Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Europe 2014 - Unterammergau, Bavaria, Germany

On 15 July, we caught a train from Eisenach station...
to Munich...
Munich was, by far, the biggest train station we had seen on our trip!
This picture only reflects a small portion of it.
We were catching the 16:13 train in the direction of Mittenwald, but getting off in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to catch a connection to our room in Unterammergau.

For comparison...here's the train track in Unterammergau...
Yep...that's the only one!
Time to slow down a bit!
The village was a bit too small for Hannah's taste, but for me, it was just right!  
I could have stayed and stayed and I said that if I ever go missing, you should probably look in  Unterammergau! 

Our host, Verena, was wonderful!
When we arrived, she had a gift wrapped for Hannah because she knew that she had a birthday the day before - so sweet!
(We were crossing our fingers that it could be a German World Cup shirt, but it ended up being an apron and tea towels from IKEA that I'm enjoying very much!)
But never mind!!
Here's our bedroom...
And the incredible view from our balcony!
Isn't this gorgeous!?

The little town was so small - there was no grocery or mini market.
We arrived  in the early evening and were hungry, so we walked to the restaurant in town that Verena recommended called Stern (which means Star).
We passed great homes on the way there and back...
And beautiful barns!

We were given "English" menus.
I put this in quotes, because, honestly...I'm not sure this would qualify as an English translation.
I mean, I do recognize English words...but not really sentences.

Doesn't matter though because the food was delicious!
There were families dining in a room opposite ours, but while we were dining, we had this whole space to ourselves.

Afterward we had a good night's sleep and the next morning we walked to the train platform (just doesn't seem to qualify for a station!) to see Mittenwald for the day and have some adventures in the Alps!

 Nachte Halt:  Mittenwald, Germany

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Europe 2014 - Dachau, Germany

On our way from Eisenach to our room in Bavaria, we stopped in Dachau, Germany (just about 10 miles north of Munich) to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau is important because it was the first concentration camp built in Germany.
The camp was originally built to hold 6,000 prisoners, but when it was liberated in 1945, there were approximately 40,000 prisoners inside.
This is from the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site's web page:

On March 22, 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor, a concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. This camp served as a model for all later concentration camps and as a "school of violence" for the SS men under whose command it stood. In the twelve years of its existence over 200.000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here and in the numerous subsidary camps. 41.500 were murdered. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.

Ever since I was young and happened to catch glimpses of the Holocaust on a television program, I have been curious about the plight of the Jews during World War II.
Curious seems like a poor choice of a word - but there really are no words.

This stop was surreal.
To be walking on the road that the prisoners in this camp walked and to see barracks where they slept and lived - to see rooms where they were interrogated and tortured and to visit the crematorium where they were disposed of when they died...just no words.

This is an original watch tower and section of exterior wall.

The road and gated entrance (called the Jourhouse) to the concentration camp.
Prisoners walked these very same bricks from the main train station in town.

Work Makes You Free

Inside the Maintenance Building

Outside the Maintenance Building - the Roll Call Square

Grounds where the barracks once stood.

Inside a remaining barrack.

A ditch and barbed wire electrical fencing that surrounded the camp.
This bridge was added to the Memorial site to allow visitors access to the Crematorium.

The quote roughly translates to "Remember us who died here".
 Ovens that ran day and night, but in the end, weren't enough capacity to handle all of the dead.
Brausebad translates to "shower room".
There remains controversy as to whether this room was actually used as a gas chamber or not.

On  29 April, 1945, US troops liberated Dachau Concentration Camp.
THIS PAGE and so many like it are worth reading to understand the overwhelming reaction of the US soldiers who came to liberate this camp.
I think that in our world today we are desensitized to death and horror and the evil that man is capable of...
We see it in the movies and on the internet and the 24 hour a day news.
I doubt that many of the young American men who came here on that day in August had ever seen with their own eyes the sort of hell that existed in this camp.

Nachte Halt:  Unterammergau, Bavaria, Germany

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Europe 2014 - Eisenach, Germany

Time to leave Cologne on the train leaving at 13:53.
Military time/24 hour time.
America...why aren't you doing this?
I'd imagine almost every English speaker that ever visits Germany gets a good laugh or two from the use of the German word "fahrt".
It's pronounced just like you would imagine, but it means "ride" or "journey".

So, on this train signage, abfahrt means departure (ab = from / fahrt = journey)..."Where you are journeying from".

But wait...there's more fahrts!
  • Auf Wiedersehen und gut fahrt!  (Not a blessing for happy working bowels, but actually "Good bye and good journey")
  • Radfahrt (Just a bike ride folks - a totally rad bike ride!)
And the very silly...
  • Ausfahrt (meaning exit...so yea, that one's more translatable I think!  Ha!  
Anyway,  on our way to Eisenach, we made a change of trains in Frankfurt - had about 2 minutes to do it since our train was late leaving Cologne - but we made it!

The views on the train rides from Cologne to our final destination that day were beautiful.
For much of the way it followed the Rhine (Rhein) River.  
It was so cool to be riding through the countryside and see castles and pretty villages nestled along the river or in the green hills.
It actually sort of bothers me that I won't ever know what those castles were for...or what they are still being used for.
I love castles!

And I also love train rides that are so smooth you don't have to worry about your cool German beer from the Rheinland spilling.
We arrived in Eisenach and our sweet host, Jasmine, was waiting for us at the station with her absolutely tiny old (seriously old) car.
I had just been saying to Hannah that it seemed like all the Germans had amazing cars!
But, alas, it wasn't one of those! 

She drove us to the studio flat that we would be staying in via Eisenach's downtown so that we could see the market squares and shops and museums.
I thought that we might actually die in this tiny town as a result of a car accident.  
She was a very distracted driver.
I'm talking driving up curbs and having to break very quickly to stop before red lights.
Then once AT the red light...getting honked at from behind because she hadn't noticed it was green.
Waving at friends on the sidewalk and pointing out all the sites (and looking at them while she pointed!)
Oh...and shifting all the while!

BUT...we lived!
And she truly was a sweetheart!

She had a pretty flat for us to stay in...
(awww...I kinda want to go back there!)
And it was nice to cook breakfast - she had a fridge full of things for us to eat.

The town had so many pretty homes...
And unusual ones too...

This is the Narrow House (Das schmale haus).
Only a little over 6 feet wide - and apparently inhabited, although we didn't knock!
Now I want to go back and go inside!!
And even some homes that really loved America!
Our flat didn't have wi-fi (or wee-fee as they pronounced it), so when we went into town, we stopped at an internet cafe to catch up on a few emails.
Don't think we've ever seen a more interesting collection of people hanging around a business before.
I'm talking the "Honey Boo Boo" families of Eisenach, Germany.
We stayed for about €1 worth of time and decided that everyone back home could wait another day to hear from us!
We might have gotten lung cancer just in the few minutes we were there too.

Also while in town, we noticed a suspicious looking vehicle.  

No television or internet meant that we weren't able to watch the World Cup finals on Sunday evening.
But we were able to tell when Germany scored because we could hear the people in neighboring homes cheering!!
At the end of the game, firecrackers were set off, so we knew that they had won!

The next day, 14 July, was Hannah's 15th birthday!!
It was low key and she was really fine with that.
I mean, being in Europe is a pretty cool birthday celebration anyway!! 
We walked through beautiful woods to Wartburg Castle.
Believed to have been founded in 1067, Wartburg seems to be most noted for Martin Luther translating the New Testament from Greek to German in 1521.

Ahhh - castles!
This one didn't disappoint (except for the atrocious scaffolding!)

But once inside - it was really gorgeous!
Look at the detail on this incredible water well sculpture.
Perfect white doves!!
I climbed a tall tower (had to put €.50 in a turnstile...wth?) to get even further up to see the village around the castle.
Worth it! (but still...a turnstile??)
We were staying in that area below.

And just a few more pictures from this beautiful place...
Can that please be the doorway to my house??
Verdammt GerĂ¼st!!
LOVE this wall!!
 Oh hey there!
photo by Hannah

When we returned to our flat after the castle tour, we saw Jasmine leaving and she said that she had been there to give Hannah a little surprise for her birthday!
Is that seriously sweet or what??  
Chocolates and fruit and the nicest card.
"Dear Hannah!"

After getting something to eat, we took off on a late afternoon hike to see something called the Drachenschlucht (Dragon's Gorge) - a hiking trail with "amazing rock structures" that we will have to take "their" word on.
Unfortunately, it wasn't well sign posted and we were unsure of what direction to go.  We decided not to take the risk of being caught out in the dark on a trail.
So, we walked back towards Eisenach to chill out for the rest of the evening.
It was a treacherous trail as there were many of THESE creatures to dodge (and zombies...right Hannah?).
photo by Hannah
Seriously...they were somehow being called out of the hell that they normally live in and were all over the place!

After we went back to our room, I left Hannah and went to a little restaurant with an outdoor patio by a pond.
I brought a book and had a local beer...an Eisenacher...and just enjoyed the solitude in this beautiful amazing country that I was quickly falling in love with!
Cheers Germany!!

Nachte Halt:  Dachau, Germany