Castles and White Cliffs and Tunnels

Trip Start Dec 01, 2008
Trip End May 21, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, January 17, 2009

So I already had pictures from the White Cliffs of Dover when I took a trip to Bruges for the day.  However, our  visa program had another planned trip which included the castle at Dover and to Canterbury.  Since I am a nerd, I had to go to Canterbury which has a pilgrimmage church/cathedral and is the subject of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer.

As for Dover, don't go there unless you have any specific reason to.  Go there if it's part of a day tour or if you need to kill some time before getting on a ferry.  It's fun enough but not THAT fun.

Basically, there's a castle on top of the cliffs because this point is the closest to France so someone had to defend it.  The castle is in ruins now and you can wander among them.  Honestly, they just aren't that interesting.  Helsingor in Denmark was a much better example of the type of castle used to guard against sea invasions.  And the castle ruins on Bornholm were much more well...ruined castle looking.

The bigger attraction is the tunneling system under the chalk cliffs.  During World War II, these tunnels were where the evacuation of Dunkirk was carried out from.  As Dover was heavily bombed, the cliffs became a safe haven for intelligence to work and was eventually made into an underground hospital as well.

The tour say the least.  You have to go on a guided tour where guides basically have a planned speech they must give at certain intervals while the whole place runs much like a haunted house.  Their reason was to make you feel like you were there.  Yikes, you think American tourist attractions get out of hand.  This was an all new level.  Not only did they have recorded actors screaming and pretending that their legs were being cut off over a soundsystem but they actually tried to pipe in SMELLS.  As in, you walked into the kitchen area and it smelled like stew.

I don't know about you.  But I don't really want the authentic smell of an underground, poorly ventilated hospital during World War II.  At one point, the lights flicker as an air raid hits.  Seriously, it's a haunted house.  It even had a warning before entering for those of a "nervous disposition" as the British would call it.

Still, it was pretty cool historically.  The evacuation of Dunkirk, for those who don't know, was an evactuation of hundreds of thousands of troops from France when the Nazis first invaded.  The situation looked so bad that high estimates were only in the 10s of thousands for who they thought would actually make it.  It was actually a huge success story as every boat that could be found made trips for over a month and evactuated the British army out of France.  It literally saved the British army from being completely wiped out.

So...they bombed Dover a lot.  Yet, Dover castle is still there.  Even though the white cliffs were one of the major communication centers for the war.  So why the hell didn't they bomb that?  They think Hitler wanted to keep the castle as a war prize and generally think it was one of his biggest mistakes of the war as he could have seriously hurt Britain by bombing it.  Smart thinking...

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