We drove from the woods of Thuringia into the high open countryside of Saxony this morning. The countryside is full of windmills – groups of a dozen or so on every hillside as far as the eye can see.
The city of Jena didn’t look inviting enough to stop by, so we continued on towards Dresden, taking detour to visit another castle we’d heard of.
We parked in the square and took a quick look around. These small towns are so picturesque.
Walking up to the castle, we heard music – 75 of Germany’s best string players were staying here on a music retreat and were rehearsing in the castle yard. Standing there amongst them were a couple of cutouts of two former residents of the castle and across the yard were some more.
We decided to take a guided tour during which we heard some familiar stories – of Airey Neave, Pat Reid and Douglas Bader.
Have you guessed where we were yet?
We saw the hidden radio room, the makeshift glider and the homemade sewing machine. Fancy that, a group of professional men imprisoned for some considerable time make a sewing machine from scratch? Yet with this, they were able to make stage costumes - and false uniforms as well. The stories of both successful and thwarted escape attempts were rich and varied and we marvelled at the ingenuity of the captives.
The French tunnel, dug with a tool the size of a knitting needle and a dinner knife was amazing and we tried hard to imagine how they had managed to dispose of the spoils as they dug deeper into the ground. When excavating the tunnel recently it took 3 lorry-loads of earth away – and yet these men disposed of it by taking pocketfuls away at a time.
Our tour finished in the chapel, from where the french tunnel had been dug, and from where we were led onto the terrace high above the river Mulde.
Though clearly, the main interest of most visitors to the castle is the story of those six infamous years, the castle has a longer history to tell. Most recently, the site of a hospital and care home, but formerly the home of the Elector of Saxony and a prime hunting castle set in parkland, it will soon be home to the Musikhochschule of Saxony and another chapter will begin.
See what interesting places having historians in the family brings me to?!