The hidden history that makes Dover so exciting - a Swiss view

The hidden history that makes Dover so exciting - a Swiss view

As a Swiss, it is always interesting to hear the thoughts of tourists or expats, when they explore Switzerland — what do they want to see, what is surprising for them and what is boring. This does not only widen my horizon and lets me think about my home in a more different way, but also makes me see the somethines almost forgotten beauty of Switzerland again and being thankful that I can live here.

Dover's highlights from a Swiss tourist perspective

Famous for the unusual white beauty of the sheer cliff faces and their wartime tunnels - more on that later - it comes as somewhat of a shock that there is no sign or fence to keep tourists away from the steep cliff edges! They stand at more than 100 meters (that would be how many feet?) high. Of course, when you're there, you want to see the cliffs and take a picture: so you go all the way to the edge. Because it's a mountain, right? All safe. It has been there for hundreds of years. And anyway everyone else goes as close as possible, right?! So we too walked right to the edge. It was only later on that one of the site's volunteers told use there was no fence as it wouldn't help anyway.

Well, it would have helped us!

Taking a picture or even walking close to the cliff edge is a really bad idea, as evident in the many cases of people falling. And even if you're not too close, a landslide could make you go down in one second. Jesus...

But still no fence. I mean... what?!!

Fan Bay Deep Shelter - abandoned wartime tunnels

The hidden tunnels of Dover, constructed deep within the white cliffs in 19040-41 were used as accommodation for the gun battalion above ground and are a big tourist attraction today.

They are an enormous labyrinth of tunnels that can be visited in a guided 45 minute walk. But did you know that these historical tunnels were targeted by vandals? I mean, why do people do that - get your act together people!

“Part of the complex, regarded as an eyesore and an attraction to vandals, was deliberately destroyed in the 1970s, when the original three entrance tunnels were collapsed and filled in with rubble.  They were rediscovered when a small hole in the ground was spotted, during work by the National Trust on the site.” - The Guardian

The Lighthouse, where history was illuminated

To end with a nice surprise, South Foreland lighthouse at Dover stands proud and alone, as if straight out of a painting and oh-so picturesque. It makes a walk there, including a visit, an absolute must (and also the cake in the tiny, cute, very British cafe: Mrs Knotts tearoom). But there are even more surprises in store inside the small building. If you take the tour you'll no doubt be stunned to hear that two inventions that changed the world saw daylight for the first time (wordplay intended) in precisely this place:

  • The first steps of wireless transmission were taken at this lighthouse. The birth of the mobile phone, you could say. It was Marconi himself, who sent his assistant 50 kilometers out to sea to send him a message over the air.
  • Faraday installed the first electric light here. In that very lighthouse. Stunning!

Bonus - did you know?

The first swimmer, Matthew Webb, to swim across the English Channel, swam from Dover to Calais in 1875. It took him a casual 22 hours.