Stage town for the twentieth time Sub-prefecture of Nord (59)
Population: 86,800 (Dunkerquois and Dunkerquoises), 196,000 in the 17 communes of the Dunkirk Grand Littoral urban community.
Personalities: Jean Bart (sailor), Roger Salengro (Minister of the Popular Front), Paul Meurisse (actor), Jean-Paul Rouve (actor).
Specialities: potjevleesch (pieces of chicken, pork and veal in jelly), Flemish carbonade (meat simmered in beer), waffles
Sport: BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque (basketball, Pro A), Union sportive du littoral de Dunkerque (football, Ligue 2), Dunkerque Handball Grand Littoral (handball, French championship). Events : Dunkirk Four Days (cycling), sailing Tour de France (traditional departure site), marathon, Boucles dunkerquoises (running)
Cycling: Vélo + plan, 237 km of cycling facilities, passage of the Vélomaritime route and the Véloroute des Flandres
Economy: 3rd largest port in France behind Marseille and Le Havre, European capital of free transport.
Events: Dunkirk carnival, La Bonne Aventure festival (free concerts),
Motto: Dunkirk spirit
Label: Cycling city of the Tour de France - 3 bikes / Active and sporty city / Land of the Games 2024
Websites: www.ville-dunkerque.fr / www.communauté-urbaine-dunkerque.fr / www.dunkerque-tourisme.fr / https://www.facebook.com/Ville-de-Dunkerque-681010572007946 / https://twitter.com/dunkerque?lang=fr / https://www.instagram.com/dunkerque__/
DUNKIRK, A STORY
In May 1940, the North of France was swept up in a terrible turmoil. The German breakthrough towards the Channel trapped the French and British armies in a trap. Salvation could only come from the sea and all eyes were on Dunkirk. Operation Dynamo was staged to take the British Expeditionary Force back home as well as thousands of French soldiers from 26 May to 4 June. It was the largest evacuation operation in military history, an unimaginable success in the midst of a humiliating defeat, a miracle that enabled 338,226 Allies to escape the hell of Dunkirk and reach Britain. The "Spirit of Dunkirk", the great hope of resistance and deliverance, will henceforth float over Dunkirk. 2022 marks the rebirth of a major French industrial basin of the 20th century, now a model for the low-carbon economy of the future. As France's 3rd largest port and Europe's leading energy platform, Dunkirk has taken a lead in the field of green energy and by 2024 will be home to the first giant factory of the French champion in the manufacture of electric batteries (the start-up Verkor), as well as the Breton company "Grain de Sail", a pioneer in the field of sailing cargo ships and the transatlantic transport of cocoa, coffee and wine. At the same time, ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel company, will launch an ambitious project in Dunkirk to produce green steel by gradually replacing coal with hydrogen in its manufacturing process.
DUNKIRK AND CYCLING
In the geography of cycling, Dunkirk is indelibly linked to the famous "Four Days" which have been held in this northern port since 1955 and usually last six days! From Louis Déprez for the first edition to Philippe Gilbert, winner in 2022, some of the biggest names in cycling have won here (Jacques Anquetil, Roger De Vlaeminck, Freddy Maertens, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Charly Mottet or Thomas Voeckler) and the race, despite the difficulties, has always retained a huge amount of sympathy among the riders. Dunkirk has also been on the Tour de France route 19 times. As a hotspot of the race between 1911 and 1927, it saw the triumph of future Tour winners such as François Faber, Firmin Lambot, Ottavio Bottechia or André Leducq. Local rider Félix Goethals made a speciality of winning there, with three victories in 1920, 1921 and 1923. After a hiatus that lasted until 1958, the town hosted the prologue of the Grande Boucle in 2001, won by Christophe Moreau. The last time the race passed through the town, in 2007, it was won by the Belgian Gert Steegmans. Among the riders linked to the town, we must mention Christian Palka, professional from 1971 to 1974 and who became one of the most popular radio journalists in his region. A thought also goes to Raymond Louviot, French champion in 1934 and then talented sports director, who was killed in a road accident in Dunkirk in 1969, on the eve of the Four Days.
The Dunkirk carnival is one of the major festive events in the North of France. The carnival crowd moves through the streets of the city singing typical tunes, guided by a brass band led by the drum major. The carnival people hold on to each other's elbows and form lines that follow each other through the streets, the so-called "gang". Sometimes, some of them stop for a pilgrimage to the chapels (bistros), where they swallow beer and onion soup. The procession ends on the Grand-Place where the carnival people gather for the rigodon, the final rowdy dance, then sing a tribute to corsair Jean Bart. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the port of Dunkirk has had one of the most original carnivals in France. The city only became definitively French in 1662 under Louis XIV. But a large part of the population, attached to its traditions, continued to speak Flemish, so that it is not surprising to find today, in the carnival songs, snatches of Dunkirk dialect such as “give a zô” (zô or zôt'che = a kiss). Many carnival societies also borrow their names from Flemish, such as the Kakernesches (the youngest of the children), the Snustreraers (the weasels) or the famous Visscherbende (fishermen's band), which leads the front ranks of the procession. As they pass in front of the Town Hall, this compact and colourful mass demands its due: a volley of 450 kilos of cellophane-wrapped salted herring, reminiscent of the imminent departure of the fishermen for Iceland. From the central balcony, the mayor holds up a lobster, presents it to the crowd and throws six of them. Whoever is lucky enough to get hold of a (plastic) lobster can take it back to the town hall where they will be given a voucher for a real one in a fish shop in exchange. After four hours of festivities, the carnival-goers gather at the foot of the statue of Jean Bart for the famous cantata and the final rigodon.
The Giants of the North
Like every city in the North, Dunkirk has its giants and the carnival is an opportunity for them to go out on the town. Since 2000, the Reuze and his family have been parading in the foreground and then blending into the bustling scene. Reuze is one of the oldest giants. His legend is said to have originated around the year 1550. It tells the story of a nasty Scandinavian warrior, Allowyn, who wanted to attack Dunkirk. But when he got off his ship, he was seriously injured by his sword and was treated by St Eloi, the evangelist of Dunkirk. On the threshold of his 100th birthday, the protector of the city died and the city, in mourning, decided to pay tribute to him by giving his appearance to a wicker mannequin. At the beginning of the 20th century, Alfred Dumont, the mayor of the time, who was attached to tradition, had a Mietje reuzine built and celebrated the wedding with great pomp. From this union three children were born, Pietje, Boutje and Miesje, well protected by six guards: Allowyn, Dagobert, Gélon, Goliath, Roland and Samson.
It is named after the Dunkirk corsair famous for his exploits under Louis XIV. The people of Dunkirk gather here at the end of the carnival for the final rigodon and the tribute to the corsair with the hymn to Jean-Bart. The square hosts events for the general public, such as the Printemps of Place Jean Bart or Dunkerque la féérique. The finish of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque also takes place on the square.
Belfry of Saint Eloi
This 15th century French monument has been listed as a historical monument since 1840 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. It was built around 1440 in place of an old watchtower. It dominates the city from the top of its 58 m and offers a panoramic view. It houses a carillon with 48 bells that can be visited.
A pearl of architecture is hidden in Rosendaël, a residential area of Dunkirk that is very colourful and above all unusual in its structure. Designed by François Reynaert, the Excentric was built during the boom years between the two world wars. Melancholic blues and pale salmon cover the facades of its "tortuous" houses with Art Deco scrolls.
Fort des Dunes Museum (in Leffrinckoucke)
A place of remembrance of the Second World War, this military relic is a privileged witness to the history of the area. The new scenography installed in the troops' building displays six immersive video rooms, models and interactive panels that retrace the history of the territory from "Turenne to Dynamo". With its buildings hidden under the sand, the Dunes fort is a remarkable example of the military architecture designed by General Séré de Rivières. It was built in 1878, together with the Zuydcoote battery, to protect Dunkirk and its port from any attack from the east. Following the invention of new explosives, it quickly lost its strategic role and was used as a barracks, able to house 450 soldiers.
These remains were erected by Germany between 1942 and 1945 to protect itself from Allied attacks. Some of the blockhouses have been reinvested by local artists, offering a new look at the past. The blockhouses of Dunkirk are not linked to the history of the Normandy landings, which is why their conservation was less extensive. However, the emotions linked to their construction remain intact. They remain an indelible testimony to the history of the Second World War.
Don't tell a Dunkirker that a herring-peck is a roll-mop. Of course, it is marinated herring, and even preserved in vinegar, but only the Dunkirkers know how to season it properly: salted for two days and then preserved in vinegar with chopped onions, thyme and bay leaves. And unlike roll-mops, this is not a herring fillet, but a herring cut in two or three pieces, not necessarily rolled. Peck in Flemish means both vinegar and brine, hence the word "pickle". They are also called peckel horings in Dunkirk. A local expression, "candied like a zhareng-peck", implies that you have drunk the delicious beer of the North without moderation.