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.
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.
Yes, I remember Adlestrop
How many of you have had to learn a poem by heart as a child? It’s strange that something that was perhaps a chore at the time can become a fond memory, especially if we grow to love the poem. One of the most often learned English poems might just be Edward Thomas’s Adlestrop, first published in 1917. The poem describes an uneventful journey Thomas took on 23 June 1914 on an Oxford to Worcester express.
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.
Finding peace in Hiroshima
‘Excuse me, may we ask you some questions?’ The three school girls spoke in chorus, politely and in good English. We naturally agreed and, armed with a clip-board and a work-book with a set of these questions, they proceeded to ‘interview’ us.