Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the historical gems of the former East Germany have gradually become more accessible to visitors from the West. Until then travel in to the German Democratic Republic (DDR) from western countries had been far from easy. In the past twenty years tourist numbers to fascinating and well advertised destinations such as the former East Berlin, Potsdam or Dresden have been increasing significantly. There is one name however which has an immediate significance for us in the UK. Its very mention at one time gave rise to emotions of fear and trepidation. Until quite recently it appeared to lie hidden and inaccessible. Now open to the public, it is one venue which should be on everyone's itinerary - Colditz Castle!
You wouldn’t give the two green steel doors any thought as you climb the stairs at Gesundbrunnen U-Bahn (underground) station in Berlin. If you even noticed them, you might simply think that they were to provide access to the workings of the underground railway system. But thanks to the Berliner Unterwelten Association (Berlin Underworld Association), a non-profit organisation made up of people from all walks of life, the mystery of what lies behind these innocuous doors is revealed. And as is often the case, looks can be more than deceiving. As you enter what was the airlock (whilst gas had effectively been outlawed, both sides possessed such weapons, and there was of course the danger of fire) of the Gesundbrunnen bunker, you are taking a step back more than 60 years into some of the darkest days of the 20th Century.
It is not hard to see why George Bernard Shaw chose what is now referred to as "Shaw's Corner" as his refuge from the outside world, and the brand that was "GBS". Situated in the tiny Hertfordshire village of Ayot St Lawrence, Shaw's Corner is a peaceful rural haven, despite being less than 30 miles from central London. What more appropriate place to host the 2013 International Shaw Society conference therefore, than Shaw's home for 44 years?
Shaw's Corner is now managed by the National Trust, whose team have been instrumental in their collaboration with the Shaw Societies in bringing together delegates and distinguished speakers from all corners of the globe (including Hong Kong, Canada, India and the USA) for five days of lectures, concerts, day trips and dinners; the first of which we had the opportunity of attending.
Perhaps no place in England is more commonly associated with Henry VIII than Hampton Court Palace, yet this sumptuous house on the banks of the River Thames was not built by Henry, but rather, by his chief counsellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey.
Henry liked Hampton Court so much that he pressed Wolsey to give it to him. Wolsey, anxious to retain the king's capricious favour, handed it over.