Whilst pondering over a map, well a couple of maps and with a glass of Red in hand we planned our route for the coming week. People who think we are just lolling around with little or no responsibilities………are right and we absolutely love it. After years of setting budgets, staff issues, customers whinging about nonsense, marketing, creditors, debtors, office politics , exchange rates and boardroom bullshit, doing the odd bit of research on Countries and planning the best routes and places to visit is heaven. It’s 11.00am Wednesday morning and we are sat quietly by Pinot just enjoying not having to be anywhere particular. Anyway back to what we’ve been up to recently. Three hours drive from Bolków (Poland), we decided we would take a mid week break ( a little holiday basically) and visit Berlin which is about a 3 hour drive from our site.
We hired a car for a few days and booked a couple of nights in a hotel a 5min tram ride away from the city centre. Hiring the car was easy and they said they’d deliver it to site for a very reasonable $20. “Great I’ll have it tomorrow then at 8.00am thanks”. Young guy arrived at 8.30 next morning with the car and spoke NO English….I speak even less Polish if that’s possible. Translator engaged and all paperwork done and money handed over. The young lad then hops into car…….”sorry mate ” says I, wondering what he was up to. Translator told me the young driver just needed a lift back to his office……..36 k’s away, in the wrong direction to Berlin. So I paid $20 to get the car delivered then spent an extra hour getting him back to work only to retrace my steps to begin my car hire. You just have to laugh don’t you.
Eventually arrived in the middle of Berlin….and here is a rough account of our time here. and at the end of the pics our thoughts on Berlin.The impressive Marx and Engels monument is one of Berlin’s last reminders of its communist past.The Neue Wache.. It serves as the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the victims of War and Dictatorship.Holocaust memorial , to the Murdered Jews of Europe. A stark memorial, bare and raw.Berlin’s Reichstag building houses the German Parliament and was occupied by the Nazis in 1933. The dome which is part of this building, just out of sight in this pic is free to visit and we believe it’s a must see. It has a wonderful vantage point , but we were not prepared and you have to pre book ahead for an allotted time to visit.Berlin cathedral .Brandenburg Gate.. the defining symbol of Berlin, both the city’s division and unification. It was basically in no mans land when the Ruskies put the wall up during the Coldwar years. The first picture below shows how it looked just after the allies entered Berlin and the picture below that is how it looks today. I have to say it was a bit underwhelming in grandeur and much smaller than we expected.
Check Point Charlie .. an important Cold War site. It was the third checkpoint opened by the allies around Berlin. Very touristy of course, (actually that’s a massive understatement it’s almost Disney like) you can sit there having a Big Mac watching the silliness of it all just a few meters away but just around the corner is an interesting open air exhibition telling the stories of those who failed and those who succeeded in escaping from the East.
Topography of Terror ..another interesting permanent exhibition since 1987 at the site where the headquarters of the Secret State Police, SS, and the Reich security main offices were located. Lots of info on the Nazi’s reign of terror. This really is worth lingering at and gives a good crisp insight to what it was like in Germany from the early 30’s until 45. It’s just so frighteningly unbelievable what one man, a bunch of crazy sycophants and a population desperate to escape poverty and follow someone is capable of. We’ve spent many weeks in and around Countries heavily impacted by the Nazi’s and it continues to astound us just how far reaching and devastating these actions caused.
The Berlin Welt captive air ballon around the corner charges 23 euros for a 15 min experience for an aerial view of the city. Ah no thanks we’ve walked around every street and it ain’t that pretty so we’ll give it a miss thanks!The Berliner Fernsehturm television tower below..the old and new together.
Potsdamer, this was used as a commercial military centre before World War One and was trapped in no man’s land. It is now known as the Centre of Berlin after the collapse of the wall.
This wee pooch below being ferried around Berlin was a cute quirky sight. Looks as though it’s owner might have had a bit of an accident……..hope it didn’t scrape too much ink off 😉
Berlin ! Billed as one of the most exciting cities in Europe to visit …What was wrong with us, have we missed something here ? Maybe we’ve just been to one too many fabulous Cities during this trip but it was not as impressive as we thought it would be. In fairness it is all about it’s recent history I guess, so if you want to immerse in WW11 and the Nazi’s followed by the Ruskie stuff, then be my guest..Did we not give it a fair go ? Enough time ? Have we been travelling too long ?…….There are so many wonderful Cities we would return to but for us Berlin didn’t make the list.
Anyway, glad we visited.
Everyone remembers Stalag Luft 3….don’t they ? OK maybe you remember it as the prisoner of war camp from the classic 1963 film The Great Escape. Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner et al. I loved that film. McQueen on the motorbike during his attempted escape. Contrary to popular belief there were no Americans involved. My map told me after some research that we could detour to the camp in Zagan Stalag luft three Impressively moving statue in front of the camp below. Very long story short, a number of Allied airmen (officers) were held prisoner here during the war and thought of it as a bit of a sport to escape by whatever means. A plan was conceived and set in motion by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (known as Big X) to dig a few tunnels codenamed Tom Dick and Harry. All very Boys own….love it ! The logistics of how it was done is amazing and worth reading about. Anyway they intended to get over 200 men into the tunnel. So in March 1944 they managed to only get 76 men on their toes and out of the tunnel codenamed Harry and the 77th was seen by a guard and the alarm raised. Eventually all the escapees bar 3 were captured and Hitler himself was so pissed off, he personally ordered 50 to be shot. Unlike the film the men were shot either alone or in pairs. After visiting Auschwitz which is only about 350 k’s away, this camp was the polar opposite. They had music lessons, good food, theatre etc and were generally very well looked after and even had a Menu posted for Christmas dinner. I found it fascinating and there is a great little museum attached to the camp. A great yarn and best of all it really happened.
.This handsome young man belowwas one of the 76 who escaped. He made it over 800 kilometers in about a month through Nazi Germany only to be caught and shot to death on Hitlers orders. What a terrible and sad story. One of many of course...…The camp stove under which the escape tunnel was dug…..probably not the original but oh well…..I just wanted a pic beside it. what a contrast , .A little shrine below which the prisoners built and had the ashes of the 50 murdered airmen put.And so our little claytons holiday came to an end and we retreated back into Poland for a couple of days to catch up on chores before heading North. Amanda went to the office to pay our bill and the very nice chap who owns the site gave her a 10% discount and gave us a very nice bottle of the local firewater (Vodka) complete with what we think is a piece of straw inside. It is now chilling in the fridge for sometime in the future oh oh we can feel a headache coming on.
A reasonably early start and a few hours later we crossed another unmanned border crossing into Germany and took another little side trip to the prison camp Colditz. An imposing old Palace used to keep POW’s in during the war. Before that the Nazi’s sent other less fortunate who mostly died of malnutrition etc. However as a POW camp, it was billed as inescapable . WRONG the POW’s tried all sorts of ingenious and often comical ways to escape. Some successful but most not. Notably some of the more famous prisoners were Douglas Bader better known as the tin legged flying ace from WW2. And Airey Neave the first British officer to escape and who later became an M19 officer. Sadly he was assassinated in 1979 in a car bomb attack at the house of commons by the Irish National Liberation Army. Imagine after enduring the war and escaping etc to be then blown up outside the House of Commons. You couldn’t make that stuff up could you..Just a bunch of young lads stuck as POW’s and yet all their lives ahead of them. ..and an old guy giving them a wee cuddle..We spent the evening in a local campsite next to an outdoor swimming pool. Starting to get very hot down here now and no complaining from us. I’d originally planned to take a few days getting from Poland to Holland but once I started driving I couldn’t stop so kept on until we arrived to a great site just outside Nijmegen. It was and still is a working farm and by the time we arrived early evening it was already beer o’clock. So we set up and joined the rest of the occupants for an aperitif before dinner. ALL dutch on the site so nothing at all in English. I must admit we’re looking forward to not having to translate. The site is a leisurely 8 k’s from the City centre so we rolled the bikes out next morning and took a trip into the City. Once we arrived we realized we’d actually been here last year on our River Cruise. We hadn’t thought much of it then but after riding through the burbs and wandering through Town it’s actually a lovely place……..mind you as you can see in the pic below, the Sunday arvo cyclists riding into town take it a bit too seriously for my liking. In truth the Netherlands is so well set up for cyclists with bike paths. They really have got it right and you feel so much safer out on the roads.Hundreds of shoes, boots etc suspended above the street. A nice easygoing City before our trip up to the hook of Holland for our overnight ferry to UKNext day was a gentle drive literally across the Dikes and Northwest to our departure point at Hook of Holland. We were first at the Port so locked Pinot and wandered into town and had a beer sitting outside a little bar with a couple of locals just chatting and enjoying the sunshine..Very well organized and efficient boarding. We boarded around 7.00pm so what else but a beer in the lounge before retiring to our cabin for the evening. We set sail at 10. and arrived at 6.30 am next morning. Very reasonable price considering we have a big lump of a motorhome and cabin for 2 . Only 200 pound all up.
Goodnight all, we’ll see you in England xx.Love to all xxx and an extra one for Dad x