"Banbury-My present home town" alancollins's Profile
I had my first trip overseas in 1964, when an Aunt & Uncle suggested I might enjoy a motoring holiday with them to Germany. We finally ended up in Munich and my first encounter with theThird Reich when I visited Dachau Concentration Camp and Berchtesgaden for the first time. The travel bug had bitten and I went with them the following year on another motoring holiday to Germany, this time taking my pride and joy at that time a Norton Dominator 88 motor cycle. We again visited Dachau and Berchtesgaden, but after a visit to one of the beer halls in Munich it was suggested we should visit Tegernsee which was described to us as a popular holiday resort used by people from Munich. At the time we had no idea that it had also been a popular resort for top Nazis before WW2 and off we went and ended up at a lakeside campsite. It was a lovely campsite with a clubroom but we were the only Brits there and were meet by a stony silent when we used the clubroom. On the trip home we stayed in Cologne and I visited the Cathedral that by some miracle had remained standing despite having been struck by 14 bombs during WW2.
I got married to Lin in 1968 and in 1970 we tried a cheap package winter holiday to Ibiza, with one of the travel companies that went bust shortly afterwards, I think it cost £40 for the two of us for two weeks, so no wonder it went bust. The nightly entertainment was a man called Joan who played the organ. For us it was something new and we stayed at a hotel in San Antonio and watched as the Market Square was decked out in flags. The future King, Juan Carlos arrived for a holiday and his motorcade made a detour to drive around the Square, where he was greeted with much enthusiasm by the local population. At the time Spain was a Fascist Dictatorship headed by Franco and was a repressed society that was kept in check by armed police. At the time San Antonio was a quiet town and the concept of lager louts had not emerged and if they had, cracked heads and being thrown in jail would have been the order of the day. We use to go to a bar where they lit the fire with cheap brandy and cursed the british, well somethings have not changed.
We tried a 2 week summer holiday to Majorca with Lin’s parents in the summer of 1974. This was the holiday I laid around every spare moment trying to obtain a tan. Though I spent many hours in the sun I only ever went slightly brown. That’s when I decided laying in the sun was a waste of time for me and there was more to holidays than obtaining a tan. It was a convertion from holiday maker to traveller. It was also a time when I decided I could sit around at home for 50 weeks of the year but I was going to pack as much as possible in those 2 weeks.
Julie was born in 1980 and Emma in 1982, more package holidays followed over the years but in 1994 I tried my hand at organising a holiday to Florida. The internet was still fairly new but I obtained the information from teletext and magazines. As the daughters grew up, Lin and I tried holidays to New York in 2001 and Washington in 2002, on our own this time. The same year we went to the Bodrum Peninsula and later in the year I went to Istanbul. Also in 2002 I went full circle and suggested to Lin a holiday in Munich. By now the internet was available at home so a holiday could be booked in minutes, well after several days of research before making the booking. I guessed right that Lin would find Munich & Bavaria attractive, so attractive that we returned 2 more times that year, once with the daughters and again with Lin’s brother. On the last trip to Munich we were booked into a luxury hotel and the holiday had been arranged by a travel agent friend. We got the rooms in the hotel for half price on some pretext that the travel agent was going to recommend the hotel to clients. As it was late October the clocks went back and the hotel computer crashed because of it. Cold water and heating followed, though it did not affect Lin and I as we have discovered over the years, the early riser gets the hot water for a bath or shower. Gifts appeared from the hotel to compensate us for this terrible state of affair in the form of chocolates, baskets of fruit and wine. We also had to put up with the breakfast buffet that was enormous and delicious and then have the cheek to ask for hot food. When we went to pay for the rooms we had become the guests from hell, we had the cheek to complain about the terrible conditions we had to endure during our stay, so the hotel cut the price in half again. I still feel guilty about all the complaining we did when the problems did not affect us, and having obtained the room for a quarter of the price.
By now I had become interested in visiting sites of the holocaust and other places having a connection to WW2. I discovered that they call this 'Dark or Grief Tourism.' As the family did not always share the same interest, I started visiting these sites on my own in 2003, first with Berlin.
These are some of the places connected to WW2 that I have visited, some more than once. Some are well known but most are not.
Numerous sites in Berlin
Schindler’s Enamel Factory
Numerous sites in Warsaw
The Wolf’s Lair
Zagan-site of the Great Escape
Holocaust Museum in Washington DC
In November 2004 I went to Warsaw for the first time. I arrived late in the evening and got a taxi to my hotel. Probably the same as everyone else I felt nervous catching the bus into the city centre and not having a clue where I was going. I got off the bus to soon, in fact about 3 or 4 kms to soon. Then I caught sight of one of the entrances to Lazienki Park, it was in fact the entrance furthest away from the city centre. As I wandered through the park with few people about and soaked up the landscape and sites, I realised this city was a hidden gem with lots to offer. As the week went on Warsaw began to feel more and more comfortable. Though I’m useless with languages and above average height I fitted in so well that I would wander around out of the way places and would not be given a second glance. As I stood at the bus stop or sat on a tram someone would ask me for directions or information. Having spent so much time in Warsaw I have made friends via VT and have discovered out of the way places that are rarely visited by tourist and only known to the local population. Yes I’ve done all the tourist sites and felt proud to be a part of the crowd celebrating Independence Day three times. I have now been to Warsaw at least 10 times, though I’m sure I missed a visit and it could be 11.
Lin gave me a 35mm camera for a present in the late 60’s; it served me well for 35 years but was limited what it could do. In 2004 a local Dixons was closing down so I went in and saw they has a Canon EOS 3000N SLR film camera plus another lens for sale. I negotiated what I thought was a good deal as the box and all the other extras were missing. I bought the camera and after some research discovered that I had been given a different lens to the advertised offer that was a better specification telephoto lens. The next day I was back in the shop looking at various other items for sale when I spotted the camera box. Being cheeky I pointed out that my recent purchase was minus the box and it must be the one that went with the camera. So they gave it to me and it included the batteries that cost a few pounds. A few months before hand I had been given a Fuji Finepix 405 digital camera for a present, which was easy to use but had limitations. I was also given a canon camcorder for a present which made some really good movies. How long will it be before you can put camcorder movies on VT? So now, off I would go taking film, digital and camcorder pictures whilst away on my travels. As the digital cameras have gradually got better my last present was a Canon EOS 400D. Its great to use and those lenses from the film camera that are interchangeable. So I can’t wait for my next trip as I will only have to carry the one camera instead of 2 and I’m expecting some great results. I’m sure the family can’t wait to be bored to death, as I will be able to show them 1,500 instead of 150. Now if Lin feels tired I just get out a photo CD and 5 minutes later she is a asleep. I have just been given a camera phone for Xmas which will be handy for more impromtu photos. The Canon worked so well I decided to upgrade to a EOS 50D with a 17-85 lens plus a 10-24 wide angle lens to capture more of the buildings and landscapes. I now need someone to explain how it all works. More recently because Emma always has the cameras for work I have acquired a small Samsang IT 100. Lin gave me a ipod as a present so now I have something new to play around with whilst on holiday.
Most of my recent holiday have been own my own as Lin does not share the same interests as me.
So in 2003 off I went to Berlin on my own, followed by Krakow, Prague & Budapest all in the same year.
In 2004 I went to Paris, Bratislava, Salzburg, Frombork, Ketrzyn & Warsaw.
2005 I went to Warsaw x 3, Krakow, Lublin & Zamosc.
2006 I went to Warsaw & Wroclow.
2007 I went to Rugen, Weimar and Berlin.
2008 I went to Berlin four time and once to Poznan.
2009 I have been to Berlin three times, once to Warsaw, once to Somerset once to Wales and once to Prague.
2010 I have been on trips to Berlin, Lodz, Nuremberg, Salzburg, Berchtegaden. Lin and I have just returned from a fantastic 4 week holiday to the Orlando area and a long weekend in Cornwall.
In 2011 we have been to Northampton, Krakow, Salzburg, Betchesgaden and Orlando. I had a trip to Berlin.
In 2012 we have been to Northampton to hit the restaurants & cinema. We have been to Basildon, Chester & Glastonbury. I have been to Berlin twice.
So what of future plans? Well I have retired at last and at present it feels like a never ending weekend. I have managed to lose almost 10 kgs and feel better for it. Our first grandson arrived on the 1st May and the second one on 28th October; so some big changes in our lives.
2013 3 trips to Berlin and a trip to Glastonbury so far as well as housesitting in Hampshire arranged. I am also looking at an extended winter break to Florida - which I have now booked for next year.
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