Tag Archives: Adolf Hitler

Berlin, Statues and The Greatest German

Berlin Reichstag

“Where some states have an army, the Prussian Army has a state.”  – Voltaire

After a few stops we left the train and walked through the Tiergarten.  This was once a Royal hunting forest but was cut down for firewood during the immediate post war period when fuel was in short supply and has now been replanted as a very fine public park.

Late afternoon and it was beginning to get dark.  The park is nice but a bit edgy with little gangs of dangerous looking men and we witnessed at least two dodgy transactions – drugs we imagined.  To be on the safe side we stayed on the well lit footpaths and didn’t risk the shadows of the woodland tracks.

Berlin was once the capital city of Prussia and then Germany after 1871.

Prussia had become a modern European State in 1701 and for the next one hundred and seventy years was at war with someone or another for a total of ninety years, or over half of its existence.  Not surprisingly Prussia was seen as a militaristic threat to the stability of Europe and so was abolished by the victorious allies in 1947.  This wasn’t especially difficult, two years earlier the Russian offensive in the Battle of Berlin had demolished and removed almost all Prussian heritage.  East Prussia was absorbed into a redefined Poland and the remainder became East Germany.

As a consequence Berlin has little history.  The entire city by necessity is modern, it has only been rebuilt over the last seventy-five years so is quite contemporary and lacks charm.  There are no grand palaces, cathedrals, stately homes or castles because they have all been swept away.  Even the trams are brand-spanking new.  A lot of central and eastern European cities continue to preserve fifty year old vehicles but not so in Berlin.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate

It is as though Germany doesn’t want to recognise its short and unhappy existence which after all has included a belligerent monarchy, an economic crisis, a failed republic and a totalitarian dictator.

Not really surprising then that Germany looks mostly to the future.  In 2003 in a television poll  German viewers bypassed Otto Von Bismarck (voting for Adolf Hitler was not allowed) and voted post-war Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as the greatest German of all time. Hands up anyone who has heard of Konrad Adenauer?  It would be like voting Theresa May as the Greatest Briton. I mention this now just as a comparison, if you think Adenauer is an odd choice, in a similar poll in the USA they voted Ronald Reagan the Greatest American!

Back to Germany – Reformation monk Martin Luther came second, with communist philosopher Karl Marx third.

Another feature that I noticed that makes Berlin stand out against other grand European cities is that it has very few statues; it is that history thing again, Berlin can’t very well have statues of Kaiser Wilhelm II or Adolf Hitler because they were both responsible for unleashing hell in Europe. I understand that there is a statue of the greatest German, Konrad Adenauer but this is some way out of the city centre on the edge of Charlottenburg and we didn’t get to see it.  It seems that they are not so proud of him either.

Berlin Column of Victory

Midway along the Tiergarten we did eventually come across a famous monument, the Berlin Victory Column, commissioned in 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War and later dedicated also to victory in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and then the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.  Prussia did like going to war it seems. It is indeed a grand column that soars into the sky and at the very top stands a golden statue of the Roman God Victory.

Even though it was getting mid Winter late and the light was fading we paid the entrance fee and climbed the two hundred and thirty steps to the top and were rewarded with good views from the observation deck.

Nearby we found a statue of a man that I was expecting to find – Otto Von Bismarck, the architect of modern Germany who was responsible for the creation of the country in 1871 following the defeat of France in a short-sharp war – the sort of quick victory Germany expected again in 1914.  The sort of victory, it has to be said, that Great Britain also anticipated.  A grand statue but not on prominent display but instead tucked discreetly inside a corner of the Tiergarten adjacent to the Victory Column.

Berlin Otto Von Bismarck

In the USA there are Towns and cities called Bismarck in Arkansas, Illinois, Michegan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota (The State Capital*) and West Virginia.  As far as I am aware there are no towns or cities called Adenauer.

I would have really  expected Bismarck to have been voted the ‘Greatest German’ but it seems that for many he is too closely associated with establishing a Teutonic military regime based on Prussian aggression which led directly to two European villains, two World Wars and the biggest battleship ever in the German Navy and the largest in any European fleet in World-War-Two.

What a beast…

Battleship Bismarck

After walking the entire length of the Tiergarten we returned by a different path and made our way back to Alexanderplatz where we finished our ten mike walk (a distance we hadn’t really anticipated at breakfast) with a well earned beer and a glass of wine close to our hotel.

Berlin Hoff Hause

* Bismarck was named after the Prussian statesman in an attempt to attract German investors to the Northern Pacific Railroad, for which Bismarck served as terminus. While the bid for investors was unsuccessful, Otto sent the railroad an autographed note of acknowledgement.

Entrance Tickets – The Royal Palace in Warsaw

Warsaw Royal Castle

At the ticket office the clerk explained that the whole of the castle was not open today but by way of compensation entrance was free.  This seemed like a good deal, no money changed hands and only half a museum for Kim!

Read the Full Story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Top Ten Dumbest Web Search Questions

Vesuvius Postcard

“do flights landing in Naples fly over Vesuvius?”

Now, this seems to me to be an especially stupid question. I am not an expert on aviation or air traffic control but it seems very unlikely to me that aeroplane carrying over three hundred passengers landing at an international airport in Italy would want to fly over the top of a 1,300 metre high active volcano because it sounds full of potential hazards to me especially as the Naples airport is only ten miles or so from the crater and at this point would have an altitude of barely higher than the top of the mountain.

The page they were directed to was probably my post about my visit to the mountain.

Another dumb historical question next – “how wealthy are the Romanovs?” and dumb because most people know that the entire Romanov family were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1917 during the Russian revolution.

Russian_Royal_Family_1911_720px

There are some claimants to the titles of the Russian Tsars but even if they were confirmed to be true descendants they would be extremely unlikely to be wealthy because the Russian communist regime confiscated all their treasure, money and valuables.

I visited Russia in 2012 and posted about the fate of the Romanovs so I guess the enquirer might have ended up on my post about the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

Some time ago my favourite was can pubic hair grow more with regain?” and rather disappointingly I have nothing to really compete with that ever again.

I think this may have drawn the person with the question to my post about “Health and Efficiency” magazine

Actually that was a good thing about Health and Efficiency because there were never any pubic detail on show because until the mid 1970s this was strictly censored in British publishing.  In retrospect, the most striking thing about the models’ anatomy was that they were completely without pubic hair, or, for that matter, any other details associated with the genital area of the body.

They were as blank as an ancient Greek marble statue in that department, and in pre computer photo editing days, this was achieved by skilful use of an ‘air-brush’ applied directly to the photo before publication.

nude-croquet

Bottoms however were ok it seems…

Being a student of history I am going to begin with a selection of wildly inaccurate historical searches.

The first one is “Why did Shakespeare bring starlings to Australia?”  I think I am obliged to point out here straight away that William Shakespeare died in 1616 and Australia wasn’t settled by Europeans for another couple of hundred years or so after that and although there is much literary speculation concerning possible visits by the Bard to Italy I think it is safe to say that he never went as far as Australia!

Birds of Shakespeare

I imagine that what the question referred to was really about starlings in the USA because here there is a connection.  The introduction of the starling to USA is said to be the responsibility of a man called Eugene Schiefflein who belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works on the basis that they thought it would be rather nice to hear the sound of Shakespeare’s birds warbling their old world songs on the tree branches of new world America.

Showing a similar lack of historical knowledge is my second search term, “Was El Cid a Muslim?”  Now, El Cid was the great Spanish hero of the Catholic Reconquista which drove the African Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula so I imagine any suggestion that he was a secret Muslim will have poor Charlton Heston spinning in his grave.

Following a visit to Castilla-La Mancha in 2009 I wrote a number of posts about El Cid and I expect the enquirer was sign posted to one of these.

El Cid 1

Next on my historical howlers list is Napoleon Monument in Moscow” What? In his periods of sanity Napoleon did some rather good things but most of the time he was a tyrant and a dictator and a warmonger and in 1812 he invaded Russia and did unspeakable things to the Russian people who were unfortunate enough to be in his way as he marched his army to Moscow.  When he got there the Russian people burnt the city down and so with nowhere to stay for the winter he was obliged to march all the way back again during which his army did more unpleasant things to the Russian people.

I imagine that the chances of there being a memorial to Napoleon Bonaparte in Moscow are about just as likely as there will be a statue of Adolf Hitler.

Napoleon 2

Moving on now from history to science – “see through girls’ clothes” and once again if I had the answer to this one I would surely be a millionaire.  It reminded me of my post about X-Ray Specs which seemed to suggest all sorts of peeking opportunities but in fact never actually worked (or so I am told!)

x-ray-specs

For this  category  of search terms I have saved my favourite until last and this is it – things to do in Tossa de Marr Spain for clairvoyants”. Now, call me a sceptic if you like but if you can see into the future what on earth does a clairvoyant need with a website of advertised events – why don’t they just look in their crystal ball?

I have been to Tossa de Mar and I have to say that palm reader, soothsayer or clairvoyant that it is a very fine place to visit.

Tossa de Mar Costa Brava Postcard

One of my most successful posts is about the day I attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party and I get lots of odd Google referrals about this one.  This year my favourite just has to be – “do I get expenses to attend royal garden party?”

Let me take a moment here to explain.  Just to be invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden party is a bit special in itself and believe me there is going to be a lot of expense involved – new suit, new outfit, overnight stay in London, taxi fares etc. and most people would gladly deal with this just to be part of the occasion so I have to say that expecting the Queen to pick up the bill sounds rather republican to me and whoever asked this should not have had an invite in the first place.

Cakes at Royal Garden Party

Next up, I really like this one –what did the captain wear on the Titanic?”

I visited Belfast recently and went to see the Titanic Exhibition and Museum.  It was a super place and I recommend anyone to go there and I think what I learned on that visit may just well help here.

Around the exhibition there are lots of pictures of Captain Smith in his White Star Line uniform so I am forced to conclude that except when he went to bed and most likely put on a pair of pyjamas that this was his favourite form of dress.  Another thing that I can be certain of is that Captain Smith didn’t wear a lifebelt because after the Titanic struck the iceberg he went down with his ship and drowned!

Edward Smith

To finish with this is probably my biggest ever favourite…

What was General Franco’s favourite food?

I am sure that this is a question that only his personal chef could realistically be expected to answer with any authority but my suggestions are…

  • Skewered Republicans
  • Roasted Liberals
  • BBQ’d Communists

Some time ago I tried to visit General Franco’s tomb but the Spanish don’t like Franco any more and it was closed at the time on account of the fact that it was being demolished.

When General Franco met Führer Adolf Hitler I can only assume that either they couldn’t agree on the menu or they were both on a diet…

Franco meets Hitler

Regardless of food, this has to be one of the most awkward historical meetings ever – just look at their faces!

Got any odd Google enquiries – please share!

Memories of World War – Clairière de l’Armistice at Compiègne

Armistice 1918 1940

Close by to where we were staying in Vic-Sur-Aisne was a particular place that I was keen to visit so one morning after breakfast I set off alone towards Compiègne and to the Clairière de l’Armistice, a historic site where the armistice of 1918 brought the First-World-War to an end and where in 1940 Adolf Hitler dictated the terms of the surrender of France.

The site is deep in the Compiègne Forest about forty miles or so north-east of Paris at a railway junction that was quickly prepared in October/November 1918 to enable the German negotiators to meet with the soon to be victorious allies.

It is not a spectacular site, there is nothing grand about it, it is one of those places that you visit because of what happened there not for what you are going to see.  Two momentous moments in European history.

Read the Full Story…

Napoleon Bonaparte and La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Napoleon Bonaparte

Our plan today was to visit the coastal town of Wimereux but on the way we passed once more through Boulogne-Sur-Mer and stopped first of all at La Colonne de la Grande Armée.  This is a monument based on the design of Trajan’s Column in Rome which was begun in 1804 but not completed for forty years or so and is a fifty-three metre-high monument topped with a statue of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Nelson’s column, by the way, in Trafalgar Square in London is shorter at forty-six metres high.

It marks the location of the base camp where Napoleon  assembled an army of eighty thousand men all reeking of garlic, impatient and ready to invade England.  It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion, but this proved to be rather premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur.

Read the Full Story…

It’s Nice to Feel Useful (11)

search-engines confused.com

About this time of the year (it is 1st March after all) I start to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

Before Google got nervous about web search findings and tightened up on publishing results this was a lot more fun and there were a lot more to choose from but over the last year I have spotted a few that amused me…

I am going to start with one about crime and this search request – Is bag snatching bad in Krakow” and my response to that is bag snatching is bad everywhere so don’t do it because you can end up in a whole lot of trouble.

On roughly the same subject I rather liked this one – “How to avoid Pickpockets in Athens?” The answer of course is simple – don’t go to Athens!

Athens Metro

Actually I have some experience of pickpockets in Athens and although I have always considered Greece to be an honest and safe place and Athens has always been regarded as a city where stealing from tourists was unheard of, yes, Kim and I were robbed on the Athens Metro and this is our story…  “Athens Pickpockets”

I am being adventurous (or maybe just foolish) this year and have trips planned to Naples and to Barcelona, two cities with an unenviable reputation for street theft!

On a lighter note I offer you this one … “Can you see the Giant’s Causeway from the Car?” and the answer is yes of course you can but only if you are prepared to take your vehicle across a muddy field and then drive it over the cliff edge.

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is free to enter but managed by the National Trust who don’t really encourage people to visit for nothing and make it as difficult as they possibly can to avoid the extortionate car parking and entry Visitor Centre entry fees.

Shortly after returning from a visit I wrote a post about visiting Giant’s Causeway and how to do it on the cheap and it has turned out to be one of my most successful with almost five thousand hits – “Top Tips for Visiting the Giant’s Causeway on a Budget”

Northern Ireland Giant's Causeway

Now, what about this one – “How often is the Titanic visited?”  As almost everyone knows the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in April 1912 after an unfortunate encounter with an iceberg close to Newfoundland.  It sank to the bottom of the Ocean and rests about two and a half miles from the surface.  That is a long way down and requires specialist deep sea diving equipment to explore it so the answer is  a simple one – Not Very Often At All!

It is possible that the enquirer was directed towards my post about my visit to the “Titanic Experience in Belfastand on the subject of visitor numbers here I find that I can be more helpful  because I happen to know that since opening in 2012 the Museum has had over four million visitors from over one hundred and fifty different countries.

Titanic Museum Belfast

Mine is a travel blog so sometimes people seek answers to questions about popular holiday resorts. This year I have picked out this strange question – “Where does the waste go in Benidorm?”

Benidorm was one of the first big Spanish holiday resorts and by the 1970s had acquired a dubious reputation for holiday lager louts and badly behaved visitors from Northern Europe and for that reason I am tempted to say that Benidorm waste goes back home at the end of a fortnights holiday!

Thankfully Benidorm isn’t nearly so bad these days and it has left its sordid past behind. I visited the city in 2017 and wrote a post about the changes that I noticed… “Travels in Spain, Benidorm and How Things Change”.

Benidorm Then and Now

The next one wasn’t really a question it was a statement – “Italians don’t respect the Highway Code” and whoever said that was absolutely correct. In Italy, traffic regulations currently in force were approved by the Legislative Decree number 285 of 30th April 1992 and are contained in the Italian Highway Code called the Codice della Strada, but anyone visiting a busy Italian city or town would be certain to dispute that there is such a thing as a highway code in Italy.

I foolishly attempted car rental in Italy in 2013 and almost immediately wished that I hadn’t.  Trying to be helpful I wrote a post about my nightmare experience upon my return…  “Travelling – Car Hire Advice – Driving in Italy”.

In brief my advice was ‘DON’T!

Car Parking In Italy

Staying in Italy this search question caught my eye – “Prostitution People Dead Caused by Volcano” and I imagine the enquirer might have been researching Biblical plagues or judgments or something similar. I don’t know if prostitutes or sex workers are singled out in this way for natural disaster punishments but my post about Mount Vesuvius is my fifth most popular ever with fifteen thousand seven hundred hits – “Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius – Living on the Edge of Disaster”

Vesuvius the crater

I conclude this year’s list with a very bizarre search question – “Nazi Crisps”. I really don’t know if Adolf and the German High Command liked foil wrapped potato crisps (I doubt that they were even invented then) but if they did I imagine that there favourite flavours would have been Bratwurst, Cabbage and Brawn Cocktail.

I wrote a post about potato crisps/chips but I am certain that I didn’t mention the Nazis – “Chips, Crisps or Fries – How Do You Eat Yours?”

Nazi Crisps

That’s it for this year, thanks for reading and I will do another round up when I have enough material…

… Have you spotted any bizarre search questions bringing unexpected visitors to your blog posts? – Do Tell!

 Here are the previous posts in this series of weird internet searches…

It’s Nice to feel Useful (1)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (2)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (3)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (4)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (5)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (6)

It’s Nice to feel useful (7)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (8)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (9)

It’s nice to feel useful (10)

France, Memories of World War – Clairière de l’Armistice at Compiègne

001 (2)

Close by to where we were staying in Vic-Sur-Aisne was a particular place that I was keen to visit so one morning after breakfast I set off alone towards Compiègne and to the Clairière de l’Armistice, a historic site where the armistice of 1918 brought the First-World-War to an end and where just over twenty years later in 1940 Adolf Hitler dictated the terms of the surrender of France.

The site is deep in the Compiègne Forest about forty miles or so north-east of Paris at a railway junction that was quickly prepared in October/November 1918 to enable the German negotiators to meet with the soon to be victorious allies.

It is not a spectacular site, there is nothing grand about it, it is one of those places that you visit because of what happened there not for what you are going to see; two momentous moments in modern European history.

Armistice 1918 1940

It is a clearing now but in 1918 it was still part of the dense forest.  On the site is a memorial stone on the site of the railway carriage where the armistice was signed, a statue of Marshall Foch who led the Allied negotiations and a reconstructed Alsace-Lorraine Monument, depicting a German Eagle impaled on a French sword.

Alsace-Lorraine in eastern France had been annexed to Germany in 1870 after French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, an event that France had never accepted, an open wound, hemorrhaging  national pride as it were and 1918 was the date that it returned to France.

“HERE ON THE ELEVENTH OF NOVEMBER 1918 SUCCUMBED THE CRIMINAL PRIDE OF THE GERMAN REICH. VANQUISHED BY THE FREE PEOPLES WHICH IT TRIED TO ENSLAVE.”

IMG_7507

There is also a small museum in a rather squat, ugly concrete building with relics and artifacts from the war and a faithful reconstruction of the railway carriage in which the armistice was signed.  I’ll tell you why it is a reconstruction in just a minute…

The terms of the Armistice represented a total victory for France and the Allies and abject humiliation for Germany.  There was a revolution in Berlin, the Kaiser had recently abdicated and now the country was saddled with crippling war reparations and the ultimate humiliation of occupation.  In France this must have seemed like a good idea at the time but it began a process of resentment that twenty years later would become the Second-World-War.

There is nothing so satisfying as rubbing people’s noses in the dirt but generally this sort of satisfaction is only ever temporary.

Armistice Train 1918and 1940

The Armistice was signed at around seven o’clock on 11th November and came into effect at eleven o’clock – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Ceramic Poppies Hull

What I didn’t know is that whilst we use the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance in France they use the blue cornflower in recognition of the traditional colour of the French army uniform.

CPA_Bleuet_de_France_1914-1918

The railway carriage immediately became a symbol of the victory, for a while it became part of the official Presidential Train and was paraded triumphantly around the country and then after a couple of years  it was taken to Paris and exhibited on public display.  Later it was returned to the Forest of Compiègne and the museum site and statues were erected in what was now the clearing or glade.

Fast forward twenty years now and Adolf Hitler is in power in Germany and in 1940 attacks France and the country is defeated and overwhelmed and completely humiliated in a matter of only weeks.  Hitler visited Paris to celebrate his victory and then turned his attention to the terms of the armistice.  This was the moment in history when Germany took its revenge for 1918.

On his way back to Berlin Hitler stopped off at Compiègne, had the railway carriage moved from the museum to the exact spot where the 1918 armistice was signed and there dictated his terms to defeated France.

Gedenkstaette_Compiegne

When he had finished rubbing French noses in the dirt the railway carriage was moved to Berlin as a trophy of war and a symbol of restored national pride and the Armistice site was brutally demolished by German army demolition experts on Hitler’s orders three days later. The Alsace-Lorraine memorial was ceremonially destroyed and all evidence of the site was obliterated, with the notable exception that is of the statue of Marshal Foch – Hitler intentionally ordered it to be left intact, so that it would be left honouring not a victory but only a wasteland and that he could look over it forever and see that everything that he had achieved in 1918 had been reversed.  Germany didn’t just have Alsace-Lorraine it had all of France.

For somewhere so significant in European history it is not a big site, an hour or so is enough to see it all but for me this was not the point.  I have visited several places where previously the monsters of history might have walked and breathed, Stalin in Moscow, The Emperor Caligula in Rome, General Franco in Madrid, Maximilien Robespierre in Paris but I cannot be absolutely positive that I walked in their exact footsteps, at the armistice sight in the Clairière de l’Armistice I can be completely certain that I walked across the same piece of ground as Adolf Hitler and that is a slightly uneasy feeling.

Hitler at Clairière de l'Armistice

Who do you think is the biggest monster in World history…?

Evil People

Adolf Hitler – 60,000,000 WW2 deaths including 6,000,000 Jews in the concentration camps

Joseph Stalin – 60,000,000 citizens of the USSR in a series of political purges – his own bloody people FFS!

Maximilien Robespierre – 17,000 guillotined in just nine months in the Reign of Terror

Emperor Caligula – Mad, Bad and Bloodthirsty, no accurate data available

Pol Pot – 3,000,000 deaths in Cambodian genocide

Margaret Thatcher – 500,000 miners jobs sacrificed on the altar of political dogma

Michael O’Leary – 2,000 flight cancellations 2017 because he is a gobshite twat!

Please feel free to make alternative suggestions…

Back now to Compiègne and to the Clairière de l’Armistice.  In 1945 as the Red Army closed in on Berlin the railway carriage was moved for its own protection to a secret site in a forest in Thuringia where it turns out it wasn’t that safe because at some point it was burnt and destroyed.  There are conflicting accounts about this, some say that German SS officers destroyed it to prevent it falling into enemy hands, some say German POWs set fire to it as an act of revenge and others that US troops unaware of its significance dismantled it and used it for firewood.

That is why there is only a reconstruction at the museum site.

As I drove back to the campsite I reflected on the visit.  I had to smirk when it crossed my mind that in 1914-18 and 1939-45 we fought alongside France against the tyranny of Germany but today these two countries gang up against us because we exercise our democratic right to leave the European Union.

Anyway, back now to holidays and the innocence of childhood…

… My granddaughter, she knows nothing about war, conflict, genocide, politics, unpleasantness, not even a little unkindness…

France 2017 Vic Sur Aisne