Trapped in Leipzig, Escape to Colditz.
Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
The next day I left early and managed to navigate away from Leipzig in one attempt- maybe I´m getting the hang of this map-reading thing. I was quite excited about my destination for the day - Colditz! I arrived around 2pm, and to begin with was quite disappointed, as I was expecting a big open piece of land with huts and barbed wire surrounds and guard towers. It was only when I went to the Castle as a backup plan that I realised I was confusing ´Escape From Colditz´ with ´The Great Escape´, and the Castle was the prison.
Colditz is still in the early stages of being a tourist attraction, and is undergoing some extensive renovation to turn part of it into a hotel and youth hostel. This meant that some of the classic photos weren´t worth taking due to scaffolding, and that taking the guided tour really helped bring the place to life. It is, after all, the stories that make the place so interesting. To look at, its just a German Schloß, picturesque, light and functional.
For those who don´t already know...
Colditz was where the Germans sent the ´bad boys´ of the allied prisoners of war
At the other extreme, there were the hightly organised, long-term Shawshank redemption-stylie attempts. The French spent 8months digging a tunnel. (several of the ´bad boys´ were mining engineers- their professional expertise, rather than derring-do, making them skilled at escaping) The Germans knew they were digging a tunnel, they could hear the noise and at one point rubble hidden under floorboards caused a roof to collapse, but they couldn´t find it. Even when they knew for certain that the entrance was in the wine-cellar (where else would the French start) it took them four days of tapping every stone to find the entrance, so well was it disguised
There seemed to be no ´allied´ escape attempts, as if it were really just a competition between the countries. It appears that escaping became a way of life and a means to pass the time. Colditz, because it was top-security and therefore home for ´Very Important Prisoners´ (those of high rank or who might be exchangable for German POWs- apparently Churchill´s nephew was held there) was run according to the Geneva convention. The only punishment for attempting to escape was solitary confinement, and there were so many attempts the cooler had a waiting list. The French made 24 escape attempts, with 12 ´home runs´ (successes). The Brits made 170 attempts. 11 home runs. Still, its all about the pluck, eh? The guide kept emphasising that Colditz was run according to the Geneva convention, saying ´it was a nice place´. You knew what she meant, and why she said it, but it was a funny thing to say of a prison.
Met some British bikers at Colditz campsite, so spent the evening smiling and nodding to the tune of international bike rallies and the relative merits of every bike they ever owned.