32. Diary Entry: Dover

After months of preparation, including writer’s blocks, computer crashes and many other
minor crises, our day of departure to Canterbury had arrived.
Driving in our own bus, we left for England. One could have a little pity with the poor bus
driver, since we sang, played “If I were you” and often laughed out loud. None of us
expected to have such a good time, before we actually left. Instead of taking part of a boring excursion to an old dull city, every day presented a new little adventure with lots of fun in a wonderful bunch of people.

On Tuesday, 8th of September, we left Canterbury early in the morning for a day trip to
Dover. But our target was not the Port of Dover, where we had arrived in England three days ago. This time, we were heading for Dover castle. After a long but funny bus journey, we arrived at the fortress.
At the parking, where we left the bus, we had to choose whether we would rather go for a
17km long hiking trip from Dover to Deal along the white cliffs or a visit to Dover Castle in
order to explore it in more detail. I decided for the latter one, since I had written a chapter in our Journey Reader about the history of Dover castle and was curious to see the marks of history myself in real, and not just on photos.

Our large group was divided into a few smaller groups, who left for the castle. I teamed up
with three other students and off we went. Louisa, our expert for the history of Dover Castle from the very beginnings until 1620, guided us through the terrain and tried her very best to explain everything to us as a professional tour guide. It was exciting to see that even the ancient Roman Lighthouse, but also the Church of St. Mary-in-Castro were still in such a good shape.

After a short walk across the huge green outer area using a little map, we entered the Great Tower. Wow, such a huge fortress – if I had lived here many, many years ago, I would have got lost here all the time. It was really impressive to see, how the masonries have endured the many wars during the last few hundred years. Each single room of the fortress was prepared in a way that we could feel part of those ancient times. Even a real open fire was burning in each room. Though I suffer high-anxiety, I managed to climb up all the stairs of the Great Tower right to the top. And I really did not regret it! The view was overwhelming, and each visitor has to see it himself to get a feeling of the huge dimensions of the Dover Castle site.

But the most exciting remains of history to me were the Secret Wartime Tunnels under Dover Castle. Since the site is so big, two different exploration tours were offered. One to the Underground Hospital, the other to the rooms where thousands of soldiers had
accommodated after the rescue from the battle fields of Dunkirk in World War 2, including the headquarter of the rescue operation “Dynamo”, where it was planned, controlled and
conducted. One could hardly imagine the huge network of tunnels and walks which was
constructed under Dover Castle and which is still maintained today, looking over the area
from the top of the Great Tower.

First, we took the Underground Hospital Tour. Down we went. We saw, heard and smelled
by special effects and the detailed installation of the individual rooms, how it was at those
days. Not a very nice imagination. An old legend says that the place is haunted by the ghost of a WW2 soldier deceased there. Since he is supposed to have died in the operating theatre, this nowadays is the most haunted room of Dover Caste. But the ghost did not want to shop up for us. What a luck for the scaredy cats among us!
After this short tour we proceeded to the „Operation Dynamo” station. There, it was not so
scary, but the dramatic rescue operation was revived by means of special effects, projections and authentic film footage material. Unfortunately, only a few rooms have been restored, one could hardly imagine how the soldiers were hosted in this narrow space.

Since we ran out of time at the end of the second tour and we knew that Keith would not like us arriving late at the meeting point, we could not inspect the command center intensively as we wanted to. Hence we took to shortest way back to the bus. Good enough, we were not the last ones to arrive, indeed.
After gathering the Dover Castle groups, we still had to meet the Hiking group in Deal. But
first, we made a stop at the White Cliffs of Dover. We had nearly one hour time for a great
sunny walk along the abyss and enjoyed the marvelous view on the blue English Channel,
the Port of Dover and the White Cliffs. It was really great, especially the weather, which
proved this English cliché to be wrong. I could have spent the rest of the day here, but we
had to drive on.

Finally, we arrived in Deal being hungry, really everybody. Und so we entered the, as I
believe, smallest snack bar we could find there. We ordered 100 or so portions of Fish &
Chips. After such a long day at fresh air, it was really good to get something hot to eat and fill our stomachs. I think I was not the only person more than happy to actually have reached the last official stop of our day trip.

Now we had some spare time for the next two hours, but we were all so exhausted that we only sat down at the beach in Deal. The sun did not shine as intense as before and the windwas blowing colder than before, but how often has one the occasion of sitting at a beach in England? Hence we relaxed and enjoyed the time with the bunch of people.
During our way back to the accommodation at the University of Kent, we were astonishingly quiet and just relaxed letting the passed day sinking in. Even if some of us were asleep.

We did not walk 17 km, but distances enough to be exhausted. After arriving at our flats, we enjoyed a last cider before we went to bed quite timely, in order to be fit again next morning since Wednesday should be another long and exhaustive day.

Patricia Schnepf