Battlefield Netherlands by Jonathan Ball

In the autumn of 1944, the Allied forces found themselves advancing on a wide front across the Netherlands. The famous Operation Market Garden, leading to Arnhem, took place but there were many forgotten battles along the eastern corridor of Holland. Find out first hand about our brand new tour, Battlefield Netherlands, from our specialist guide Jonathan Ball.


Operation Blackcock was a large scale methodical mopping up operation. It was not planned to make any deep thrust into the enemy defences or capture large numbers of Prisoners of War. It proceeded from stage to stage almost entirely as planned and was successfully completed with minimum casualties.

That was the official 21st Army Group take on the events of February 1945. Lt-Col Frank Coutts of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers held a slightly different point of view…

I would very much like to meet that staff officer from 21st Army Group sitting in his caravan or chateau outside Brussels with a large whisky and soda on his table. He had the cheek to add ‘with minimal casualties’. What in Heaven’s name is minimal? One mans life is precious and XII Corps suffered over a thousand killed and wounded.

For our BRAND NEW four-day tour, Battlefield Netherlands, we aim to take our guests very much off the beaten track in the Netherlands which to most British minds ends on the banks of the Neder Rijn at Arnhem. On the recent recce, we looked at the Battle for the towns of Overloon and Venray as the Allies pushed eastwards from Nijmegen towards the River Maas and beyond to the borders of the German Reich. First attacked by the US 7th Armored Division, the Americans found Overloon too tough a nut to crack. In 7 days they advanced little more than 2 kilometres suffering 452 casualties and having 35 Tanks destroyed, 13 of them in quick succession in just one day by a solitary German 88mm Anti Tank Gun. Following the withdrawal of the ‘Lucky 7th’ the task of taking Overloon was given to the British in the shape of the veteran 3rd Divisions’ 8th Infantry Brigade. The Battalions involved lead the British assault on D-Day in Normandy landing at 0730 hours on Sword beach and it’s their fortunes we followed. Firstly with the Suffolks on their start line north of Overloon. We looked at the story of Nelson Brown, a Dunkirk veteran and a bit of a character. The night before the attack on Overloon he shaved a swastika in his hair. By the next morning, he was dead. Scythed down by German machine gun fire literally yards from where he emerged from the trees at the beginning of the attack.

Overloon Cemetery
Overloon

We followed the Suffolks to the site of a windmill, destroyed during the fighting on the Oploo road. All around the fire-swept, flat terrain gives the visitor a first-hand impression of what it must have been like on that October day to advance under heavy fire with so little cover. George Rayson, a Suffolks veteran was later to remark of the fighting around the Windmill “It was bad enough on D-Day but this was one of the worst days of my life, why I’m still here today I don’t know”

After the Suffolks, we followed the story of the East Yorkshire Regiment from the perspective of the defending German Paratroopers. In a wood, there is what a colleague of mine described as some of the best-preserved trenches of the Second World War he’d ever seen. Amongst these trees took place bloody, hand to hand combat as the East Yorks battled through to their objective.

Suffolks start line - CWGC Cemetery in Overloon
Suffolks start line – CWGC Cemetery in Overloon

Then it was on to the beautifully maintained CWGC Cemetery in Overloon before lunch and a visit to the superb museum in the town. There’s lots of original battle damaged kit recovered from the Battlefield in there that again illustrates the ferocity of the fighting.

After lunch, we walked in the footsteps of George Eardley. A Sergeant whose actions in destroying 3 German Machine Gun Posts was to culminate in the awarding of the Victoria Cross. After that, we travelled to the crossing of what is today the peaceful Loobeek River. It was no easy objective in 1944 and for good reason did the locals later know the river as the ‘Bloodbeek’.

Loobeek River
Loobeek River

Venray CWGC cemetery visited on the Battlefields Netherlands tour

Later, after paying our respects to the boys in Venray CWGC cemetery who fell liberating the town we moved on to end the day at Ysselsteyn German Cemetery. The only statistic you really need to know here is the number of men buried, 31,598. Everything else pales into insignificance after that.

The following day took us around what was known as the Roer Triangle with Operation Blackcock, arguably one of the most interesting series of battles you’ve probably never heard of?

We started at Brunssum CWGC cemetery with Brigadier Gerald Mole, killed when 700 mines that had been lifted detonated next to his Headquarters. When Mole was buried the British guns fired in salute using live ammunition on carefully selected targets across the border in Germany, an act that Gerald Mole would no doubt of approved of and incidentally our next destination on the tour.

Brunssum CWGC cemetery with Brigadier Gerald Mole

We crossed the border to look at the Battle for Geilenkirchen and in particular the fight for the woods west of the village of Tripsrath. What took place in these woods was described by one senior officer as being akin to scenes from the First World War. The assault was made by 5/Dorsets and the wood with the trenches and dugouts which remain to this day was named in their honour as Dorset Wood.

Following our brief foray into Germany it was back across the border and to the Dutch town of Sittard for lunch. We took time at the towns CWGC cemetery to look at the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to its youngest recipient of WW2, Fusilier Dennis Donnini, just 19 years old. Think about what you were doing at 19?

After lunch, we moved along the eastern bank of the River Maas to the town of Susteren. A superb and very original German 88mm Anti Tank gun awaited us there plus the scene of the bitter street fight for control of the town.

Leaving Susteren, we headed on to take in the site of another VC action, the only VC of WW2 awarded to a man of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Eric Harden, the Commando Medic. When men from 45 RM Commando were pinned down Eric Harden went out unarmed on at least three separate occasions to bring in the wounded. On that fateful third trip out he was shot and killed. As Derek-Mills Roberts was to write to his widow later, “it’s easier to be brave with a rifle in your hand than a stretcher”.

Eyewitness WW2 Museum visited on the Battlefield Netherlands tour
Eyewitness WW2 Museum

WW2 Museum visited on the Battlefield Netherlands tour

So those are some of the less explored Battlefields of the Netherlands. We finished with a flourish though at the simply staggering Eyewitness WW2 Museum in Beek. It’s a private collection, beautifully presented which tells the story of the war in the Netherlands and doesn’t shy away from some uncomfortable truths from those years of the German occupation.

Jonathan Ball – Specialist Battlefield Guide for Leger Holidays

If you’d like to join us on this tour, click here for more information.

Top Viewed Tours of 2017

As we near the end of 2017, we’re taking time to reflect on another fantastic year and what an honour it has been to take so many of you on wonderful holidays.

And we’re thrilled that, with all the hard work of our teams at Leger HQ and, of course, our coach crews and guides out on the road, we’ve helped create incredible memories and a lasting impressions, as you voted us the Best Medium Coach Holiday Company for the second year running at the British Travel Awards.
But, we couldn’t round off the year without giving you the rundown of our most viewed tours on of 2017. So, without further ado, if you’re on the lookout for holiday inspiration or just wanting to know if your favourite tour made it onto our list, here’s what really caught your eye this year…

10. The Beauty of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore

The third largest lake in Italy, and the first of four Italian tours to make it onto our list. But it’s not just our customers who love Lake Como, it’s also a hit with George Clooney, Madonna and Richard Branson.
Lake Como

9. Picturebook Norway – Fjordland Spectacular

Our dream tour seems to be your dream tour, too. With our first departure sold out and our 2019 dates now on sale, the Norway effect is still in full swing.
Norwegian Fjords

8. Splendours of Paris

Paris is always a good idea, and it seems that’s something we can all agree on! The romantic capital city of France comes in at a respectable 8th on our list.
Paris 2017

7. All Quiet on the Western Front

A perfect WW1 Battlefields experience for first-timers and experienced travellers, 2017 has certainly captured your interest of visiting the Western Front.
Tyne Cot Cemetery

6. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona

The mighty Lake Garda, incredible Venice and the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, this is three world-class destinations in one impressive tour, we’re not surprised to see this tour make it into our top 10.
Venice 2017

5. Picturebook Italy

A Leger Holidays favourite, Picturebook Italy, of course, makes its way into our top 5. Well, a holiday visiting the best that Italy has to offer, it’s bound to happen.
Florence

4. The Wonders of Rome & Pompeii

Italy still seems to be a big hitter in 2017, but the Wonders of Rome & Pompeii comes out top of the Italian pickings. And it’s no wonder when Rome alone attracts around 7 – 10 million tourists each year.
Trevi Fountain, Rome 2017

3. Dutch Bulbfields & the Delights of Amsterdam

Tulip mania lives on! In 2017, the beautiful Dutch Bulbfields really caught your attention, or is it the visit to Amsterdam? Either way, a trip to Holland doesn’t get much better than this.
Dutch Bulbfields

2. D-Day Landings in Normandy

Taking the hypothetical silver medal in 2017, our D-Day Landings in Normandy tour narrowly missed out on the top spot. But, with the recent launch of our D-Day 75th Anniversary tour, could it snag the top spot next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
Pegasus Bridge

1. Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis

And with over 300 tours to choose from, for the third year running, our most viewed tour is our Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis tour. Whether you’re an Elvis fan, a music buff in general or just fancy a visit to America’s Deep South, we seem to have got it right with this one.
New Orleans 2017
From everyone at Leger Holidays, we wish you a very happy New Year!

Inside India: The Highlights of an Incredible Country

Beauty in architecture, the thrill of experiencing a new and exciting culture, incredible cuisines and fascinating wildlife, sounds like the perfect travelling experience, don’t you agree?

Few places in the world offer authentic experiences these days. With the world becoming more and more commercialised, you may not feel you’re getting the real deal when visiting new places. After all, you can fly half way around the world and still find a burger chain restaurant you’d thought you’d left behind on your local high street.
Of course, some of us embrace it. And, why not? Home comforts can certainly make travelling more familiar and, well… comfortable.
But, if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, somewhere where you can really feel you’re embracing a new culture… say hello to India.
We’ve recently launched our brand new tour and an exciting new destination, exploring India and its incredible Golden Triangle. And, we’re pretty sure this is one of those tours that will really fuel your wanderlust.
We’ve left no stone unturned when it comes to experiencing the very best of India. From iconic destinations to coming face to face with the majestic tiger, here’s just some of the incredible things you’ll experience on our brand new tour…

The Golden Triangle

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

 
You may have heard of the Golden Triangle in reference to India before, or maybe not if this is your first insight into the country. But, the Golden Triangle is a must. It refers to India’s three most visited cities in the north-west, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and is a major tourist route packed full of fascinating sights.
Jaipur is home to some of Asia’s best Bazaars, a city buzzing with activity, nicknamed the ‘Pink City’ from the hue of its buildings, you’ll certainly want to visit its main attraction, the Amber Fort, just on the outskirts of the city.
The capital of India, Delhi, is a real contrast of old and new, from its turbulent past to its thriving future, it is host to a wealth of fascinating historical monuments as well as modern symbols of the present day such as India Gate and Parliament House.
And Agra, well… Where do we start? Obviously the world famous…

Taj Mahal

The taj Mahal

Topping many bucket lists, a trip to the Taj Mahal is a must when visiting India. A wonder of the world and universally admired, the mausoleum of white marble is a spectacular sight.
Built in Agra between 1631 and 1648, by order of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his third (and favourite) wife who died during the birth of their 14th child. The iconic building is a true symbol of eternal love and romance.
Easily one of the most photogenic pieces of architecture in the world, you’re probably wondering just when are the best times to visit? Two pieces of advice, early morning and evening. Although, in the morning, your view could be slightly shrouded by mist, but in the evening… expect perfection.
The orange glow of the evening sun, the warm air clearing any lingering residue and the views of the Yamuna River opening up, you don’t have to be an avid photographer to capture the most incredible photos during the golden hours of the evening.
As many as 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stone were used to adorn the Taj Mahal, making this more than just a gem on your journey through India, but a truly treasured experience.

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Staying in the city of Agra, there’s more than just the Taj on offer in the former capital city of India. The Agra Fort is a sandstone and marble masterpiece.
It runs along a 2.5km stretch of the Yamuna River and was built as a military fort by Emperor Akbar. It was repurposed as a palace by no other than Shah Jahan, who spent his last years under house arrest there by his own son, Aurangzeb.
Despite being held prisoner following an illness, which saw four of his son’s embroiled in a war of succession, Shah Jahan was given a room with a view, in a tower overlooking the Taj Mahal.
The Shah Burj, as it is known, has an exquisite marble balcony where Shah Jahan spent his final days close to his late wife, overlooking his masterpiece.
If the Taj was the jewel of Agra, Agra Fort certainly shines just as bright. The walls house a number of stunning structures such as the pearl mosque and many hidden rooms, a fantastic experience learning about the grand legacy of the Mughals in India.

Fatehpur Sikri

Panch Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri

Follow the Red Sandstone to Fatehpur Sikri, a small ghost city just west of Agra. Ranking among the most visited spots in India, the city was made the political capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585.
Fatehpur Sikri is considered to be one of the architectural legacies of Akbar, hosting beautiful palaces, halls and mosques.
From the Buland Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world, to the Panch Mahal, a beautiful 5-storey ‘pleasure palace’ used for Emperor Akbar to relax and unwind and to be used for his entertainment.
The top floor offers outstanding panoramic views of the surrounding area and the brilliant architecture within Fatehpur Sikri.
The complex took around 15 years to build and is one of the best instances of Mughal architecture and is now a UNESCO heritage centre.

Ranthambore National Park

Bengal Tiger at Ranthambore National Park

One of India’s most iconic parks, Ranthambore is best known for its population of Bengal tigers. A former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, the park now acts as home area for one of India’s most famous conservation projects, Project Tiger.
The project was launched to protect the diminishing population of tigers throughout India. With just 9 tigers in its care at the birth of the project, with the help of more tiger protection schemes around the country, India now boasts an impressive 70% of the world’s tiger population.
The importance of tiger preservation in India is more than stopping a species from going extinct, the tiger also plays a pivotal role in the health and diversity of the ecosystem.
The top predator of the food chain keeps the population of the wild ungulates (hooved mammals such as goats, cows and deer) in check, and maintains the balance between these herbivores and the vegetation that they feed on. If the tigers were to become extinct, the entire system would collapse.
Ranthambore offers more than just a chance to see the tigers up close and personal, but a real insight into India’s wildlife.
India offers one of those once in a lifetime trips of true experiences and creating lasting memories
If you’re ready to indulge in a fantastic Indian extravaganza, take a look at the full itinerary of our India’s Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambore tour, here.

The 10 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Beauty – it’s in the eye of the beholder, is skin deep and can be subjective, we know, we know…  But, it’s hard to deny that there are some destinations in this world that are drop dead gorgeous!

And, who would we be to keep all this beauty to ourselves? Of course we want to share it all with you, so whether you’re looking for a little pick me up or some hearty travel inspiration, here’s our list of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world.

1. The Norwegian Fjords


Is there anything more dramatic than a Fjord? Sheer cliffs tumbling down to sea waters with cascading waterfalls either side of a narrow channel of water. As valleys go, these are pretty impressive.
The contrast of the green slopes and the deep blue of the waters below, with a dusting of white with the snow-capped tops… we can categorically say that we do not agree with the old ‘blue and green should never be seen’ saying… in terms of travel at least… we’re not fashion experts.
The National Geographic Magazine awarded the Fjords ‘The Best Unspoiled Travel Destination in the World’, something we whole-heartedly agree with.

2. Venice


Who doesn’t want to visit Venice? Well, if you are one of those people, we think it’s time to rethink. Stunning architecture, canals instead of roads, some of the most iconic views in Europe… and Gondolas! It’s easy to see why so many people call for the charms of Venice.
In the words of Elizabeth Berkley, ‘It feels like you are transported to another time – the art, music and pure romance in the air is like no other place.’
Over 15 million visitors flock to Venice every year to see it yet it’s said to be sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimetres a year! A sad thought that global warming could eventually eradicate such an iconic part of Europe.

3. Ha Long Bay


Emerald waters, towering limestone islands topped with rainforests, of course Ha Long Bay is a popular place for travellers flying in from all over the world. It even ranks top of the list as Vietnam’s number one tourist spot.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site looks like something straight from a film, and funnily enough, it is. Recently featuring in the films Pan (2015) and the soon to be released Kong: Skull Island (2017) and even going back to James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), we’d say the ethereal setting is the real star of the show.

4. Banff National Park


Canada’s oldest national park, nestled in the famous Rocky Mountains, is something that dreams are made of. Snow-capped peaks, stunning blue waters and luscious green foliage, and we can assure you, the postcard worthy photographs you see, are certainly not Photoshopped.
It’s also the perfect place to attract some of Canada’s most interesting wildlife. The moose, the elk and even the grizzly and black bear call Banff home thanks to its variations in elevation, climate, and plant communities.
More than 4 million visitors travel to Banff National Park each year to visit the mountains that range from 45 to 120 million years old. Pretty impressive, we’re sure you’ll agree.

5. Oia


Oh Santorini, the ‘poster-island’, so-to-speak, of Greece. Even if you didn’t know, you’ve probably seen it. You can pick up postcards of its white-washed buildings clinging to a cliff edge in just about any Greek island.
But, seeing really is believing, and heading to the famous Cyclades Island is a must if you’re looking for absolute heart-warming beauty.
And where better to get an eyeful of the islands beauty than visiting Oia? Famous for its small village charm, it even offers once of the best sun sets in Europe! And, it’s easily accessible from Fira, the islands capital, making it a great stop off if you’re sailing into the island on a cruise.

6. Isle of Skye


The largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye shows us that we don’t have to leave our shores to find one of the world’s most beautiful spots.
Its rugged landscapes and spectacular scenery make it one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations, but it’s not just a pretty face.
The island has a rich history from the Jacobite rebellion, Clan Warfare and ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, it’s even known for producing some pretty impressive dinosaur fossils! But not just that, the wildlife on offer is just as impressive.
Otters, seals, whales, dolphins and red deer can all be seen in and around Skye, only adding to the spectacular beauty on offer.

7. Milford Sound


Half a world away but always worth the miles covered to get there. Milford Sound is a stunning fiord on New Zealand’s South Island that is home to Dolphins, Penguins and seals.
Mountain peaks reach as high as 1000ft, it’s considered New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction, famous for its ink-like waters and cascading forests, if this isn’t on your bucket list, it should be.
And the best thing? You don’t have to worry about the weather. We can’t fault a sunny day, but the best weather to view the sound in is actually rain! The granite peaks and no beaches mean the cliffs don’t absorb water, resulting in some pretty spectacular waterfalls.

8. Bryce Canyon


We’ve all heard of the Grand Canyon and many people have been there, seen it and purchased the souvenir t-shirt. But, we think that Bryce Canyon is more deserving of a place on this list.
With the largest collection of Hoodoos (oddly shaped pillars of rock left standing as a result of erosion) in the world, the canyon is a sight to behold. In fact, Ebenezer Bryce, who the spot was named after, is thought to have said ‘It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow’… a ‘moo’-ving sentiment.
On a good day, when visibility is clear, views of the canyon can spread for over 100 miles, deep into Colorado! And, interestingly, Bryce Canyon isn’t actually a canyon – it’s a natural amphitheatre! Either way, we’d echo the thought that it really is stunning… stunning… stunning…

9. Lake Bled


It’s got to be said, that beauty lies within Lake Bled! Slovenia isn’t one of the most famous tourist destinations in Europe, but this pretty little lake certainly makes visiting more than worthwhile.
The lake is one of the warmest alpine lakes, sitting at a pleasantly warm 26°C, and it’s tiny, tear shaped island is the only natural island in Slovenia! The church that sits on the island dates back from the 17th century, but we digress…
Just look at it! As lakes go, it’s so spectacularly beautiful, we just had to put it pride of place on our list.

10. Angkor Wat


Last, but by certainly no means least, we had to mention Angkor Wat. The largest religious monument in the world, you can be sure it’s every bit as breath-taking as you’d imagine.
Paramount Pictures even paid $10,000 a day to film in the temple Ta Promh for the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film, which led to the films lead actress, Angelina Jolie, to adopting her Cambodian son, Maddox.
The UNESCO World Heritage site’s name translates to the ‘City of Temples’ with new structures and ruins being discovered almost every year. Impressively, it was built without the aid of machinery, just the help of approximately 1000 elephants.
 
Would you add any other destinations to our list? Let us know in the comments where you think the world’s most beautiful place lies.

Paul Reed: The Legacy of Passchendaele

This year marks the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, a name that will be forever synonymous with our knowledge and understanding of the First World War, but more than that it is part of our collective consciousness of the war. When we think of that conflict we imagine endless miles of water-filled shell craters, thick glutinous mud, and everything from men, mules, guns and tanks disappearing into this mud.

All of this happened at Passchendaele; at times the landscape was as dangerous to soldiers as was the enemy shooting at them. Arguably it was the worst battlefield on which British soldiers served between 1914 and 1918; both in terms of the physical conditions and also the terrible scale of the fighting.

Hell Fire Croner 1917

What made Passchendaele such a terrible battle? It is not widely known that the first day of the battle, 31st July 1917, was a success. Most objectives were taken, and the Germans pushed off the high ground at both Pilkem and Bellewaarde. But it was a costly day, too: more than 6,000 British soldiers died at Ypres that day, one of the worst in Flanders during four long years of war.
Success, but at a cost: but another factor came into play that first day: rain. It began to rain that evening and pretty much did not stop raining for a significant period of the rest of the battle. It was the wettest summer in living memory, with huge amounts of rainfall. That in combination with the unparalleled use of artillery by both sides, the shells just destroyed the Flanders landscape.
Trenches, buildings, and the drainage systems all pulverised by warfare on an industrial scale. The water had nowhere to run except into the holes in the ground occupied by soldiers, or into the lunar landscape of shell craters. The mud became glutinous, in places almost liquid; and everything from men to every man-made object disappeared into it.
Shell Smashed Landscape at Passchendaele

Attacks failed, and the bodies of the fallen could not be recovered; with the mud and shell-fire, all trace of them was lost and Passchendaele is a battlefield that has one of the highest levels of soldiers with no known grave, now commemorated on the Menin Gate or Tyne Cot Memorial.
A century later it is easy to think that the mud, and men disappearing forever are one of the many myths of the First World War. But I have witnessed both in my work with archaeologists in Flanders.
On a dig in 2012 I saw how liquid mud, even after minimal rainfall, could drag us down and how the effort of dealing with a mud-filled landscape was almost impossible at times; and we had modern clothing, tools and no-one shooting at us!
A Century Later, Archaeologists Still Bailing Out an Old Trench

Back in 2001 I saw how the work of The Diggers at Boesinghe demonstrated that Flanders is still one large cemetery; and every year since more and more soldier’s remains are found. It will be one of the almost permanent legacies of the Great War at Ypres, along with the Iron Harvest of shells which are still being found by farmers on the old battlefields.
Archaeologists Working in the Mud of Ypres

To understand more of what Passchendaele was and what it means to us a century later you can travel to Flanders with Leger Holidays on several different tours in 2017. Join us for the actual anniversary commemorations at Tyne Cot on 31st July, or take the They Called It Passchendaele tour which looks at both Messines and Passchendaele in some depth.
You can walk the Passchendaele battlefield on Walking Ypres, and see it from ground level in some detail, and in November we commemorate the end of the battle with a special Passchendaele themed Armistice tour.
The Iron Harvest

The war poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote, ‘I died in Hell… They Called it Passchendaele’. A century on we owe to the generation which marched to Flanders in 1917 to understand that Hell and never let it happen again; and that is perhaps the real legacy in an ever changing world.
 
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Berlin: Delve into the History of the German Capital

Berlin. If there was ever a city that had it all, this is it. From history, to architecture. From war to peace, and from old to new.

Home to around 3.6 million people, Germany’s biggest city dates back to the 13th century. And, one thing we all know is that it has a rather tumultuous past.
Seeing the rise, and subsequent fall of Hitler, sustaining heavy damage through WWII. Divided by the Cold War and reunified with the help of none other than Baywatch legend David Hasselhoff.
And, with a varied past comes an extremely interesting present, you can see why the city is fascinating to many.
But, it’s not the sort of place you can only read about in book. It’s a city that you truly have to explore, with so much to see and do, it is one of the most exciting places to visit in Europe, that’s for sure.
So, let us take you through some of Berlin’s most historically important landmarks to visit on your trip to Berlin.

Berlin Wall

Whilst the Berlin Wall felt the fate of reunification when it officially became redundant on the 9th November, 1989, and the majority of the divisive wall was later torn to the ground. But, in the interest of history and tourism, part of it actually still stands today.
And, it has been reinvented as a rather unique art gallery. Consisting of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, the East Side Gallery is a canvas for artistic visions of optimism, freedom and friendship.
It also holds the title of the world’s longest open air gallery, at more than 1km in length.
berlin-mel

Checkpoint Charlie

Following the East Berlin’s communist party announcing that relations had thawed with the west, citizens from both sizes of the wall greeted each other drinking beer and champagne alongside chanting of “Tor auf!”, or “open the gate”, if German isn’t your strong point.
And, it happened. The former Allied sentry post, Checkpoint Charlie, was officially closed. But, unlike the majority of the wall, Checkpoint Charlie still, sort of, exists and has become a major tourist attraction.
Where the border once sat, it is now marked with cobbles. And a replica of the guard house and sign that marked the border crossing are sat in the spot of the original Checkpoint Charlie. A great insight into the history of a divided city.
checkpoint-charlie

Brandenburg Gate

For a real look into past, Brandenburg Gate is actually the only remaining city gate that used to separate East and West Berlin.
But, despite its unsavoury past, it’s now considered a symbol of unity, signifying the exact opposite of its intended purpose.
And, interestingly, whilst the gate is an original piece of history that still stands to this day, the Quadriga, crowning the structure actually had a little stint in another European great, Paris, in 1806.
When Berlin was occupied by the French, Napoleon demanded the bronze statue to be taken to the French capital. However, following the battle of Waterloo, it was triumphantly returned to Berlin and, once again, adorned the gate.
A cross and an eagle were added upon its return to signify the victory. But, it was soon removed from the Quadriga as the cross was thought to have associations with Prussian militarism. However, if you’ve noticed it’s still there today, that’s because it was restored after reunification in 1990.
gate

Reichstag Building

Now, if you’re looking for the most visited building in the city, the Reichstag is where you need to be. Rising high above the city, and much like the rest of Berlin, it too has had a turbulent past.
Destroyed in WWII, captured by the soviet troops and abandoned during the years Berlin was divided. But, since 1991 the German parliament voted to reinstate Berlin as the capital and move parliament back to Reichstag.
The new Reichstag building, whilst keeping its historic façade, updated its looks with a fairly impressive glass dome to get a bird’s eye view of the German capital.
reichstag

Museum Island

And talking about impressive architecture, Museum Island has plenty to offer. Yes, an island of museums situated in the Spree River has actually been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription.
Host to 5 museums, the island is unique due to its ability to illustrate the evolution of museum design throughout the 20th century. In fact, between 1824 and 1930, as each museum was built, they were done so in accordance to the art the museum would host.
So, not only are you having a cultural lesson investing in some unique art pieces, you can be sure that the buildings are a work of art, too.
museum-island
But, even with all of this, we’re still only scratching the surface of what this magnificent city has to offer. Whether you’re looking for its historic heart or simply its cosmopolitan present, there’s so much to see and do, it’s a perfect city break for everyone.
Christmas Markets, Battlefield tours and short breaks, take a look at our holidays that take in Berlin by clicking here.
 

Coming Soon to Leger Blog

Coming soon… Paul Reed’s Battlefield Blog.

Join in and experience the battlefields from Leger Holidays’ Head Battlefield Guide’s perspective as Paul Reed takes us on his personal journey through the Battlefields of Europe.

Our new feature will include regular updates from Paul. From personal encounters to new tour updates, sharing his wealth of military knowledge and research.

 
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Experience Italy like the A-List

The glitz, the glamour, is there anywhere in Europe with more top class destinations than Italy? From Como to Portofino, there’s no wonder it’s so popular with the glitterati.

With a coach full of VIP’s on each of our tours, of course we’re going to visit some of these sought after Italian escapes.
So, if you’re wanting to do Italy like the star that you are and rub shoulders with the A-list, here’s our guide to the top spots craved by A-listers from around the world, right in the boot of Europe.

Venice

Venice Grand Canal
An explanation as to just why Venice attracts people from around the globe, let alone celebrities, is probably not needed. But, we’ll give you a quick rundown, anyway – Gondolas, picturesque canals, exquisite architecture, palaces, ornate bridges, iconic squares… gelato!
Featuring in films such as James Bond epic, Casino Royale and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, who needs the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ when you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford?
And, love is really in the air! The wedding destination of George and Amal Clooney, and more recently German footballing hero Bastian Schweinsteiger and tennis superstar, Ana Ivanovic, if you’re looking for a spark of romance, this floating city has it in abundance.

Lake Como

como
Italy proves to be very popular with the Clooney’s, they actually have a residence in Lake Como. Yes, you can find George relaxing in his multi-million pound villa in Laglio. But, we don’t need to dream of that life because what Lake Como has to offer is just as impressive.
One of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, nestled in the Lombardy region and a stones throw from Switzerland, Lake Como has stunning scenery from every angle and plenty to enjoy, from boat trips to spectacular food, you’ll be living like the stars even if it’s just for one day.
Lake Como has been popular with the rich and famous for some time with the likes of John F. Kennedy and Alfred Hitchcock favouring a retreat to the lake’s shores. You really will be rubbing shoulders with the best.

Portofino

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Another picturesque hotspot, attracting seasoned globetrotters year on year, Portofino is a pretty perfect fishing village found on the Italian Riviera.
Pastel-coloured houses, high end boutiques and a harbour lined with super yachts, it’s the perfect place to hop ashore and enjoy some Italian splendours.
But who has pounded the pavements of Portofino in the past, you ask? Well, there was a well-documented visit by music power couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, as they celebrated her 33rd birthday and even Director Steven Spielberg has been spotted enjoying some down time in the resort.

Rome

rome
One of the most popular Italian destinations and lined with designer shops, incredible restaurants and, of course, outstanding sightseeing opportunities, Rome is high on the list of stars of film and stage, too.
With the likes of Richard Gere, Jude Law and pop princess, Taylor Swift, having touched down in the eternal city, you can make the most of knowing that you’ll be in great company during your visits to hot spots such as the stunning Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Vatican.

Taormina

toarmina
Nestled into the isle of Sicily, this hill top town on the east coast is linked to some iconic stars from the Silver Screen. Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor, to name a few.
The Taormina Film Festival brought the internationally famous stars flocking to this pretty little town in Italy. Sat in the shadow of Mount Etna, there was also many holidays enjoyed here, often using the old San Domenico Palace Hotel as their base, helping to make Taormina one of the legendary locations of the Dolce Vita.

Sardinia

sardinia
Last, but far from least, the world famous Costa Smeralda on the North Eastern coast of Sardinia is host to turquoise waters, some of the world’s finest white sands and multi-million pond yachts.
The rugged beauty of is awash with stunning private villas, first class restaurants and chic watering holes, and with the idyllic nature of course comes the famous faces.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mariah Carey and Heidi Klum have all enjoyed sun-soaked family holidays on the picture perfect Mediterranean island making it one of the most favoured European holiday destinations for celebrities and stars alike.
But you don’t have to be a film or rock star to enjoy these incredible destinations, why not check out our great value Italian holidays and enjoy your life in the limelight as we take care of everything for you? See all of our tours to Italy, here.
 

A Trip Up To Eagle's Nest

Shelley Pascual, a postgraduate student at Cardiff University, recently joined one of our Battlefields groups visiting the infamous visitors spot, Eagles Nest, Germany.

Shelley, currently studying International Journalism, undertook some parts of her dissertation research on our The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, guided by the fantastic David McCormack, to see what stops some British tourists visiting Germany. And, is it down to perceptions they may have?
Kindly putting together a blog, capturing her own feelings visiting Adolf Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus, or, better know to us as the Eagle’s Nest, read more about Shelley’s experience below.

A Trip Up To Eagle’s Nest

After joining a Leger Holidays tour group on their visit to Eagle’s Nest in southern Germany in June, it was plain to see why so many visitors flock to Hitler’s former holiday retreat.
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What is today a seasonal restaurant and beer garden with sweeping views of the Bavarian Alps was actually a gift the National Socialist party gave to Hitler on his 50th birthday.
Perched atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the town of Berchtesgaden close to the Austrian border, Eagle’s Nest is just one of the various “iconic and infamous” sites included in the itinerary of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a tour which examines the “dark charisma of Adolf Hitler.” The group I had the pleasure of joining consisted mainly of British pensioners who all seemed to have one thing in common: a healthy fascination for history.
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To reach Eagle’s Nest, we first boarded a bus just outside a museum which documents the region’s National Socialist past. After a steep and winding uphill bus ride, we arrived at the entrance of a tunnel in the mountainside. At the end of the tunnel, an elevator would ensure our final ascent up to Eagle’s Nest.
As I slowly made my way through the cool and damp tunnel, however, an unsettling feeling crept over me. It was then that it hit me; I was walking in Hitler’s footsteps. He had once gone through the very same tunnel and taken the same ornate, brass elevator. It was the closest connection I had ever felt to real, atrocious history.
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Coming to terms with being physically present where evil decisions were once made in such a spectacular location was something I struggled with. But after speaking with the group’s tour guide and historian, David McCormack, I gained some valuable insight.

“In the mind, is it difficult to reconcile the beauty with evil,” said David. “These beautiful sites are remote and you need remote locations for decisions about evil to take place. You need to keep these decisions secret.”
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Though it was eerie being at one of the few places in Germany where National Socialist history survives in a solid form, it was also admittedly fascinating. Indeed, people come to Eagle’s Nest for historical interest, for its undeniable beauty, or for both.
“It is seeing the places that the tour members have read about that makes the history come alive for them,” said David. According to him, Third Reich sites should continue to be visited. “If you study the past, you can understand it,” said David. “We can all, then, ensure that history does not repeat itself.”

We would like to thank Shelley for joining us and wish her well during the remainder of her studies.

Exploring Italy as a Single Traveller: Rachel Wade Visits the Süd Tirol

Having fallen in love with Italy on her first Leger Holidays trip, solo traveller Rachel Wade couldn’t wait to explore more of the country – along with a little taste of Austria – on our ‘Italian Süd Tirol & the Dolomites‘ tour.

With idyllic scenery, enticing excursions and the appeal of experiencing two cultures, a visit to the Italian Dolomites sounded like my ideal adventure. After a leisurely two days of travel, our tour group arrived at the hotel in Kiens to a warm welcome and a delicious dinner.
Italian Dolomites by Rachel Wade
On Monday we travelled through the beautiful countryside of the Italian Dolomites. The monochrome mountains, lush green landscapes and turquoise waters of the streams and lakes made for some incredible photo opportunities. A spectacular start to our holiday!
Excitement murmured along the coach as we eagerly anticipated Tuesday’s excursion to Lake Garda. The views were truly breathtaking as we drove down to the elegant resort of Riva, followed by boat trips to the equally delightful Limone and Malcesine.
Lake Garda by Rachel Wade
Wednesday began in Brunico with its bustling market, popular high street, decorative churches and hilltop castle to explore. We then headed to Lake Misurina for more spectacular views of peaceful waters and towering snow-topped mountains.
Despite Thursday’s bad weather, the sights of Venice were guaranteed to brighten our spirits! It was my first visit and exceeded all of my expectations – with meandering alleyways, tranquil canals and grand buildings, it is hard not to fall in love with the ‘floating city’.
Venice by Rachel Wade
On our last day, we visited Bolzano, a vibrant little town with lots to explore from museums and galleries to shops and market stalls. We were back in Kiens by the afternoon to pack our bags and say a reluctant goodbye to this stunning area. It was a trip I’ll never forget.
Bolzano by Rachel Wade
Why not explore more of Europe with our dedicated Single Traveller tours? See our full range here.