September 24-25 “DOVAH”.
It’s funny, traveling somewhere without a lot of planning ahead. As we moved through England and started just picking a place or two to see, other icons moved into view and I was like “Oh My Gosh! Let’s Go There, Too!”
And as I studied the map of Southern England I realized that the port we were heading towards to get across the English Channel was indeed, the small port town of Dover! “The White Cliffs Of Dover”, I mused. Why, I can actually see them in person! Now that is cool.
We decided to stay there two nights so we could explore the area a little. Plus, the GREAT Dover castle was there, and we were told it would take at least half a day to see everything there [which, in my opinion, isn’t true at all. I could have easily spent the entire day, if not two, at that incredible and unique location].
In downtown Dover I purchased THEE BIGGEST piece of battered and fried cod that I have ever seen in my life. It was way too much for one person, but I did it anyway. The owners at the corner ‘fried goods’ place were Turkish, so for some reason I felt like it was a great idea to buy a big piece of fish from them. I liked that it was simple in there, and that what I presumed to be Turkish television was on in the back corner. It was just a man and a woman, either siblings or spouses, I couldn’t tell for certain in the short time we were there. But they both smiled easily. And my BIG battered fish was very fresh and delicious, I should have taken a photo to share here!
The Dover castle. Incredible. I really don’t consider myself a “castle and medieval pursuing” person. However, that place is very cool, layers upon layers of history coat the location.
In a nutshell, the Dover castle was built more as a B&B, if you will, for the elite proletariat who traveled to England from across the English Channel. The host [William the Conqueror, I think] put them up there to refresh before continuing their journeys. The many large rooms of the main castle-each with its own grand fireplace- were for guests and entertaining. The medieval kitchen areas were on the bottom two floors of
the main castle, and the displays showed that the “kitchen” help had to do everything starting at the very beginning, like cut the big sides of meat and make butter and cheeses from scratch, start everything from scratch, and in grand quantities. Below this began an intricate maze of tunnels and walkways. Just running the bustlings of a medieval castle took a whole host of workers so that the few could enjoy and relax. I mean, I found myself thinking that just being the guy in charge of the fireplaces would be a full time job! Maybe -likely- for more than one person, if we include getting the firewood chopped and into the actual rooms to stoke each fire.
From the tower of the castle there is a 360 degree view of the
countryside and the English channel [see below]. We were there on a day so blustery that the tower was actually closed shortly after we arrived. See?
I tried to put myself in the shoes of those who had gone before, and imagined holding off the unfriendlies, or, keeping an eye out across the countryside from the tower. It is just amazing to me the years that had passed since this castle was built and people lived here. It was an incredible experience to contemplate the layers of lives that passed through here for the past 1500 years, give or take 200 years.
I don’t want to incorrectly quote the uncertain history. If you’re interested you can always google it or look it up on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dover_Castle
I do want to say that the other aspect of this area that intrigued me was the use during wwII. There are over 3 miles of tunnel system dug into the cliffs. It was apparent in the 1950’s that Nuclear attack would be a serious possibility, and at the time they thought that creating an elaborate network of tunnels and rooms would be perfect in the event of a large emergency. They had planned to run the government from there. At the time, they apparently had never consulted a geologist because it wasn’t until later that they figured out how porous chalk actually is, and that the radiation would have seeped into the tunnel system sooner than they had thought.
There were no photos allowed in the tunnels, and I could see why. All the military paraphernalia was still there, including the tracking charts for the channel, radio equipment, barracks, etc. There is an awesome presentation about the goings-on in these tunnels during wwII. Many people worked in there and conducted business from there.
They also had a hospital in the cliffs. The walk-through display included ‘real’ re-enacted sounds [bombs, people talking in the next rooms] and smells [antiseptic in operating room, food smells in kitchen], and the flickering of lights… all in the name of providing a way to have an inkling of an idea what it may have been like back then. I love displays like that and think they did an awesome job. It’s like walking through a life-size diorama!
After we left the castle it was time to find the cliffs! We walked along the windy cliff side above the port towards an
outstanding overlook to the east. It was still soooo windy! It was a wonderfully refreshing walk, it wasn’t too cold, but the wind was serious! The green fields above the cliffs seemed so quintessentially English to me and it felt lovely to walk along a place of so much history.
Enjoyed sunset from this wind-whipped crest above the Jurassic White Cliffs of Dover. Tomorrow, on to cross the channel!