Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Operation Market Garden Battlefield Tour, The Netherlands

Operation Market Garden was the largest airbone offensive conducted by the allies and its biggest military defeat. Tha plan, devised by Montgomery, was to take the main bridges in the Netherlands (under German occupation) in order to cross the Rhine and reach Germany.

It was carried out from 17 to 25 September 1944. Despite that  the first bridges were succesfully captured they couldn't take the last one in Arnhem. On the map of the operation we can see the progress of Allied troops and the German defensive positions.


The operation was located in the Netherlands , near the German border. To visit the battlefields you can start from Arnhem . It is best to fly to any of the nearest airports and once there, rent a car or take a train.

View of the River Rhine at Arnhem.

The airports with the best access to the battlefields are the Amsterdam's and the Düsseldorf's .

  • From the airport of Amsterdam to Arnhem. There are direct trains for about 15 euros. The trip takes 1h15min.
  • From Düsseldorf Airport you can take a train changing at the Central Station in the city for about 30 euros. Travel time is approximately 1h20min.

Once in Arnhem you can rent a car or follow the route by train. To check the ticket prices and the train times:

Railway Network Netherlands: https://www.ns.nl/  
German Red train to get from Düsseldorf: http :/ / www.bahn.com/  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Relics of the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands

The so-called Battle of Guadacanal or Operation Watchtower was the first offensive launched by the Allies against the Empire of Japan on August 7, 1942 and lasted until February 9, 1943. It was one of the longest battles of the Pacific. 30,000 people died. U.S. forces landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Florida with the main objective of taking the airport to break the Empire base of the islands. There were several attacks that culminated with the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal when the Japanese were forced to withdraw its troops after a failed landing.


Solomon Islands tourism is quite expensive if we start from Europe (about 1300 euros the entire trip by plane). There are direct flights from Brisbane (Australia) , where the plane transfer should be done to reach the airport from Honiara, the capital of the island of Guadalcanal. The Solomon Islands are tropical and full of wild vegetation. The islands keep a lot of war relics from the battle.

There are  companies that offer battlefield tours around the islands. Please note that the currency is the SBD (Solomon Islands Dollar) and 1 SBD = 0.10 euros.

Moving around Guadalcanal: accessibility to certain areas of the island is not good, if we want to do it by public transport. Honiara has a network of taxis and  buses but only goes through the main roads. Renting a car is almost essential if you want to explore the area. There are car rentals at the airport or at the city center.

More information about the islands: http://www.visitsolomons.com.sb

Image: Vvulto


These are some things you can find on the island.

Museum of World War II (Vilu War Museum): 
Location here .  
Normal ticket: 25 SBD (2.5 euros) 
It has not official website. 
This museum has many relics, such as vehicles, aircraft and weapons both Japanese and American, extending the land occupied by the museum.

Photo Gallery competence: https://www.facebook.com/VisitSolomonIslands

American Memorial in Honiara:

Location here .

Erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission to commemorate the Americans killed in the battle.

The remains of the Kinugawa Maru

Location here .

The Kinugawa Maru ship belonging to the Japanese Imperial Navy's mission was to land on the island of Guadalcanal in November 1942. It was discovered and sunk by American artillery fire. Today is only partially visible but can be seen in full scuba diving.

The Kinugawa Maru partially sunk.
It's remains today ( photo: http://www.diveshow.com.au )

Friday, April 12, 2013

Visiting Mauthausen Gusen, the Spanish camp

The camps of Mauthausen and Gusen belonged to a network of concentration camps expanded throughout Austria and southern Germany. It is believed that the number of victims of these camps could reach 300,000. The camp work was based on a granite quarry where prisoners came to die working. Besides the camp had numerous methods of extermination, as gas chambers or cold showers.

 The camp network that  belonged to Mauthausen .

Mauthausen is known as the Spanish camp due to the large number of Republican exiles who were deported there. They came mostly from Vichy France and many of them were captured when they joined the French Resistance. Franco's government disowned them as Spanish and they were transferred to Mauthausen wearing the blue triangle of stateless people.

 Liberation of the camp in 1945.

The Mauthausen and Gusen camps are son close so you can visit both of them in the same day.


Location: here.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:30 (last admission 16:45)
Closed 24 to 26 December, 31 December, 1 January
Normal ticket: € 2
Audioguides German / English: 40 euro deposit
Tours German / English: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 14:00 (1 euro / person)

Getting to Mauthausen?
  • The field is located in Austria, between Vienna and Salzburg and it's 20 km away from Linz. If we go by car from Vienna or Salzburg we will have to take the A1 and exit at Enns. Always follow the signs for KZ-Gedenkstätte .
  • To arrive by public transport is not very well connected. You have to take a train to the town of Mauthausen. Once at the station Mauthasen can either take a taxi to the field (4 km separate it from the station) or take the bus 360 (departs from the station every hour) stop at Linzer Straße / Wasserwerk and then walk 2 km to the entrance. You can click here to see what the whole journey on foot from the station to the field.
Check train times and routes: http://www.bahn.com/i/view/ESP/es/index.shtml
Consult bus timetables: www.ooevv.at/index.php?id=1377

Entrance ( photo: Lucignolobrescia )
Because of its structure, the field has remained quite well since its release in 1945. It has been changed due to its conversion into a memorial. In the 60's a cemetery was buit inside where the remains of the victims were buried. The visit provides access to all its facilities, including the old quarry, the gas chambers and crematoria. The website offers a small virtual tour explaining every point in the plane.

From March 12 to May 5, 2013 both the gas chambers and the crematoria will be closed due to reforms. On May 6, 2013 they will open two new historical exhibits and a new memorial, " The Hall of Names ".

Gas chamber ( photo: Lucignolobrescia )

The stairs of death at Mauthausen. Prisioners had to go up this staircase of 186 more than ten times a day loaded with stone blocks. Many died exhausted.

right photo: Lucignolobrescia


Location: here
Official website: http://www.gusen-memorial.at/  
Opening hours:
From 1 April to 30 September: Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:30, Saturday and Sunday from 9: 30 to 17:30
From 1 October to 31 March: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9:30 to 17:30
Closed: December 24 and January 6.  
Free admission .  
How to get Gusen? Indications are the same as those listed for Mauthausen but when yo take the bus 360 from the train station you will have to get off at b.Mauthausen Bachstraße Gusen stop, three stops more that the other one.

Photo: Rudolf A. Haunschmied

This camp is much less traveled by tourists than Mauthausen. In 2004 they opened an exhibition about the life in the camp, from 1939 to 1945.

In the map you can see the structure of the camp. The official website shows in detail what is in each point.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Then and Now

In the summer of 1945, the Empire of Japan suffered a nuclear attack by the United States, ordered by the President Truman. On August 6, the bomb Little Boy was dropped on the city of Hiroshima and on August 9 the Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki. It is estimated that both nuclear weapons took the lives of 220,000 people. Furthermore, the effects of radiation on the surviving population caused serious health problems, including numerous cases of fatal cancer.

Cloud after the Hiroshima bomb (left) and Nagasaki (right) .

Getting to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

  • From Tokyo: there are direct flights from Tokyo's Haneda airport that take us to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (about 1h45min) but their prices are very high (about 600 euros). A cheaper option is to go by train from Shinagawa Station (Tokyo). We can reach Hiroshima in 3h 40min. and the ticket price is usually around 150 euros. 
  •  From Osaka: from Shin-Osaka Station you can take the Nozomi train that leads to Hiroshima in 80 minutes.

Once in Hiroshima we can take a train ride to Nagasaki changing at Hakata (about 3 hours).
For schedules and train tickets in Japan there is a page that I recommend:


Hiroshima 1945/Hiroshima 2006 ( photo der.: Voogd075 )

Map of the spread of fire caused by the bomb in Hiroshima.

The Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)

Location : here.  
Tram stop: Genbaku Dome Station.  
Virtual Tour of the memorial: 

The Peace Memorial houses the ruins of the adjacent buildings to the center of the explosion in commemoration to the victims.

 Panoramic of Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. (photo: Dean S )

Dome Genbaku before 1945, following the explosion and as it looks today.

Museum Peace Memorial

Location: here .  
Tram stop: Fukoromachi / Genbaku Dome  
Official Website: http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html 
Opening hours (admission until half an hour before closing):
From 1 March to 31 November : 8:30-18:00
From December 1 to February 28: 8:30 to 17:00
From August 1 to August 31: 8:30 to 19:00  
Admission: 50 yen (0.50 euros) This museum covers the history and reconstruction of Hiroshima from 1945 through models, photographs, objects collected from the ruins, etc.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Free travel guides and maps of Normandy

  • Complete guide dedicated to the historical sites of Normandy, created by the Association Normandie Mémoire with details of museums and monuments. You can download it in pdf.

  •  2013 Tourist Guide of Normandy: The delegation of  Bessin Normandy tourism published in its official website a pdf of 2013 Normandy travel guide in English. The guide contains information on the landing beaches, museums, restaurants and accommodation, as well as maps of the region. For a free guide is quite complete and brings a calendar of events that includes the d-day festival . Click the image to download the pdf.

Churchill war rooms in London

This is a museum placed in a bunker. It belongs to the Imperial War Museum in London. The war rooms were built in 1938 as a measure against future possible air attacks. After the outbreak of the war the government center with Churchill in command was transferred to the basement. Located in the Treasury building in Westminster, just a short walk away from Big Ben. 

The tour has two parts. On one hand the tour of the bunker with recreations of all the rooms and on the other hand a large exhibition hall dedicated to Churchill, exhibiting documents, videos and photos from his youth until his funeral. It shows the personality of the former British prime minister during World War II.


Location: here .
Metro station: Westminster (green lines, yellow and gray)
Buses: 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 109, 148, 159, 184, 211, 453
Opening hours: 9:30 to 18:00 (last admission 17:00)
Closed from 24 to 26 December.
Admission: 17 pounds (20 euros). Audio guide included.
The museum is very interesting but it has few visitors. The entrance it's a little bit hidden in a side of King Charles street, under the Clive Steps.

In the area of the museum about Churchill you can find some items of his personal life, from his Nobel Prize to pictures painted by him. 
A little photo gallery of the place:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The forest of the Katyn massacre

In the spring of 1940, the Katyn Forest witnessed the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers and civilians accused of spying by the NKVD. The slaughter was carried out under the command of Stalin but the Soviets attributed to Germany. It was not until 1990, when Mikhail Gorbachev brought to light the hidden documents. After that, Russia recognized their involvement in the incident. Years later a memorial was set in the place.
For Poles is a cursed place since, in 2010, President Kaczynski and 95 others including leading figures of Polish government and clegy suffered a plane crash with no survivors when traveling to Katyn to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the slaughter.


Official website: http://www.katyn-memorial.ru
Opening hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Guided tour: 800 rubles (20 euros)  
Museum admission: 50 rubles (1.25 euros)

The memorial complex was inaugurated in 2000. It consists of a large cemetery, some monuments and a museum. All Polish officers killed in the slaughter of Katyn were buried in mass graves in June. Part of the cemetery is Russian and here are buried more than 6,000 victims of the Soviet Great Purge of 1930.


Location: here .

Located in Russia 400 km away from Moscow and 320 km away from Minsk. The railway line that links Moscow (Belarus station) to Minsk (Minsk station Pas) passes through Smolensk, 20 km away from Katyn. The journey takes about 4-5 hours from both cities.  
Once in Smolensk you can take the bus #101 (Smetanino direction) to Kozyi Goryy. A sign indicates: "Memorial Polskim ofitseram pogibshim v Katyni".


Monday, March 11, 2013

Prora: The Nazi Beach Resort

Prora was a residential complex built between 1936 and 1939 by the KdF (Strength through Joy). They wanted to build a holiday resort with a capacity for 20,000 people with theater, cinema and swimming pools intended that workers could spend their holidays on the beach. This building is an example of architecture of the Third Reich.

Photo: Dr. Schorsch
At the beginning of the war the project was stopped and later during the Allied bombing, some of its buildings were used as a refuge for Germans from Hamburg. At the end of the war it was used as a home to female auxiliary staff of the Luftwaffe. In 1945, the Soviet army took the region and they established a military base in block 5 of Prora. They remained until 1955.


In recent years it has been empty and abandoned until it was sold to a group of investors. Since 2000, the center hosts the Prora documentation center, which currently has an exhibition about the history of the site and from July 2011 the northern part of the complex is home to a youth hostel.
Photo Gallery of indoors: 
Official Website: http://www.proradok.de
Opening hours:
March, April, May, September and October: 10:00-18 :00
June, July, August: 9:30-19:00
November, December, January, February: 10:00-16:00  
Admission to the museum : 6 euros
Guided tours (in German): 11:45 and 14:30


Location: here

Prora is on the island of Rugen , Northern Germany. It can be reached by car or train. There is a train that goes directly from Stralsund-Bergen station to Prora Nord station. From Berlin, changing at Stralsund you can get to Prora in four hours. 
To check trains and times: http://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml

To move around the island by public transport you have to take the bus 20 or 23.

From 23.50 euros/night it's possible to sleep in the old complex now become a youth hostel. You can book a room from its official website: