Although known as Castle Colditz to the locals, its official designation as a German military prison was Oflag IV-C and it was controlled by the Wehrmacht. While the camp was home to prisoners of war from many different countries, including Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada, in May Wehrmacht High Command decided to house only British and American officers. The camp's first British prisoners were the Laufen Six on November 7, , who were transferred to Colditz after their first escape attempt from the Laufen Camp.
Although it was considered a high security prison, it had one of the greatest records of successful escape attempts. This could be owing to the general nature of the prisoners that were sent there; most of them had attempted escape previously from other prisons and were transferred to Colditz, because the Germans had thought the castle escape-proof. One lavish escape scheme even included a glider, the Colditz Cock , that was built and kept in a remote portion of the castle's attic during the winter of The glider was never used, as the camp was liberated not long after its completion.
However, after liberation, the glider was brought down from the hidden workshop to the attic below and assembled for the prisoners to see. It was at this time that the only known photograph of the glider was taken.
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For some time after the war the glider was regarded as either a myth or tall story, as there was no solid proof that the glider had existed and Colditz was then in the Soviet Occupation Zone. Bill Goldfinch, however, took home the drawings he had made when designing the glider, and when the single photograph finally surfaced, the story was taken seriously.
During , a full-sized replica of the glider was commissioned by Channel 4 Television in the UK and was built by Southdown aviation Ltd. Watched by several of the former prisoners of war who worked on the original, it was test flown at RAF Odiham during The escape plan could have worked.
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The radio-controlled replica made it safely across the river and landed in a meadow metres below. Captain Patrick R. Reid , who successfully escaped from Colditz in , went on to write multiple works on the living conditions and various escape attempts at Colditz from to The Colditz Story and The Latter Days at Colditz. During the last days of Colditz, many of its prominent or high-ranking prisoners were transferred to Laufen by order of Himmler. But in April , U. In May , the Soviet occupation of Colditz began. According to the agreement at the Yalta Conference it became a part of East Germany.
The Soviets turned Colditz Castle into a prison camp for local burglars and non-communists. Later, the castle was a home for the aged and nursing home , as well as a hospital and psychiatric clinic. For many years after the war, forgotten hiding places and tunnels were found by repairmen, including a radio room established by the French POWs, which was then "lost" again only to be re-discovered some twenty years later.
During and , the castle underwent a significant amount of refurbishment and restoration which was paid for by the state of Saxony. The castle walls were repainted to recreate the appearance of the castle prior to World War II. With renovations largely completed, the castle now includes both a museum and guided tours showing some of the escape tunnels built by prisoners of the Oflag during the war. The chapel has recently completed a very impressive restoration to its prewar decoration, where glass panels have been inserted to the flag stone flooring revealing an escape tunnel dug by French escapees.
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Grab a map of the Black Forest Panoramic Route, a kilometer driving tour that takes in the very best views over the region, along with its top historic attractions, including stunning castles and numerous medieval towns and villages. King Ludwig II of Bavaria built this many-towered and battlement-covered fantasy fortress - the inspiration for Walt Disney's famous theme park castles - from A variety of tour options are offered, including guided tours of the sumptuous interior taking in the Throne Room, the Singers' Hall Accommodation: Where to Stay near Neuschwanstein Castle.
In the heart of the historic Port of Hamburg, the magnificent Miniatur Wunderland , the world's largest model railway, is an attraction that appeals equally to young and old alike. Boasting more than 12, meters of track, this massive scale model includes sections dedicated to the USA, England, and Scandinavia as well as Hamburg and incorporates trains, more than , lights, and in excess of , human figures. It's not unheard of for guests to spend many hours exploring this fascinating world with its remarkably detailed miniature airports and planes that actually take off , crowded cities, quaint rural scenes, and bustling harbors.
For a memorable experience, book one of the behind-the-scenes tours, an especially fun thing to do at night.
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Speaking of harbors, be sure to explore the vast Port of Hamburg while you're there. Covering square kilometers, this huge tidal harbor - one of the world's largest cruise ship terminals, and known as the Gateway to Germany - is best explored by boat. Afterwards, visit the harborside promenade , a lovely pedestrian route, and the Warehouse District with its continuous lines of tall brick-built warehouses. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hamburg. The Rhine is not only Europe's most important waterway, its also the most beautiful. With a total length of 1, kilometers, this magnificent river stretches from Switzerland through Germany all the way to the Netherlands.
Here, this often dramatic kilometer stretch of river boasts more than 40 castles and some 60 picturesque medieval towns all just waiting to be explored either by river cruise or by car. Looking for a great place to begin your Rhine Valley adventure? The historic town of Bingen , where the river cuts through a deep gorge before entering the Bacharach valley, is a good place to start. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mainz. Berlin's world-famous Museumsinsel, or Museum Island, lies between the River Spree and the Kupfergraben - a meter-long canal off the river - and includes many of the city's oldest and most important museums.
The heart of this pedestrian-friendly district is the Old Museum , constructed in as a place to exhibit the royal treasures.
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Soon after, the land behind the museum was set aside for art and the "knowledge of antiquity. Between the New Museum took shape, and the National Gallery was added in , along with the Bode Museum , built in and home to collections of antiquities. Another highlight of a walking tour of these spectacular points of interest is the Pergamon with its recreated historic buildings from the Middle East. But be warned: there's so much to see among these amazing museums that you can't possibly cram it all into a single day. Located in the valley of the Regnitz, where the river divides into two arms, Bamberg, the old imperial city and the most important town in Upper Franconia, is one of the best preserved of Germany's many charming old towns and one of the best to explore on foot.
Your walking tour should begin in its old episcopal quarter, home to the 13th-century cathedral and the old Benedictine abbey of Michaelsberg. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bamberg. Part of the Wetterstein mountain range, the Zugspitze massif straddles the frontier between Germany and Austria and is surrounded by steep valleys. The eastern summit, at 2, meters, is crowned by a gilded cross and can be reached by the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn , a cog railway, or by cable car.
Another great way to enjoy this area of outstanding natural beauty is aboard the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn , a railway that runs to the Zugspitzkamm station at 2, meters. From here, the journey can be continued via a cable car to Zugspitz-Westgipfel Station at 2, meters be sure to sample a meal at the excellent panoramic restaurant located here. A highlight of the journey is the chance to walk through an meter-long tunnel, complete with viewing windows, to the Schneefernerhaus station at the top of the Bavarian cog railroad, from where you can ascend the eastern summit with its viewing platforms.
And, thanks to the many ski resorts located nearby, Zugspitze is a wonderful German destination to visit in winter.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Zugspitze. The island's beauty stems from its diversity of landscape, including everything from flat farmland and forest-covered hills to expansive sandy beaches, lagoons, and lovely peninsulas. A fun thing to do here, especially for outdoor enthusiasts, is to pay a visit to the Jasmund Peninsula , which in places reaches heights of meters. Here, you'll find Jasmund National Park, popular among nature lovers for its abundance of wildlife, with notable species found here, including rare white-tailed eagles.
There's also a great visitor center here, which offers plenty of valuable information regarding all aspects of the island. Another must see is the little old resort town of Putbus , seat of the Princes of Putbus and with numerous Neoclassical buildings and parks. Also known as the King's Lake, this area near Salzburg is a hiking and biking paradise thanks to its vast network of trails.
Another equally attractive sightseeing option is taking a boat trip to the 17th-century Pilgrimage Chapel of St. Bartholomew , at the south end of the lake, and to walk from here to the Obersee. Berchtesgaden , at the end of the Deutsche Alpenstrasse, is perhaps the best-known tourist town and one of the most popular mountain resorts in the Bavarian Alps. The old Franconian imperial city of Rothenburg, one of the most attractive places on Germany's famous Romantic Road tourist route, lies on the steep banks of the picturesque River Tauber. With its walls and towers untouched since the Thirty Years War of , this completely preserved picture-perfect medieval town offers endless charm.
One of the most popular things to do here is to join a walking tour or do it yourself ; get started by picking up a map from one of the tourism offices located in the town. There are no end of opportunities to explore, with individual buildings of note include the imposing 13th-century Town Hall Rathaus ; the wonderful Ratstrinkstube , or Council Tavern, built in with its interesting clock; St.
James's Church , with its fine high altar dating from ; and the Imperial City Museum. And after all that adventure, end your visit at one of the many fine restaurants dotted around the town. If traveling in winter, be sure to include a stop here for the traditional Christmas Market, which draws crowds from across the country and even farther afield.
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