Dreaming of reunification in North Korea
Travel is all about experiences. They may seem quite small at the time, like a chance but memorable encounter with a local person that changes your perspective on the world. Or they may seem huge, visiting an iconic world sight that you’ve dreamed about seeing for years. But whether large or small, long-planned for or serendipitous, the experiences of travel are, in my opinion, among the best to be found.
The Killing Fields of Cambodia
This post contains images and descriptions that some may find disturbing. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are not a place that everyone would choose to visit, despite being firmly on the tourist trail in Phnom Penh. But this is part of the recent history of Cambodia, still vivid in the memories of its older generation, and if they can't run away from that past then arguably nor should we.
Postcards from a time of war
Browsing a flea market in East Berlin many years ago I came across an old postcard, with a pretty painting of forget-me-nots. Turning it over I found, to my surprise, that the message was in English. It was dated 19.6.17 and was sent from BEF France – the British Expeditionary Forces.
Jersey under occupation: the War Tunnels
In June 1940 France fell to the advancing Nazi army and was occupied. The British government decided that the Channel Islands, just off the Normandy coast, were of no strategic importance and would not be defended. The islands were effectively demilitarised, and the residents were faced with an impossible choice. Should they stay and face occupation or go, leaving behind families, friends and possessions?
Cracking the code at Bletchley Park
The first computer my husband and I bought had a memory of around 500 MB. The second seemed a huge advancement at a whole gigabyte! Today I have 32 GB in my phone, i.e. 64 times as much, and 64 GB (128 times as much) in the memory cards I use in my cameras. And yet that first computer of ours was of course a massive advance on the earliest computers.
Meeting a survivor of S-21, Tuol Sleng
When the Khmer Rouge prison Tuol Sleng, in Phnom Penh, was liberated by the invading Vietnamese army in 1979, the guards killed all but a handful of prisoners to try to prevent them telling of the horrors perpetrated there. Chum Mey is just one of thousands who were imprisoned here. He is also just one of a very few to have survived the experience – to have lived to tell that story.
Commemorating the fallen: the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang
On a hillside above Pyongyang, commanding a wonderful view of the city, stand row on row of granite blocks, each topped with a bust. The figures portrayed gaze out over the wooded slope of Mount Taesong to the rapidly changing cityscape below. These are North Korea’s fallen, martyrs in the cause of freedom from Japanese occupation.
The USS Pueblo at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum
An elderly man in naval uniform sits on a bench in the museum grounds. He is eighty years old and is employed by the museum as a guide, although his main duty is simply posing with tourists. To the visiting North Koreans this man is a national hero; while to the relatively few tourists from further afield he is simply an historical curiosity.
Tyneham: a village frozen in time
'Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.'
So who did start the Korean War?
History, they say, is told by the victors. But what if there are no victors? What if the war never technically ended? Then, perhaps, each side feels free to tell its own version of history, a version in which they were triumphant.