After a good nights sleep, we left Plitvice Lakes and hit the roads to Venice travelling through the countryside that surrounds Plitvice Lakes, nearly every farm has its own small stole outside selling produce mainly honey it is well worth stopping off and stocking up on Pooh bears favourite food.
We soon hit the Croatian coastline and followed it North it is a stunning drive with plenty of little campsites next to the beach many noted for a visit in the future.
As we left Croatia we re-entered Slovenia for the last time before entering Italy which according to Liam is the best country to visit (he does live there) and I have to admit it wasn’t going to let us down.
We chugged on with our sights set on Camping Rialto , driving in Italy towards Venice is a pleasurable experience with the marsh/swap on the left and vast farmlands to the right.
We arrived and set up camp and decided to catch the bus to Venice, the bus stop is located right outside the campsite and you can buy tickets at the reception.
This was mine and Lily’s first visit to Venice and I have to say wow it’s stunning with plenty to see around every corner, busy but well worth it.
The Republic of Venice was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important centre of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. The City State of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial centre which gradually emerged from the 9th century to its peak in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history.
It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, following a referendum held as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.Venice has been ranked the most beautiful city in the world as of 2016.The city is facing some major challenges, however, including financial difficulties, erosion, pollution, subsidence and an excessive number of tourists in peak periods.
Venice is built on an archipelago of 118 islands formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon, connected by 409 bridges. In the old centre, the canals serve the function of roads, and almost every form of transport is on water or on foot. In the 19th century, a causeway to the mainland brought the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station to Venice, and the Ponte della Libertà road causeway and parking facilities (in Tronchetto island and in piazzale Roma) were built during the 20th century. Beyond the road and rail land entrances at the northern edge of the city, transportation within the city remains (as it was in centuries past) entirely on water or on foot. Venice is Europe’s largest urban car-free area. Venice is unique in Europe, in having remained a sizeable functioning city in the 21st century entirely without motorcars or trucks.
We soon got to our destination after a long walk and there it sat in front of us Piazza San Marco all I could think of was how close the Assassin’s Creed game had depicted it, what a place unbelievable, the beauty is out of this world.
What can I say about Venice……It’s beautiful but it’s so expensive for example a gondola ride is not far short of a £100 a glass of wine is an eye-watering £12 the saving grace is a dirty Mac’s is the same price all over the world.
Don’t let the cost of this place put you off it is well worth a visit.
With our stay in Split coming to an end we spent our last day at the beach with the temperatures hitting 40 degrees again plenty of suntan lotion was required.
After packing Kitty and saying our goodbyes to our host Rosa the owner of the guest house we hit the road for a drive north to the Plitvice Lakes National Park which looked awesome, 20km out of Split there was a sudden “Oh No” from the back seat of the truck, “Whats wrong I asked” , Sharon had only left her 2 Ipads in a draw at the Guesthouse, so back we went and got them crisis averted. For a second time, we said goodbye to Split and what a great time we had had some great memories and a place that will be visited again I’m for sure.
We chugged along the country roads(204km), using these rather than the highways so we could indulge ourselves up close with the local communities of Croatia, with all the windows and air vents open it made no difference the heat of the day was blistering it felt like a hair dryer was being held in your face on full heat. In the distance, flames slithered up the hills consuming all vegetation in its path luckily we would not be venturing towards the fires.
We arrived in Plitvice Lakes National Park in good time and the walk began around this gem from Mother Natures crown.
The sixteen lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 636 to 503 m (2,087 to 1,650 ft) over a distance of some eight km, aligned in a south-north direction. The lakes collectively cover an area of about two square kilometres (0.77 square miles), with the water exiting from the lowest lake forming the Korana River.
The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
I will just leave you with some photos and a video of this stunning place
Our last day in the stunning German alps was spent at Königssee Lake, what a beautiful place the water is crystal clear, we were lucky that a traditional Bavarian festival was taking place.
Situated within the Berchtesgaden Alps in the municipality of Schönau am Königsee, just south of Berchtesgaden and the Austrian city of Salzburg, the Königssee is Germany’s third deepest lake. Located at a Jurassic rift, it was formed by glaciers during the last ice age. It stretches about 7.7 km (4.8 mi) in a north-south direction, and is about 1.7 km (1 mi) across at its widest point. Except at its outlet, the Königsseer Ache at the village of Königssee, the lake is similar to a fjord, being surrounded by the steeply-rising flanks of mountains up to 2,700 m (8,900 ft), including the Watzmann massif in the west.
The literal translation of the name, Königssee, appears to be “king’s lake”; however while German: König does indeed mean “king”, there had been no Bavarian kings since the days of Louis the German until Elector Maximilian I Joseph assumed the royal title in 1806. Therefore, the name more probably stems from the first name Kuno of local nobles, who appear in several historical sources referring to the donation of the Berchtesgaden Provostry in the twelfth century; the lake was formerly called Kunigsee.
The Königssee Railway (Königsseebahn) served the lake from 1909 until 1965. Its last tracks were dismantled during 1971, and the former station of the Königssee Railway in Berchtesgaden (Königsseer Bahnhof) was demolished in 2012. The only remaining element of the railway is the Königsee station, which is now a restaurant. The track route is mostly used as a walking path.
In 1944 a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp was located near where Heinrich Himmler had a residence built at Schönau for his mistress Hedwig Potthast.
With Kitty all packed again we left Hotel Zum Turken for a mad dash across Austria and Solvenia our destination was Novi Grad in Croatia for a one night stop to rest before the final push to Split.
The closer we got to Croatia the weather became warmer and warmer, all the windows and front flaps open made no difference but we would soon find out that Split would be an oven.
We arrived in Split after a gruelling drive with a small issue that had developed with Kitty, the immobiliser relay on the fuel pump had worked lose thus cutting the engine out momentarily this problem was solved with a hair band to get us on our way.
We would be staying at a guesthouse about a two miles from the centre of Split ,it was early evening so we decided to have a meal and explore Split in the morning, after asking the guesthouse owner the best places to eat, we walked and found a gem of a place that would become our regular restaurant for our stay, Konoba Pizzeria Dalmatino .
The sun rose it had been another hot night 30 degrees thank god we had air-con in the rooms, luckly the bus stop was close by and we travelled to the centre of Split getting off at the vast bazaar, the sun was relentless and the temperature was already 40 degrees.
Diocletian’s Palace is an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, that today forms about half the old town of Split, Croatia. While it is referred to as a “palace” because of its intended use as the retirement residence of Diocletian, the term can be misleading as the structure is massive and more resembles a large fortress: about half of it was for Diocletian’s personal use, and the rest housed the military garrison.
Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. It lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast, four miles from Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The terrain slopes gently seaward and is typical karst, consisting of low limestone ridges running east to west with marl in the clefts between them.
After the Romans abandoned the site, the Palace remained empty for several centuries. In the 7th century, nearby residents fled to the walled palace in an effort to escape invading Croats. Since then the palace has been occupied, with residents making their homes and businesses within the palace basement and directly in its walls. Today many restaurants and shops, and some homes, can still be found within the walls.
After the Middle Ages the palace was virtually unknown in the rest of Europe until the Scottish neo-classical architect Robert Adam had the ruins surveyed and, with the aid of French artist and antiquary Charles-Louis Clérisseau and several draughtsmen, published Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia (London, 1764).
Diocletian’s palace was an inspiration for Adam’s new style of Neoclassical architecture and the publication of measured drawings brought it into the design vocabulary of European architecture for the first time. A few decades later, in 1782, the French painter Louis-François Cassas created drawings of the palace, published by Joseph Lavallée in 1802 in the chronicles of his voyages.
This palace is today, with all the most important historical buildings, in the centre of the city of Split. Diocletian’s Palace far transcends local importance because of its degree of preservation. The Palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural and cultural features on the Croatian Adriatic coast. As the world’s most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in Mediterranean, European and world heritage.
Diocletian’s Palace is such a beautiful place, the beauty is immense and you cannot help but fall in love with Split.
Split has everything a traveller could want, many restaurants and cafes and those all important gift shops and not forgetting the bazaar.
We awoke and was pleased that the ghostly SS officers had had better things to do that night which was a great relief to us, we would be heading off to The Eagle’s Nest with just a short 10 min walk from our hotel we purchased our bus tickets as only buses are allowed to travel the road up to the Nest, and I can assure you this is totally understandable.
The Kehlsteinhaus is situated on a ridge atop the Kehlstein, a 1,834 m (6,017 ft) subpeak of the Hoher Göll rising above the town of Berchtesgaden. It was commissioned by Martin Bormann in the summer of 1937 as a 50th birthday gift for Adolf Hitler. Paid for by the Nazi Party, it was completed in 13 months but held until a formal presentation on April 20, 1939. A 4 m (13 ft) wide approach road climbs 800 m (2,600 ft) over 6.5 km (4.0 mi). Costing RM 30 million to build (about 150 million inflation-adjusted euros in 2007), it includes five tunnels but only one hairpin turn.
From a large car park a 124 m (407 ft) entry tunnel leads to an ornate elevator which ascends the final 124 m (407 ft) to the building. The lift interior is surfaced with polished brass, Venetian mirrors, and green leather. Construction of the entire project cost the lives of 12 workers. The building’s main reception room is dominated by a fireplace of red Italian marble presented by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which was damaged by Allied soldiers chipping off pieces to take home as souvenirs. Much of the furniture was designed by Paul László. The building had a completely electric appliance kitchen, which was unusual in 1937, but was never used to cook meals; instead, meals were prepared in town and taken to the kitchen on the mountain top to be reheated. The building also maintains heated floors, with heating required for at least two days prior in order for the temperature to be comfortable enough for visitors.
The Eagles nest is a place that must be visited it is stunning the views will take your breath away.
After Munich, we set off for Berchtesgaden and the Obersalzberg area which was once the heart of the 3rd Reich.
Driving through the outskirts of Munich we soon hit the German countryside and what a stunning country this is, we had left the sunshine behind in Munich but I’m sure it would return.
The Bavarian Alps loomed in the distance our excitement grew at the sight of mother natures beauty, the sound of cattle bells rang out through the valleys, stereotypical alpine homes dotted the countryside clinging to the slopes of the towering alps with window boxes overflowing with brightly coloured flowers all that was missing was Julie Andrews belting out “The Hills are Alive”.
Chugging along we climbed higher and higher our hotel was getting close and with one last steep climb, we urged Kitty on with words of encouragement she listened and dug in for the 5KM hike up to the heart of what was once a play ground for the NAZI leaders and where many of the war time decisions were made.
To Kitty’s relief, we arrived at our base camp for the next 3 days, Hotel Zum Turken a place that oozes history and my lord was we in for a treat.
Legend says the “Türkenhäusl” was named after a veteran returning from a war against the Turks in 1683. Local inn keeper Karl Schuster bought the “Little Turk House” in 1911 and converted it to a guesthouse. It soon became one of the most popular stops in the region, entertaining the likes of Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Bavarian Prince-Regent Luitpold, and the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia.
Schuster was a somewhat outspoken critic of the Nazi takeover of the Obersalzberg, since this ruined his business, and he joined the majority of his neighbour’s who were forced to sell out to the Nazis and leave the area in late 1933. The building was first used by the SS-Führerleibwache, Hitler’s personal bodyguard. Bormann later assigned the building to the Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD), the high-level Security Service responsible for Hitler’s safeguarding (some references say the Haus Türken housed the Gestapo, but the RSD was a separate organization). In practice, the ex-hotel served as a headquarters for the round-the-clock SS guard detachment, and also as a telephone communications centre. Prisoner cells were maintained in the basement, above the bunker system.
The building was severely damaged in the April 1945 bombing attack (being immediately adjacent to Hitler’s Berghof), and heavily plundered by the local population and Allied soldiers. Nevertheless, Karl Schuster’s widow and their daughter Therese Partner were determined to get the family’s property back. Against opposition from the authorities, Therese Partner began to rebuild, and in 1949, she was finally rewarded by being permitted to repurchase the building (the building was not given back to the family by the government). She immediately set about refurbishing and reopening the Hotel Zum Türken, which has again taken its place as one of the most popular guest houses in the area.
In the rooms we unpacked and Lily and Liam were really worried that a ghostly SS officer would visit us in the night, I laughed but to be honest the thought had crossed my mind.
First stop the bunker system under the hotel, a warren of passage ways that once linked Martin Bormann’s air raid shelter to Adolf Hitlers Berghof shelter and other high ranking Nazi leaders
When the Allied bombing campaign over the Third Reich became a reality in 1943, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann was forced to order the construction of a series of air raid shelters and command posts for the residents and military staff of the Obersalzberg. These tunnels are often called “bunkers” today, but they are not technically so since they were not meant as defensive positions from which to fight (even though their entrances were protected by machine guns), but simply as shelters in case of air attacks. They were used successfully for this purpose during the Royal Air Force bombing attack on 25 April 1945.
Elaborate shelter systems were built beneath the hill behind the Berghof, with tastefully furnished rooms for Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun; behind the Platterhof, with a shaft linking to Hitler’s bunker; and into the high hill near Göring’s house (sometimes called the Göring Hill or Adolf Hitler Hill). The latter included Bormann’s private shelter system, another private bunker for Göring and his adjutant (which Bormann would not allow to be connected to the rest of the bunker system), and a command and communications center for the Obersalzberg anti-aircraft defense. Bormann had a connecting tunnel built between his own shelter and Hitler’s, running beneath the RSD headquarters at Haus Türken. There were also other less elaborate (or less finished) complexes in the periphery of the area (SS Kaserne, SS munitions storage tunnel, Antenberg, Hintereck/Klaushöhe, Buchenhöhe). A further tunnel system, much deeper beneath the Obersalzberg, was under construction in 1945 (Gutshof and Obertal).
The bunker systems consisted of multi-level tunnels lined with concrete and bricks, with associated power, heating, and ventilation systems, and anti-gas protection systems. Most entrances and emergency exits were covered by protected machine gun positions, and some of these were quite elaborate. It would have been difficult for any enemy to fight his way into these systems, although naturally, the defenders could not have held out indefinitely. The anti-aircraft defence centre included armoured mounts for radio antennas and a periscope at ground level, beside the top of a ventilation shaft.
It should be noted that in addition to the traditional air raid tunnel systems, there were access tunnels linking several of the buildings on the Obersalzberg, as well as tunnels for ventilation, water, and sewage pipes. Most of these smaller secondary tunnels do not appear on any published maps. Click here and here to see some of these access tunnels beneath the SS Kaserne, and here to see an access tunnel between the Hotel Zum Türken and the Filmarchiv building. See the Bibliography page for information of Florian Beierl’s book on the tunnel systems, “Hitler’s Berg.”
Most of the underground systems are now sealed and not accessible to the public, but a very interesting tour of some of the system can be had at the Hotel Zum Türken, and the unfinished complex for the Platterhof and Gästehaus can be visited from the Dokumentation Obersalzberg display near the Platterhof site.
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Leaving the cold damp tunnels behind us, time to check out Hitlers Berghof or what is left of it.
Hitler’s retreat in the mountains of Bavaria was one of the most important centers of government in the Third Reich. Hitler spent more time in the Berghof than in his Berlin office.
It was in this oversized chalet that Hitler planned the invasions of Poland, France and Russia and the events that would change the lives of millions.
Adolf Hitler’s interest in the hills above Berchtesgaden began in 1923 when he came to visit his friend and mentor, Dietrich Eckart, who was living at the Platterhof Hotel. Hitler traveled there under the name of “Herr Wolf” and held meetings with supporters in local guesthouses.
After he was released from Landsberg prison in 1926, following his unsuccessful coup in Munich, he came back to the Obersalzberg.
He stayed in a small cabin (no longer there) on the mountain near the Platterhof. The remainder of Mein Kampf was written during his visit there.
In 1928, Hitler rented a pretty, Alpine-style vacation home, Haus Wachenfeld, next door to the Hotel Zum Türken.
After becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler purchased the house from the money he had made from Mein Kampf (a best seller) and lived there for a couple of years before starting a major expansion of the building.
The expansion of the house was carried out in 1935 and 1936. The result was another larger, Alpine-style residence that he named “The Berghof”, or “mountain farm”.
A large area of the mountain was taken over by the Nazis and numerous buildings were built on the rolling farmland. The neighbours for miles around were bought out, including families who had lived on the mountain for generations.
Those who refused to sell were forced out, including the owner of the Hotel Zum Türken, who spent three weeks in Dachau before “agreeing” to sell.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler at the Berghof in 1938 during the negotiations that lead to the signing of the Munich Agreement handing part of Czechoslovakia over to Germany (“peace for our time”). Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had met with Hitler at the Berghof in 1936.
The Next day would see us catching a bus to The Eagles Nest, so a good nights sleep was required….just hoping that SS officer didn’t start walking the corridors.
With only a 150 miles to go until we reached Munich, we had to make a decision as due to the endless road works and traffic jams which I thought were only part of UK life, so travel on and reach Munich at 2300 hrs or stop at the nearest campsite and rest so we are fresh in the morning…..”Lets Stop” was the call.
Sat Nav Set, we found and stayed the night at CampingPlatz Estenfeld it was very busy I think other travellers had had enough of the traffic jams but we managed to secure a pitch.
After a good night sleep, we hit the road for Munich(28th July) hoping the roads would be better and thank god they were and great progress was made, with much rejoicing.
The choice of campsite in Munich was Campingplatz Munchen Thalkirchen it is over an hour walk from the centre but a U-Bahn station is close by and is only a 23 min journey, so after setting up camp we set off to catch a train.
The train soon arrived on-time unlike the British rail network and off we went towards St. Peters Church square, on exiting the U-Bahn Station we were stunned a the beauty of Munich.
It was very busy so off we walked to find the beer hall where Adolf Hitler made his early speeches and have a beer.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived around the block from the beer hall in the late eighteenth century. In a poem he wrote, Mozart claimed to have written the opera Idomeneo after several visits to the Hofbräuhaus fortified him for the task. In the nineteenth century, most of the breweries in Munich, including the Hofbräuhaus, were converted into large beer halls, restaurants, and entertainment centres with large, cavernous meeting rooms for weddings, concerts, and plays. In the period just before World War One, Vladimir Lenin lived in Munich and reportedly visited the Hofbräuhaus on a regular basis. In 1919, the Munich Communist government set up headquarters in the beer hall, and in February 1920 Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists held their first meeting in the Festsaal, the Festival Room, on the third floor.
What a stunning place it gets very busy but we found a table away from the crowds and ordered our first beers the first of many
With our heads feeling a little light, and the kids feeling hungry off we went for some food, not to adventures a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe but it was a lovely meal….a bit on the expensive side, I expect no less.
It was getting late and the adults were a little tipsy so we headed back to camp to hopefully awake in the morning with a clear head as we were heading to Dachau Concentration Camp.
Arriving at Dachau you pay to park and then enter the old camp it is a very moving place and it upset Lily but it has to be seen.
Dachau concentration camp was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (10 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labour, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or Arbeitskommandos and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 1 May 1945.
Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods.There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp and thousands that are undocumented. I will just leave you with some pictures.
The Camp is a real eye-opener to the evil side of Human Beings and we have not learnt from it as we saw in the Third Balkan War 1991-2001
The Orange Easyjet bird appeared through the grey clouds that seem to always hang around Bristol Airport its landing lights homing in on the runway, with a screech of tyre’s and the roar of the reverse thrust,the plane slowed as it approached the end of the runway and turned onto the taxiway, our fellow travellers had arrived from Sanremo Italy a destination that would be seen again in a few weeks.
Sharon and Liam, my sister and nephew quickly passed through the rigors of the airport scrutiny and with greetings over we walked to the car park, they were introduced to Kitty home and transport for three weeks…..
The final Packing was completed and after a good nights sleep in Bradford on Avon we set off on the Monday morning(24th July) first stop Oakham Rutland for a family get together and some last minute shopping in Stamford with the pleasant surprise of catching up with an old friend who Co-owns More Travel ,this is a great travel agent’s and their friendly team will make sure you have the get away you desire.
The morning of the 25th July arrived a hearty English breakfast was enjoyed followed by a chilled day, the time soon arrived for us to travel to Harwich to catch the ferry to the Hook of Holland this was it the start of the adventure, with the farewell picture taken and goodbyes complete we hit the roads and Google Maps guided us towards our waiting ferry. We arrived with no problems all was going well, onto the ferry we chugged.
We tracked down our cabin for the night and claimed our beds, I managed to secure a double bed for myself being the driver I needed the sleep the most, unknown to me these arrangements would change, children always change their minds.
After a good sleep, the morning alarm call for breakfast awoke us all and we had another English breakfast…not good for my waistline. Rolling off the ferry we drove to the nearest petrol station for a splash of diesel and tyre pressures check, all was good so we began our trek transiting through flat Holland and onto Herford Germany. As we became ever closer to Herford our bellies began to rumble so a pit stop was in order, we chugged into the town of Hiddenhausen and ate some wonderful German sandwiches at Backerei Hensel.
Why stop at Herford I hear you all cry, well in 1992 this was where I was stationed with the 9/12 Royal Lancers at Harewood Barracks, I wanted to return and see what had changed. So we found a campsite and then headed to the H2O water park for some watery fun, great place but the changing facilities when busy are insufficient and you ended up walking around aimlessly waiting for a changing room.
After the swim and a quick explore of Herford, a visit to Lidl’s was the order of the day for the all-important wine supply then back to the campsite as the next day was going to be very busy.
On the morning of the 27th July we set off for Munich but had decided to explore Wewelsburg Castle which is the dominant landmark of Wewelsburg Village, the Castle has a Dark past as it was acquired by the SS (Schutzstaffel) under the command of Heinrich Himmler after 1934 it was rebuilt and expanded for the purpose of being the focal point of the SS ideology.
Wewelsburg Castle was built between 1603 and 1609 in Weser Renaissance style as a supplementary residence for the Prince Bishops of Paderborn. The triangular castle, which is located in the village of Wewelsburg in the district of Paderborn, stands high on a rock overlooking the Alme Valley.
Himmler decided to buy or lease the castle on his first visit on 3 November 1933. His architect, Hermann Bartels was able to draw on existing plans for the Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst (FAD), (voluntary labour service), camp, for the now envisaged Reichsführerschule SS (SS Leadership School). This school was mainly intended to ensure a unified ideological training of the SS leadership and would be run by the Rasseamt of the SS.
Negotiations were difficult, however, since the Landrat of Büren was unwilling to give up control of the castle. In the first half of 1934, a 100-year lease was agreed for the symbolic annual rent of 1 Reichsmark. Initial work on the school by the Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst (FAD), (voluntary labour service), started in January 1934. In August 1934, former professional soldier and brother in law of Walther Darré, Manfred von Knobelsdorf moved in with his family as Burghauptman. On 22 September 1934, Himmler officially took over the Wewelsburg in a large ceremony. The Völkischer Beobachter, in reporting on the event, while mentioning the Germanic and historic past of the region, emphasized the educational aspects.
The focus of the school was to become: “Germanische Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Volkstumskunde u. a. als Rüstzeug zur weltanschaulich-politischen Schulung” (i.e. “Germanic pre- and early history, folklore studies, etc. as an equipment for ideological-political training”). Knobelsdorff envisioned a kind of Nordic academy
There is some speculation that it was Karl Maria Wiligut who convinced Himmler to use the castle not only as a school but also as a cult site; Wiligut allegedly was inspired by the old Westphalian legend of the “Battle at the Birch Tree” (Schlacht am Birkenbaum). The saga tells about a future “last battle at the birch tree”, in which a “huge army from the East” is beaten decisively by the “West”. During 1935, Wiligut reportedly predicted to Himmler that the Wewelsburg would be the “bastion”.
Wewelsburg Castle is a must place to visit, parking was free and the Memorial Museum is free and takes 2-3 hours there is a cafe and other museums that you have to pay for.
After a bacon sandwich in the car park, we set off for Munich but with continued road works and traffic jams we had to stop for the night about 150 miles short of Munich.
I have been working on the summer trip and have had to tweak the destinations a bit ,I have had to drop Bosnia so much hassle sorting car insurance for just popping into the country for just 1 day shame but it has freed up some time.
We start at Harwich UK catching a ferry to the Hook of Holland this a night crossing so a cabin is booked
After setting foot in Holland we drive onwards to Herford Germany for the first camping stop, a bit of a blast from the past this was a place i was based whilst in the Army.
From Herford a bit of a long drive to Munich checking out the Dachau Concentration Camp and exploring the city by doing a Third Reich Tour ,Munich being the spiritual heart of Hitlers regime.
After a couple of days we hit the German roads again and onto Berchesgaden (Obersalzburg) situated on the German/Austrian border, this was the site of Adolf Hitlers alpine retreat where he spent most of the war at the Bergof, we are booked to stay at Hotel Zum Turken,during WW2 it was used by the SS Hitlers personal guard. Rebuilt after a RAF bombing raid in 1945 it has been restored to the era of the 50’s.
Whilst here a trip to the Eagles Nest, the underground bunker system and the remains of the Bergof are planned, also lake Konigssee
Hitting the road we travel through Austria and Slovenia to Novigrad Croatia just a one night stop then on to Split, and hopefully catching a ferry to Hvar a town situated on a island within a short ferry trip from Split.
The next stop is Venice Italy just the one night camping then onto Vernazza Italy on the west coast from here we stop at San Remo.
At San Remo we say goodbye to 2 of our fellow travellers after a rest and hit the road for the final push for Blighty via Castellane France.
This is the final plan, looking forward to exploring these new places , we start on the 25th of July.