Monday, July 18, 2011


It took us off the autobahn and it took me back to my childroom bedroom where I'd left Golden Books, Enid Blyton, my sister's Twin Books, even my very own William Books, and moved onto war novels of the more romantic kind, The Dam Busters, Reach for the Sky, and my favorite by a long way, The Colditz Story, where I focused more on the suspense, camaraderie, creativity, dressing up, putting on plays, and tricking the Krauts than much to do with war. It was all very Boys Own to this boy.

That Colditz even existed had long been forgotten till a chance conversation in Leipzig (with a hotel desk clerk who was a very tall young man in drag, I kid you not, thick with makeup, long jet black hair, and neat blue pants suit) - Colditz was just down the road on the way to Dresden.

The countryside was lush and the driving easy ...

(close inspection, double click, shows roadside wildflowers and wind turbines - there everywhere)

... through little country towns (a quarter past one) ...

.. till we wound our way down into a valley, crossed the Mulde and there it was, sitting high above the town - Colditz Castle.

(from the town square)

(from the far side, the exercise grounds of the camp, and adjoining countryside)

The Castle's long history is here including what was a concentration camp for Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and undesirables (1933-1934) now called " 'protective custody' for opponents of the Nazis". I was actually reading Hans Fallada's shocking "Alone in Berlin" at the time. It takes a strong stomach to finish.

Colditz was the camp for allied officers who had an escape history - creating, as our droll guide ('now remember, I am counting', she would say whenever we went through a closed doorway) said was effectively an escape academy. The late Earl of Harewood was one special guest, and inmates were treated like officers, and in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

The Castle is a short climb up through the town (fairly obviously not a bombing target) ...

... across the dry moat

(restoration ongoing)

to the main gates, the coat of arms of the castle and the town above.

Next episode - inside Colditz.


David said...

That's the sort of take-you-there travel blogging I love. Colditz looks actually rather picturesque...not as I remember it on the old TV series (recall Anthony Valentine with scar, rather appealing in a sadistic kind of way...they did all talk with funny Dzherman accents in those days, though, which perhaps wouldn't be countenanced now. But witness the confusion wrought by the mixed accents of the travestied - if sleek - TV Zen...)

wanderer said...

Yes, the menace is gone. I didn't see the TV series, and only just watched the (excellent and very British in the bestest sense) film the weekend just passed. Restoration is well underway and the past scrubbed off as it slips into Museum status and all that that entails. It smacks somewhat of overcompensation. And the guards et al are referred to in the third person as "The Germans" - 'those' Germans, unlike 'these' Germans running the museum shop etc. It was all a bit surreal, but understandable. Despite the absence of allied ghosts (there was only one death, a Brit - Scots I think - doing a runner), nonetheless inside remains quite evocative in parts.