Colditz, SaxonyMay 13 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C
Martha Motorhome is parked in a gravel car park surrounded by grass on the edge of a residential estate at Colditz. We are a little disappointed because photos in the Park4Night app suggested there would be views of the famous castle, but instead of spires and turrets we have low rise apartment blocks. Oh well.
Today's journey has been of mixed success. We managed to fill with diesel and LPG as well as getting some food shopping but none of the four motorhome shops we visited had the replacement door handle we need.
Passing a big 'Willkommen in Colditz' message in the late afternoon, we got settled in the car park and after a short rest, walked down the hill to explore. There has been a castle of sorts on site from 1083, surviving through refurbishments and rebuilds to serve as a workhouse, mental hospital, sanatorium and from 1933 a Nazi political prison for communists, homosexuals, jews and 'other undesirables'. During WWII its security was heightened and it became a POW camp for officers, those considered highly dangerous or a serious escape risk. It was these efforts to escape that have immortalised Colditz castle in a board game, books, a tv series and films including The Colditz Story and Escape from Colditz. In 1945 the Soviets captured the site and turned it into a prison camp for burglers and non communists. Subsequently it has been an Old People's home, a nursing home, hospital, psychiatric clinic and is now a museum and youth hostel.
A sign directed us along a woodland footpath to the tiergarten (zoo) and castle 400m away but checking on our map it was in the wrong direction. Trusting Maps.Me we arrived at the modern looking, white rendered walls with four storeys of rectangular windows, bordered in red sandstone and topped by a red tiled roof. Entering the courtyard we found all doors closed and nothing but a small information board identifying different parts of the castle. We tried to walk round to the front, but the sheer rock face made this impossible. Deferring to our map once again we headed optimistically towards a footpath leading down the grassy hill, only to find a padlocked gate. Feeling tired and dispirited we returned to the van for tea.
Knowing we had a long drive ahead of us the following day, we headed out once again in the evening. Our mission? To view the front Colditz Castle. Will had looked up a quiet road accessed by dropping down to the town and skirting round the grounds. This would have given us a great view if it weren't for an 8ft stone wall... Fortunately, Will had a secret weapon! Peggy the Drone was deployed to fly above the wall and trees. She executed the manoeuvre perfectly, capturing images the land based efforts could only dream of!Mission accomplished, we wandered through the open town square to the bridge, catching glimpses of the castle, but never being afforded a full view, like one of those puzzles you can only turn over two squares at a time to reveal the image that lies underneath.
Down by the river we met two people, one of whom told us he'd been gassed by the police and asked us for money for a coffee. A number of locals we passed seemed to stand out, leading us to think there was still a mental health institution operating in the town.
On the way back we followed the footpath signed 'tiergarten' and 'castle' for about 0.5km into a wooded area that used to be part of one the largest zoos in Europe in the 1500s, but long since repurposed into a native wildlife habitat. Our plan had been to branch off and return to the van via a route marked on our map, but this looked like it petered out, so we doubled back and took the roadway. It was ironic that a place famous for attempted escapes had so many barred routes that foiled our attempts to get where we wanted to go in the here and now!Read more