After the war ended on 11 November 1918, the people who had lived in the areas where the fighting took place and had fled, returned to try and rebuild their lives and their towns.
Small wooden houses were erected to live in until the houses were rebuild.
The trenches were filled in, the ammunition was cleared, bodies were dug up and reburied in the cemeteries. The battle scarred fields were ploughed again, crops were grown again and cattle returned to graze the land.
The eastern part of the front is more hilly and some areas were just left as they were. In some places, as with the Verdun Battlefields, the land was so poisoned with ammunition and chemicals that nothing wanted to grow on it. Only one type of tree from Canada could grow there, so the land was covered with these trees and left alone. In the Vosges trees also grew back and the war slowly became history.
Today the large battle sites can be easily visited. So can the many, many cemeteries from both sides. Here and there trench systems have been turned into open air museums.
Many forests are still forbidden areas as there is still ammunition to be found, and these places also are considered burial grounds as thousands and thousands of men are still missing.
Soldiers are still found, sometimes just one soldier, sometimes groups of soldiers. If possible they are identified and then reburied with full military honours.
At modern building sites trenches are still being discovered and even whole underground tunnel systems, especially in Belgium. These are excavated, explored and then filled up again, and the personal belongings of the soldiers which are found are often displayed in museums nearby.
When visiting the former battlefields please be aware that in many places the land is privately owned or military terrain. The fortresses around Verdun are owned by the military and are forbidden to enter. They have been closed off due to safety reasons. Expect to pay a huge fine if caught.
It is also forbidden to take anything you find on the battlefields home with you. It is considered property of the French state and here also huge fines are handed out. During the 100th commemorations the ‘Forestiers’ of the Verdun forests are extra vigilant and are making regular checks to see if tourists have taken anything with them.