Friday, July 13, 2007

Europe: Dachau, Munich and Reutte

Rothenburg to Ruette, Austria

I can't believe I almost left out this day. You know the trip is overwhelming when the day with the best meals doesn't make top billing on my blog.

Before Venice we made a lovely stop in Austria, and crossed back over the German border into Bavaria for sight seeing.

Tuesday morning we got up early in Rotenburg and had the best breakfast of the tour. I counted 11 different types of fresh fruit/berries, plus many cheeses, buns, meat, desserts, cereal, coffee, juice, spreads, etc. Unbelievable.

We then journeyed to Dachau Concentration Camp. Brent and I watched a 20 minute documentary and then I felt so overwhelmed, I could not visit the museum. I walked the grounds and saw the huge rows of barrack after barrack where housing intended for 200 had housed over 800 in each row. The former site of the crematorium is now a memorial site with individual buildings serving as memorials for the Jews, the Catholics and the Protestants. Further on at the back of the property was the grave of the unknown prisoners and the location where ashes were buried behind the new crematorium. Dachau had a gas chamber but it was not put into service like it was at Auchwitz and other locations. As I went to exit the camp, picture-greedy tourists were holding the gate shut while they took pictures of the camp motto on the entrance: Through Work, Freedom. I could not be barred from exiting, so they had to retake their picture. It was psychologically so troubling, yet the memorials gave some closure, peace and time to pray. I have posted a few pictures here.

Our guide is German. She shared very openly and candidly about how difficult it is to have the Holocost as part of your country's heritage. She shared her own sense of a lack of identity as youth growing up in the 80s - not free to feel pride in their country because of how Hitler had abused that for his own purposes. The point is, are you judging Germans still? I have the same heritage in my background and found I myself was guilty of misjudging. It was not a bad German gene that perverted Hitler... this kind of holocost could occur anywhere when aggression is tolerated and one ethnic group singled out; where governing is done without checks and balances.

We then had a complete change of perspective as we entered Munich. The city is beautiful. We all went to the famous Hofbrauhaus - a beer garden. It is a big tourist draw (4 million visitors per year) with the most famous beer and pretzels, along with many typical dishes. This was our guide's home town and her parents and husband - an American playing basketball professionally in Europe - joined us there for lunch. We had fun, a great band playing and a good lunch to eat, then the younger group and I climbed the church tower - over 400 steps - to gain a fabulous view of the city. See photos here.

We then continued on to our hotel in Reutte, Austria, just over the border in the Tirol region. On the way we caught a great view of Neuschwanstein Castle and Hoenschwangau - the fairy tale castle used as Disney's model and the family home of King Ludwig II respectively. We would visit these the next day.

That evening we had the best meal of the tour so far... three courses plus dessert in traditional Austrian style, at the Hotel Ernburg in Reutte. Some of us walked into town for gelato and/or bank machine withdrawals or to visit a beautiful church and unique cemetary. The kids chose to play on the zip line in the playground. Others of us ventured out to the cultural evening at the community hall filled with traditional Austrian dancing and music- dulcimers, harps, accordians, slap dancing, twirling girls in dirndles and boys in lederhosen. It was a wonderful, rich experience. Photos of Reutte can be viewed here.

Great time. More about the trip in the next post.

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