Nord-Pas de Calais

The lowlands in the northern area of France do not possess karstification or natural caves. French pupils learn at school that there is mining in northern France, the border area to Belgium and Luxemburg has coal mines and to the east some iron ore mines. One of those coal mines at Lewarde is open to the public. There are also numerous mining museums with replica mines. A typical sight is called Teril, which is a characteristic conical hill made of slag, the rocks of a nearby mine were deposited on such a heap. There are virtually hundreds of them, and they were reused for various purposes, including ski lifts and bike courses. Many towns around the mines had typical miners houses built in somewhat monotone artificial villages. They are so exceptional that hundreds of such buildingws were listed on the UNESCO WHL list.

Rather unknown is the fact that the limestone of the area was mined for building and other purposes. This created numerous underground limestone quarries, not as vast as in the Loire area, but still of some size. None of those quarries are open to the public.

During World War II this part of France was most important for the German Third Reich. It was of enormous strategic importance because of its adjacency to England, which was one of the Allied Forces. They fortified the northern coast of France with the bunker system Atlantikwall and built weapons to raid England and especially London from here.

The most important and interesting structures were built in the last two years of World War II. The German military strategists knew they would lose the war without any kind of "super" weapon. As a result the so-called V-weapons were constructed: Vergeltungswaffe means retaliatory weapon, reprisal weapon, or vengeance weapon. There were actually three of them, V1 was a flying bomb, V2 was the first rocket, and V3 was an oversized ballistic cannon. Beginning in 1943, numerous launching sites were built, most of them in Pas de Calais, to raid London. None of them was completed, as the Allies were able to destroy them. But most of the structures were so compact, their ruins are still there and still impressive. Numerous of them are now exhibition sites or museums and open to the public.