from various wars, each with a stone marker – Heinz Konerman 1918-1945, Robert Seltman 1890-1918, and others, probably just ordinary soldiers, dying for what they thought was right. The graves are not particularly well kept. Germany's war dead are far less visible and remembered.
We have passed from France to Switzerland to Germany through borders open and unprotected. Looking at the faces around me in Ulm, and the warmth and enthusiasm which we are welcomed, it is easy to forget what was.
That's why its worthwhile to make a detour for a cemetery.
Eight years ago I was diagnosed with acute leukemia. I was 49 years old, with a wonderful wife and two adorable children, many fulfilling interests, and a great career, In short, a charmed life. From one day to the next, I was thrown into a battle of life and death.
Thanks to the wonders of science, the help of devoted, caring and skilled doctors and nurses, and a bone marrow transplant (from my brother) I survived. More importantly, through the experience of my illness and recovery, I have grown and flourished.
To celebrate my recovery, and all those without whom it would have been impossible, I cycled across Europe in April and May 2010, and the blog of my trip is at www.acelebrationoflife.blogspot.com.
My latest project is a book to be entitled Portraits of Hope, comprised of portraits of, and contributions by, survivors of leukemia and other blood cancers, see the link on my blog.
Together we can beat leukemia.