As 2014 settles into its stride, what might be in store for us all in the months ahead? That will reveal itself as the weeks roll—and I hope it’s all good, of course!
If you’re dreaming of far-distant lands, wherever they are, keep dreaming and, go on: go for it, pick up that passport and take the plunge into your dreams! If you’ve got your trip of a lifetime planned and in the pipeline, enjoy the anticipation that the lead-up to a trip is all about: thinking what it will be like; looking into the destinations you’re going to be experiencing; drawing up a ‘wish list’ of things you want to see and do once you’ve arrived.
It’s exciting to be living the anticipation.
To arrive somewhere, to travel at a time of special events, is always going to add an extra frisson to your experience—think arriving into a fiesta in Spain; being in France on 14th July; London during one of our State Occasions. You can’t beat soaking up that special atmosphere. Before you travel, such moments can bring a focus for any preparations, especially where you’re traveling with others and preparing together (think, a classroom project or simply chatting about what you might expect to see or come across).
So, as we look ahead into 2014, what notable moments are in store?
1. English Language and Literature Junkies: It’s William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday
And he’s still going strong!—Happy Birthday Will!
Just think what he’s brought to us all through language, literature and drama. Think of your favourite Shakespearean line: it all started 450 years ago in Stratford Upon Avon on an April day…
You want to pay your own homage? If in London, go and discover the amazing Globe Theatre & Exhibition at Bankside. Equally, it can be said that you’ve really not ‘done’ Shakespeare until you’ve experienced him as a ‘groundling’! If you’re travelling through the UK, enjoy a day in Stratford and experience him at the rebuilt RSC Theatre by the river—ah, sweet swan of Avon!
[copy first folio c.1623 – wikipedia]
Not to be completely outdone, there are other noteworthy literary moments this year: it’s 200 years since Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’ was first published. The year also marks the centenary of the birth of two great 20th Century authors: the welsh poet Dylan Thomas (‘Under Milk Wood’) and a native of the english Cotswolds, Laurie Lee (‘Cider with Rosie’).
That’s quite a literary year!
2. The 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the First World War
‘The war to end all wars’ as it became known. A conflict that is still studied in history, in literature and very much reflected on to this day. This was one of Europe’s dark moments and one that would have international implications. June marks the month in which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo 1914, an event that triggered the domino effect of political and military alliances that resulted in a continent becoming engulfed in war, yet again. August marks the month in which the various declarations of War were made.
The franco-german borderlands in the mid-to-southern region of France and the franco-belgian borderlands in north eastern France are the areas that witnessed the trenches for which this conflict became infamous. Elsewhere in Europe, Turkey would witness the Gallipoli landings later in the conflict.
Many nations are marking the anniversary. But even aside from such moments, you can still reflect on the impact this conflict had on Europe and its population: in France keep an eye out for the local memorials in every place you travel through; think the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and the eternal flame beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; in London, we have the Cenotaph on Whitehall (immediately outside the gates of Downing Street) as well as other memorials in London and around the country; the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey edged as always by Flanders poppies; special commemorative coins are to be minted by the Royal Mint; and sure to continue to draw the crowds, the National Theatre production of ‘War Horse’ in London’s West End. In Belgium, there remains a daily act of commemoration at the Menin Gate and the countryside of the region remains dotted with War Cemeteries.
As powerful as the day they were written, you may wish to look out some of the ‘War Poets’ – the likes of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon who, through words and as powerfully as the grainy photos of the time, bring to the reader the reality of this conflict.
3. The 70th Anniversary of D-Day (the Normandie Landings)
World War II would follow within a lifetime of the First World War. That, in itself, gives pause for thought, maybe heightened by two anniversaries occurring in the same year.
Nascent modern media and a generational closeness brings this 20th century conflict close to hand. The beginning of the end for this conflict, can probably be considered the Allied invasions of Normandie, northern France, in June 1944. It remains the greatest sea-born invasion in history and what can, quite often, seem a gamble of unimaginable consequence.
The events of D-Day would lead, eventually in May 1945, to the end of the War in Europe. On the coat tails of this anniversary, August will see the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris.
Whilst a notable anniversary, the major (and last) large-scale commemorations were held for the 60th anniversary. Those veterans still alive are, of course, now into their 90’s, hence why the Governments of the nations concerned decided on this approach for the commemorations.
This said, it has just been announced that, at the invitation of the President of France, HM The Queen will make a full State Visit to France at this time, a visit it appears will begin in Normandie. Timely and, of course, hugely symbolic for France and the UK.
Any visit to Normandie brings the chance to walk part of the D-Day area; even a chance to walk on the beaches themselves—they are, as they always have been, public beaches. The brilliant ‘Memorial de Caen’ on the outskirts of Caen, must be one of the best museums out and is for anyone wanting to learn more about the events of 1944, the wider War, human conflict across the 20th Century. A visit will reward all the time you give it.
Elsewhere in the region you will find local museums and audio-visual expositions to sketch in more background. The War Cemeteries provide a physical reminder and a chance to reflect further. If you are travelling around the time of the anniversary itself, you will see flags of the allied nations & tricolour bunting decorating villages, in commemoration.
If visiting Paris, keep an eye out for those marble plaques on the sides of buildings, particularly in the central area and the Left Bank. Pause for a read.
4. The Fall of the Berlin Wall
Later in the year marks the 25th anniversary of the ‘fall’ of the all-too-real physical symbol of the post-war divide in Europe. Combined with the events that had taken place before and that would follow, these were heady times in Europe, very particularly eastern Europe (of course) and maybe particularly so for the young populations of the nations concerned. The nature of Europe changed with those events.
If you’re visiting Germany, particularly Berlin, or further east in Europe, have a thought on the fact that the people and places you see—even the fact that you are able to freely travel as you are—it was a different landscape not too long ago!
5. FIFA World Cup 2014: Brasil!
No matter where you are, if you’re traveling in Europe at the time, expect to see and hear all about it! The world’s largest mass participation sport?—you’ll soon realise. When you’re out on the streets on a summer’s evening and the matches are underway (particularly the important ones—aka your host nation, for starters), enjoy the atmosphere. If you’re eating out and chef is trying to keep an eye on the game as he’s cooking, hey, sit back, relax, your meal will come…eventually!
6. Commonwealth Games 2014: Glasgow
OK, so this may get a bit lost amongst all the football talk but if you’re travelling in the UK in the summer, expect to hear about this. The second largest multi-event sports festival after the Olympics and Paralympics and it’s taking place in Glasgow this summer.
Over 70 nations from across the world will send athletes to compete. Their common link is their historical association with the UK. But when you think that the likes of Usain Bolt et al, athletes from Canada, Australia, South Africa and many others will be over here all aiming for ‘Gold’, it’s going to be quite an athletics show-down! And all with the friendliest of atmospheres.
Chris Relton is an ACIS tour manager from the UK. His passion for travel has taken him through Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand, the Far East, North America and Africa. In 2012, Chris was chosen to work as a volunteer at the Olympic Stadium during the London Summer Olympics Games and the Paralympic Games.