David McCormack – The Soviet Treptower Park Memorial: A monument to victory, or propaganda set in metal & stone?

In the autumn of 1946, the Soviet military administration in Berlin sponsored a competition to construct a memorial in Berlin’s Treptower Park. The thirty-three entrants were given a design brief which stipulated that the finished monument should symbolise liberation from Fascism, rather than victory over Germany.

The winning entry came from a ‘creative collective’ consisting of the architect Yakov S. Beloposki, the sculptor Yevgeni W. Vuchetich, the painter Alexander A. Gorpenko and the engineer Sarra S. Valerias.
The construction of the memorial was carried out by German labourers, supervised by a unit of Soviet engineer officers. On 8 May 1949, the completed memorial was inaugurated in a solemn ceremony attended by high ranking Soviet officers and German Communist politicians.

The imposing statue of a heroic Soviet soldier cradling a young German girl in his arm formed the centrepiece of the memorial site. In some respects, it follows in the tradition of the ‘Hermann’ monument at Detmold and the ‘Battle of the Nations’ monument at Leipzig.
These German monuments symbolised the heroic struggles of the German peoples against the tyranny of occupying powers. In the same vein, the Soviet monument in Treptower Park portrayed the Red Army and it’s German Communist allies as heroic defenders against an alien Nazi regime.
It has long been assumed that the soldier represented in the statue was Guards Sergeant Nikolai Masalov of the 220th Guards Rifle Regiment. General Vasily Chuikov’s  Fall of Berlin, a chronicle of the advance of 8th Guards Army through Berlin (published in 1968) contained a gripping account of Masalov’s supposed feat of courage in rescuing a three year old German girl during the battle for the Potsdamer Bridge.
Whilst Chuikov’s account added substance to the Masalov story, not everyone remained convinced. In 2009, Pravda journalist Maksim Kondratyev argued that, ‘It cannot be ruled out that the architect simply created a perfect image of the Soviet soldier’. In my own view, the statue is a propaganda piece loosely based an Masalov. Indeed, rumours persist that the soldier who sat for Vuchetich was not Masalov, but Ivan Odartschenko, a Soviet soldier who happened to be blessed with film-star good looks.

As Vuchetich was Stalin’s favourite sculptor, the direct involvement of the Soviet dictator cannot be discounted. Stalin was determined to demonstrate that whilst the capitalist democracies expended their wealth to defeat Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union paid a much higher price in blood. Therefore, the memorial is a means of conveying the massive losses incurred by Soviet forces and civilians during the apocalyptic struggle between the two diametrically opposed regimes.
Moreover, the memorial symbolises the liberation of the German people from Nazism. With this in mind, could it be argued that Chuikov’s account of the incident on the Potsdamer Bridge is no more than a companion piece to the memorial? Could it be, that the young girl, gently and reassuringly held by the humble Soviet soldier featured in the main memorial was no more than a symbolic creation? On our fascinating Rise & Fall of the III Reich tour, we look into these questions, and much, much more.

Norway? Nor-way Would You Want to Miss This One.

There are a few things that may spring to mind when you think or Norway. Cold? Snow? Northern Lights? You’d be forgiven if so. But, we’re thinking of something a little different.

What we’re proposing might just come as a bit of a surprise… we’re saying summertime, lush scenery and the mighty Fjordland! And, possibly the most incredible summer holiday you’ve ever had.
Norway is host to our brand new summertime tour in 2018, with our Picturebook Norway tour setting off on its maiden voyage.
This fantastic holiday is actually the brain child of our Dream Tour Competition winner, Sue Godwin. But, we agree completely with her sentiments and are proud to call this, not only Sue’s, but our dream tour.

Geirangerfjord

Why? You ask. Well, let us tell you just why a holiday to the Norwegian Fjords is the ideal summertime break.
Firstly, it’s not as cold as you think. The weather is surprisingly good!
In fact, from late June to early August, the weather is at its most stable and it’s not unusual for temperatures to reach 25°C and above. The days are sunny and bright and there’s plenty of daylight – perfect to see the Fjordland, in all of its beauty.
Kjosfossen Waterfall

And, the favourable weather conditions actually give life to some of Norway’s most fruitful areas, producing an array of berries, vegetables and fruits.

Tasty tip: The combination of the water, the steep mountains, deep fjords and the heat from the sun help the Norwegians create some of the tastiest, locally produced juices in the world. The perfect way to quench your thirst on a warm, summer’s day.

In Fjord Norway sunsets and sunrises, dawn and dusk last longer than at more southern latitudes. And, with nice weather and plenty of daylight, you have the perfect ingredients to enjoy a fantastic stretch of sightseeing.

Summertime Dusk in the Fjords

And, what better way to see the stunning fjords than on the Flåm railway? Dubbed the world’s most beautiful train journey, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway, you can enjoy a magical journey from sea level at the Sognefjord to the Myrdal Mountain station – an impressive 867 metres high!
The Flam Railway

But, that’s not all. It’s also one of the steepest rail ways in the world with over 80 percent of the journey at a gradient of 5.5%, and whilst you can imagine that the view just from that would be pretty spectacular, there’s even a sprinkling of stunning waterfalls to make the journey even more special – it’s a real crowd pleaser and a journey you will never forget.
With the help of calmer weather you can find in the summertime, it gives you the perfect opportunity to get out and really get to know the Fjords.
Sognefjord is the longest and deepest Fjord in Norway – and the most famous in Norway. Its popular arm, Nærøyfjord, actually has a UNESCO World Heritage status and, alongside the Geirangerfjord, it has been rated the world’s number one heritage site – and yes, you will see them all on our Picturebook Norway tour, so don’t forget your camera.
Sognefjord

Whilst you may think the above alone seems like a pretty epic trip, there’s even more to see in the Fjordlands. The stunning Vøringfoss waterfall, the Bøyabreen glacier and the Hardanger Nature Museum, to name but a few. If nature is your thing, just think of the joy Norway will bring.
Leaving the Fjords, there’s still a lot more to Norway to keep that smile on your face! Its delightful towns and impressive cities offer plenty, even to the hardest to impress. From Bergen to the mighty Oslo, summertime really shines a light on these pretty spectacular destinations.
Full of history, and beaming with natural beauty, Norway’s second city, Bergen, is a true delight. The colourful facade of Bryggen is by far the most iconic sight you’ll see in the city, and it sure is beautiful.
Bryggen, Bergen

The Hanseatic Wharf is a great stop off point for a meal or a snack in the cafes and restaurants, enjoy a spot of shopping, or even just to enjoy the view.
Hot-footing it into Oslo, you’ll get time to enjoy the delightfully modern and diverse capital city and all the frills that come with it. A shopper’s paradise, a hub for culture and history and nature right at your fingertips.
Head down to the waterfront area where you can enjoy great bars, cosy cafes and fine restaurants, and enjoy the view over the Barcode’s skyscrapers, a delight to anyone with an interest in architecture.
Oslo Waterfront

With a host of interesting restaurants and cafes, and with the strikingly modern opera house sitting on the water’s edge, the enchanting juxtaposition between Oslo’s new and old will be one of the defining memories of your holiday.
In conclusion, one thing is for sure, we could write a book on Norway and still feel like the words would still not do it justice. As they say, seeing is believing, and if you fancy the trip of a lifetime to the beautiful Norwegian Fjordland, find out more about our Picturebook Norway tour, right here.

David & Jean – Why We Love Our Coach Holidays

Having booked our three holidays for 2017 we usually sit back and await the perennial questions that always follow our holiday bookings.   One question is always ‘Why don’t you fly to your holiday destination?   Well if we wanted to fly on our holidays we could easily pick one of Leger’s many ‘Fly’ holidays but we prefer to go by coach.   Once again the question arises ‘Why’ well for a start we only have to walk to our ‘Pick up Point’ – hand over our suitcases to the Driver and we never have to worry about them again until they appear outside our Hotel door.    As I am getting older this is a big feature nowadays.   Plus there is no having to get to the airport several hours before take-off – sometimes we’re told it’s easier to book a room at a nearby hotel so as to get to the airport on time.   For us – our transport arrives – we get on and our holiday starts immediately.
Even on our ‘Feeder Coach’ – on our way to Dover to catch the ferry or travel through the Channel Tunnel – we immediately join in the ‘What time did you get on the coach this morning’ competition with our fellow passengers with ourselves usually winning as North Wales – where we live – is quite a way from Dover.
I think camaraderie is a big feature of Leger Coach Holidays and once on your Tour Coach heading towards your holiday destination we are already sizing up all those on board to see who appears to be likely candidates as to who we will joining for our meals and more importantly who we are to socialise with when relaxing in the Bar in the evening.   We have been on 31 Leger Holidays over 23 years – and will be adding another three holidays this year.
Another question that usually arises is ‘Why Leger – why not another Company?’   Well over the years we have been on other companies coach holidays but we always find ourselves coming ‘Home’ to Leger.   It’s not to say that these ‘Other Companies’ holidays are not good – they are – but we find ourselves missing certain features that you get from Leger.
Features like friendly Drivers who when you see who your Drivers are when you board your Tour Coach you immediately say ‘Oh this is going to be a good holidaywe have had these two before’ or ‘ These Drivers are a good laugh’.   Its little things that matter like when your Drivers come around the Dining Room to chat to everyone to see that everything is OK and you don’t have any problems.   Over the years on the two occasions that we had a small problem and informed the Drivers about it – the problem was sorted before we got up from the table – now that’s fast.     It’s important that the Drivers are there for you – more or less in the background but never intrusive until they need to be.
We love all the Excursions – both Inclusive and Optional – as you get to see places that if you travel by your own means you are inclined to miss out on.   Last year we eventually persuaded two of our friends to go to Lake Garda but they made their own way there.   When they came home we were interested in what they had seen and what they enjoyed and yet whilst they really enjoyed their holiday at Lake Garda – how could they not enjoy it – when we said about visiting various places that we love – they had to admit that they had not been there as local transport made it a bit difficult whereas our Leger Coaches take you to all the main important locations and drop you right there.
Finally back to the camaraderie.   We have always ‘made friends’ with people on the coach and in some cases made good friendships that have lasted years.    We are in regular contact with two couples one who originally first joined us at our meal table on a previous ‘Lake Garda Holiday’ and the other we similarly met on our ‘Sorrento Holiday’ – they socialised with us for the duration of our – and their – holiday and we chat – via e-mails – on a monthly basis with irregular long mailings in between.
And that is why we love our coach holidays.