In the summer of 2015, my best friend and I were awarded a grant from Rural Trust to travel anywhere in the world to learn something we could take back to our classroom. Our grant trip took us to 10 countries and over 30 Holocaust sites. We wrote this in reverse order, so I do recommend starting at the bottom and moving up! Enjoy!
2015 Holocaust Trip
Just a note… I’m out of conditioner and body wash, almost out of shampoo and laundry soap, and my bag weighs about the same as a baby elephant or two. Must be time to shed some weight on the pack, go to the store, and try to stay in Europe a little longer… 😜 just kidding. On our long trip home.
There are WAY too many people to thank, but do want to give a little shout out to a few who I think of when I think of this trip. If I left you out, it was NOT intentional. First, Cindy, Cathie, and Tori for editing our grant paperwork, Mary Jo for many many years ago instilling in me a love for art so when I travel I anticipate excellent stops such as the Van Gogh museum, Barbara for making us read “Diary of Anne Frank” 20 some years ago and for teaching us about the Holocaust, the numerous amount of you who helped us with advice on where to go and what to see, those who are taking care of our homes and my dog back home, and Kristy for putting up with me for 28 days.
And you. Thanks for following us along the way. We really hope you’ve been reading our blog and learning along with us. Pictures are great, but they’re nothing compared with the experiences we wrote about. There was so much to take in, and we hope our students will be able to be inspired and better people because of it.
7/23-7/25 – Innsbruck, Austria and Interlaken, Switzerland
We are nearing the end of our 28 day journey and are also at the part where we have no more Holocaust items to write about! So, if you’ve been reading this for Holocaust purposes, read no more. These past three days are for fun only!
July 23rd we enjoyed a laid-back day in Innsbruck where we shopped, ate Turkish (again), then after a NICE nap, we went to a Tyrolean Folk Show – The Gundolf Family. They danced, yodeled, played a variety of music and instruments, and closed out the evening singing a song from each nation represented in the crowd except for 2-3! It was a lot of fun.
July 24th we took the six hour train ride through the Austrian and Swiss Alps to Interlaken, Switzerland. We rented a room at a farmhouse from a lady named Vera who owns two adorable goats, Florian (she pronounces it a little like Flaudia) and Bruno. They are practically her kids! They reminded me of a dog and cat, respectively. In fact, we found out that Vera rescued Florian from the butcher. She tried to get rid of him in the Alps once, but he bellowed so much they made her take him back home. Vera even walks and plays with her goats. Playing means they love sliding on their bellies down hills. Not only are the goats interesting, Vera is as well. She is a 40 year old, single woman who (as we found out over a homemade dinner with her) used to live in Argentina, dated a millionaire, has been a teacher, and now rents this 130+ year old home with her goats by her side. “Florian changed my life!” she told us. That goat sure does love her! She likes to sit outside and read or talk on the phone…. and he is right by her side, standing on the bench nuzzling her.
That afternoon we headed up the Harter Klum to get an overlook view and try to hike the Hardergrat (google for photos!). Not good. We got some great photos but then rain rolled in very quickly and for the night so the hike was a no-go.
After a rain-run, we enjoyed pizza with our host and Swiss white Merlot wine–delicious!
July 25th we woke up around 6 a.m. to journey up to the top of Europe at the Jungfrau mountain. This VERY expensive 5 hour by train round trip, is worth the time and money. The views from the ride up, down, and at the top??? Just gorgeous! We got to walk through an ice palace in a glacier, walk on snow, overlook Interlaken, fight for photo space vs. the Asians, and eat some Lindt chocolate.
The rest of the day we wanted to do a number of things, but the weather and time got the best of us. Hiking and paragliding—too windy at the top of the ridge. A boat ride—got back too late. Instead, we walked to one of the lakes, tried to walk to the other lake, and ate cheese and chocolate fondue!
Tomorrow we begin our three day journey home — Bern to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Iceland, Iceland to DC, DC to home. If anything exciting happens, and knowing us it will, we will blog about those days!
In the next week I’ll be posting photos that were not on our phones. Until then, thanks for following our trip!
Look how blue the water is here! Interlaken!
Our cute farmhouse in Interlaken!
Florian and Bruno the goats. They’re so cute!
Inside the farmhouse.
On the way up to Jungfrau.
The Top of Europe! Jungfrau.
Ice palace. We walked through a glacier!
Chocolate at the top of Europe, too!
Swiss fondue. YUM!
Took a walk to the lake. Look at this river!!!
Amy and Bruno.
The Harder Klum overlook.
Vera’s homemade pizza and Swiss white Merlot.
On the way up to Jungfrau. One of several overlooks.
7/21 and 7/22 – Fussen/Romantic Road/Castle Tours to Innsbruck, Austria
I’m going to write about our last two days together, starting with the 21st, since, well, I got behind thanks to our crazy day before.
Today we slept in, as we should’ve… We went to bed at 2 last night after our train/hotel fiasco. The tours of the castles and visit to the museum were decent. The Neuschwanstein castle, the one Disney based its castle off of, was never really finished. What WAS finished was extremely ornate and beautiful, though!
I won’t bore you with the history of the castles, you can google that on your own, but will briefly talk about their WWII and Nazi connection. We didn’t get any of this info on the tours: we had to search for it on our own. The tours focus on the royal inhabitants and the finished rooms (each tour was only 30 min long).
First, Neuschwanstein castle was used by the Nazi party to house stolen art in the war. Many of you know that the Nazi party was set in destroying, hiding, and stealing art. The movie “The Monuments Men” is LOOSELY based on this story of art espionage and the allied troops who try to track down the artwork. Thousands of pieces were saved thanks to the roominess of this castle and the persistence of these men who located all of it! Here is a good link that discusses the history about the castle and the hidden art, instead of me summarizing it. http://www.dw.com/en/neuschwanstein-a-fairy-tale-darlings-dark-nazi-past/a-17442885
The royal family who lived in the Hohenschwangau Castle were strong opposers of the Nazis, especially King Rupart who had been opposed since the early 1920s. He changed his summer home even in order to avoid any encounters with Hitler. The King and his family never joined a resistance movement but made it known they were not interested in what the Nazis were doing. In fact, Hitler invited himself to the castles and the King declined. Later, in 1944 the King did have to go into hiding, even though he had already fled the country. Some of the other royal family member were not so lucky and were taken to concentration camps. The story is extremely fascinating, and I implore you to read the link below about the royal family. It’s WAY too much to summarize, but very worth your reading time!
On that note, we found it interesting that the Nazi reign of terror wasn’t just all about the groups we’ve already shared about–Jews, etc—even the most wealthy and highest levels of monarchal rulers lived in fear in their states within Germany. We also found it interesting how LONG the King despised Hitler, even before he was chancellor. He knew he was bad news.
Anyways, that evening we went to our apartment rental in Fussen, took the advice of our hosts and ate at a Greek restaurant that had some of the best freshly grilled meat I’ve ever had–lamb, beef, and chicken!
The next day, 7/22, I woke up and ran next to the Romantic Road towards the town of the castles before we left. We took the 10 a.m. bus-train-bus-train to Innsbruck, Austria, a beautiful city nestled in the Alps. Upon arrival we found some lunch and checked into our VERY cool hotel, Nala. Check out the photos here: http://www.nala-hotel.at/en/picture-gallery/ The hotel is cooled by cold water in the walls, it’s art and design are modern and very unique, and the place just has a great vibe about it.
We did only a small about of sight-seeing. Innsbruck has a bell museum called Glockenmuseum. Though tiny, we got a short history of bells, saw how they were made, and read up on their WWII connection. Bells were used in WWII for their raw materials, specifically tin. 80,000 bells were taken and used for warfare related material! The Nazi’s took the bells to go against the church and bell makers were forbidden to make new bells, though many still did.
Then we headed down to see the somber memorial to Kristallnacht and four men who died. Though few died, the Kristallnacht in Innsbruck was one of the most violent in Austria. Around 2,000 Jews supposedly lived in the city at the time.
After that we had Magic Kebap pizza, which was magical for sure! It is kebap on pizza with some sort of tzazeiki-like dipping sauce. Yum!
We are in for an early evening, which almost feels boring since we’ve been moving so much each day! Below are probably TOO many pictures of our last two days, but these places sure are picturesque! Enjoy!
One last thing before we sign off…we’ve figured out there are six things that seem to be universal: cursing, ice cream, iPhones, email, selfies, and “Anna and Elsa” from Frozen!
Overlook from the H castle.
Looking sharp in some fun hats. No, we didn’t buy them.
There were about 1,000 people on this tiny bridge!
Amy on the carriage ride down the hill.
Kristy got to sit up front!
Our hotel was at the base!
Salud! Though NOT our cup of tea, it is customary for EVERYONE to drink Schnapps before, during, or after dinner! Licorice flavored… EEK. Burned like kerosene! We dumped most of this out secretly on the ground when no one was looking!
Our cute apartment room.
On the way to Innsbruck.
Nala – one VERY cool hotel!
Sliding bathroom door… it houses the TV!
Unique art in the hotel.
Memorial to the fallen Jews in Innsbruck Kristallnacht night.
Somewhere in Innsbruck.
Arch in Innsbruck.
The bell museum.
A bell made from a bomb from WWII
Magic Kebap Pizza. It was magic!
From my evening run in Fussen
Photos from my morning run in Fussen on the Romantic Road!
We made it to postcard perfect Innsbruck!
7/20/15 – Nuremberg, Germany – and a last minute trip to Fussen… LONG DAY.
Today we took a very expensive train ride up (I only note this because it was three times the amount for a fast train vs a regional train–45 min time difference) to Nuremberg to visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds at the Documentation Center and then the Nuremberg Trial Court. Our guide was delightful, well versed, and helped us fill in some gaps with the stories and history we’d already learned about in our other stops. Our tour was entitled “Fascination and Terror,” and as you might infer, focused on the dichotomy of the Nazi party and rise to power. I won’t write today’s blog in any sort of order, but will be trying to note some of the major things we learned on the tour and wanted to pass along or remember for later. People were fascinated with Hitler, like a rock star figure. He knew how to connect with people. Because of this his soldiers fought for HIM, not for their COUNTRY. They felt even more that they must fight hard. He was always late on purpose and always tried to do something unexpected so people would remember that day or moment. Sometimes, though there were other reasons for his actions. For example, Hitler was going to have a Peace Party at the rally yards and a few days before it was scheduled…the war started. Cancelled peace rally! Women were taken by him, and you can note this in photos from the time. Again, it was that rock star idolatry. Surprisingly, our guide pointed out that Hitler didn’t like women and probably was gay, and had some (small) bit of a Jewish connection in his family. He had men living with him most of the time, and the women he was involved with he acted as an older uncle figure. He made sure they were taken care of…but that’s about it. In fact, his niece fell in love with him and then killed herself because he didn’t reciprocate. Nuremberg perfect location as far as geography for the Nazi Part Rally Grounds. Our guide showed us a map of the town highlighting the fact that the city had housed the first two German empires. Hitler’s grounds were almost 4-5 times the size of the areas of the 1st and 2nd empire centers and his pointed in their direction. The location allowed for the name: the third reich. Interestingly enough, the war broke out and Germany was broke, so very little ever was finished construction wise. The grounds were to be an enormous empire center. Congress hall was going to hold 500,000. Some was finished, however. The marching area almost two miles long. There were barracks for visiting people. Hitler youth (boys) wanted to come, and they did. It was an adventure away from their family and a way to show their patriotism. Hitler always stood above when speaking, here and all other places. Yes it was symbolic, but even his personal photographer made sure to emphasize this often. You might note in many photos of him speaking that he was above all and everyone else a mass of gray. All the same. Even some of the propaganda posters displayed this. One we saw today was of a giant golden eagle and swastika, bigger than whole town on poster. The gold was also symbolic of the the prestige of the empire. Party of the idea of “fascination” was that obsession and patriotism. Hitler and the Nazi’s knew, as we’d already learned, that the way you divided, united, or talked to people could lead to power instantly. It worked. Every person (except Jews) were expected to join a social group. Each group met together, splitting up the family cohesion, meaning organizational ties often became more important than family. Hitler’s power had little to do with his education, our guide pointed out. Hitler had little school education and had no prestigious background of any kind. She said he was basically a nobody. Hitler gave two speeches a week on the radio. Brought everyone together as a community and helped to establish the country’s oneness, sameness. The rise to power might have appeared slow at first, but there was, in four months time in 1939, the quick rise that we are most familiar with. A law was passed that anyone could be arrested for any reason without trial, and parliament passed a law saying Hitler didn’t need their approval, basically voting themselves out. And then there were no other parties. Beforehand, there had been elections every four months or so and many parties. One of the things rarely discussed when it comes to Hitler and the war is the financing. There are many truths and even some theories about the importance of the money, where it came from, how it influenced who was in charge, where it was going, etc, but I’ll save some of that for another day (or have my dad write about it. He knows a ton about that part of the war.) We did learn, though, again along the lines of that “fascination” that bankers were willing to finance and bend rules to get Hitler any money he needed. Since we are teachers, our guide showed us some artifacts about the educating of children. Board games (for kids) were centered around getting the Jews out of town. Even children knew the stereotypical look for a Jew. Big nose, misshapen (shoulders or cane), hat, bag to hide stolen things, and would draw them just as often as our kids draw puppies and dump trucks and their families. In textbooks, Jews were ridiculed in text and the pictures. For example, we saw that a student could learn to write the number 6 because it looked like a Jewish nose. Even Hitler told young boys he wanted them to “be fast as a greyhound, strong as steel.” One question we have kept asking through this trip was why all the documentation? We asked. Meticulous record keeping existed because it is “German.” Germans like things to be neat and organized. This is why German busses are never late! (Unlike Italy….) Last, art. We haven’t discussed that much either. People in Nuremberg started underground bunkers to protect their art, in 38. (Saved all of it.) War didn’t start until 39. Hitler spoke only of peace in speeches…but they knew what was coming. Artist intuition! On to the Nuremberg Trial Court location… This place has some interesting history. The allies organized justice and a joint trial instead of immediate death (didn’t want to stoop to the Nazi level), which included four languages (MANY interpreters), 24 men on trial, 139 witnesses, eight judges, and almost a year of deliberation before sentencing, and that part only took two days. These men were tried on conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity. The evidence, besides the witnesses, included unseen camp videos (which were macabre and horrifying), posters of propaganda, and photos. The Nazi documentation we spoke of? It was finally used against them in these and other trials. After we arrived back at the train station, we made what we thought was a wise decision to check on and purchase our ticket to Fussen for the morning. It was a wise decision, but we had to make some quick choices. Long story short, the morning train had part of a leg cancelled so we had to buy a 9 pm ticket out, book a hotel, and get to Fussen so we could see castles tomorrow and not miss our reservation. And this, is the story of our lives! It’s ALWAYS something on a trip. At least we had time and Internet to figure things out (our calling plans were not working in Munich). Well, then the story gets interesting. We arrive in Fussen around 11:27, walk to our hotel only to find it is closed. There are several notes on the door, but none of them had our names on them. A couple from Norway walked by and after some conversation, they let us up in their room to try to call the hotel, get our room, and so forth. Still no luck. Ready to sleep outside in our minds, sort of, we decided to walk to the city center and find a hotel, which was still a long shot. There was ONE still open, but they were full, and the desk worker helped call around to find a place. There was ONE room open in a town 3 km away, and it was a single room—as in a twin bed for 140 euros room. That hotel worker said we could both stay there if we wanted. After thanking the man, we walked back to our hotel one more time to try to read the note (again) and use google translate (yes, we siphoned the internet from the hotel) to try to see if it was for us. A man across the street came over and offered to help by trying to figure out the situation, and even said we could spend the night at his place. Now, we are adventurous, but not THAT adventurous. We thanked him, walked back to the station, found a cab, and headed over to the hotel with the last room. It was a tiny room, but they added a twin bed somehow, and the hotel ended up being perfect. They held our luggage, had breakfast included in the cost, and got our tickets ready for us for the castle tours! Boom!
Size of the Nazi party rally grounds.
“Fascination” – note here the ages and faces. Hitler’s charm spanned all generations.
“Terror” – this photo is perfectly staged. Hitler’s private photographer was genius.
Reich above Nuremberg.
Depiction of Jews.
Newspapers like the Storm Trooper were anti-semetic. The bottom reads “The Jews are our misfortune.” Kids could write in and be hateful towards the Jews, even!
Textbook. Notice the 6 and the Jew’s nose.
Jews out of town game.
Real drawings from kids, age 6, during the time period.
Congress hall. It seated 50,000
The documentation center.
The Nuremberg courthouse trial.
All those who were hanged ended up in Life magazine! Gross!
This is for real. I sleep ALL the time on the trains and buses. No wonder my neck hurts almost every day. 😦
We made it to Fussen!
7/19/15 – Munich/Dachau – A very tough tour today.
The morning could have started out on a better foot. Though we made it to the train station okay, and then to our tour, some college aged kids from the USA were on the same train as us to Dachau Concentration Camp cracking Holocaust jokes and lying to the conductor about being in our tour. No wonder Europeans dislike us at times. People like this make us sound like idiotic, insensitive, arrogant jerks.
But onto our tour… our guide today was excellent, and spoke a lot about the political side of why and how the Nazi’s rose to power. As we walked into the camp, she noted that the gate had been stolen in November, and since there is poor surveillance at the camp, it could happen. The “work sets you free” faced the outside world, as a slap in the face each time the men returned if they were out working in the area that day.
The camp is considered a graveyard and memorial and run by an alliance of survivors. Most of the camp was destroyed years ago, and only a few original buildings still exist. They rebuilt some of the barracks for visitors to see what they were like.
60,000 + survived and 32,000-41,500 perished here (number reports vary) at the first concentration camp (note: it was not set up as an extermination camp, though some eventually had that end), which was set up to house men who were political prisoners who opposed the Nazi party. Over 2,000 clergy/priests where also housed here. Of all the prisoners, 13,000 died in the last four months before liberation, and 25% total deaths were those of the Jews. 4,000 were Soviet POWs. Our guide also made sure to let us know that this was a camp many could actually survive if they didn’t get sick because there was less of a chance of extermination. The camp was set up for 6,000 to fit, but at peak, it was believed to hold around 30,000 or more.
Any German could be held in prison without being charged. This made it possible to bring people to camps who were considered “political opposers.” Even a simple accusation could land you in this camp.
Men had to keep the rooms very neat and tidy or face consequences of horrid torture. 54-72 might be in one room of the 34 wooden barracks. Floors and windows were cleaned three times a day and then inspected. Beds and sheets had to be perfectly aligned. No shoes were allowed in the barracks, either. One quote on the wall from a prisoner of Dachau read, “I’ve never experience such terror with such cleanliness.”
Some of the torture and consequences we learned about included a sick parade for dying, high altitude experiments where they would also take pictures to see what happened (over 400 died this way and there are photos at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC), hypothermia experiments, malaria breeding mosquitos infected prisoners on purpose, dying people were tied to a bed and given lots of water so they would wet their pants and people could make fun of them, some prisoners were hung on poles and the building it was done in echoed. Everything could be heard. At this camp, though, they didn’t use Germans in experiments. Only Jews and others. And… the camp issued it’s own death certificates. Again, why?
Here they didn’t exterminate large amounts, in fact, it is believed the gas chamber building was never used. Maybe because the SS members families were nearby. They can’t say. I got extremely emotional walking through the chambers, though. You walk in and each room reads in simple sentences: prisoners came here first. Prisoners removed their clothing here. Prisoners waited in this room for what was believed to be a shower. This was the gas chamber, set up to appear to be a shower. Bodies were then brought in here for the crematory. And by the time I made it into the crematory, the tears were flowing.
It didn’t matter to me whether or not these rooms had actually been used for killing. There were so many like this all over Germany and Europe in the camps we had already toured and read about, that walking through the ‘process’ was enough to feel its reality.
The gas chambers, we found out, were set up by the head of the SS to separate the killers from the victims. Mass killings in this way were systematic, removed, and the SS leader wanted to keep a generation of leaders from being emotionally wounded from any personal/close contact type of killing, if possible. He simplified the killing for the killers.
After liberation, the townspeople of Dachau, around 10,000 people at the time, were taken through the camp so they could see what actually occurred right in their back yards. The US used the camp to hold the Dachau trials, where 450 death sentences were issued, but only 100 were carried out.
It was said that when people entered Dachau they had to give up three things: property, rights, and human dignity. What’s worse than your dignity? Absolutely nothing.
After we got back to Munich, we did do some walking and site-seeing. We visited St. Peter’s cathedral where we saw some very unique relics and dead martyrs (see photos or google it), the Munich City Museum where we went to the “Rise to Nationalism” Nazi related exhibition, the city center with the Glockenspiel that sounds three times a day, took a super crowded stroll in the English garden which had a Japanese and Cosplay fest going on, saw the enormous Hafbrauhaus (beer hall), got some good luck from the Juliet statue, saw the famous town maypole, and of course found some delicious dinner and dessert!
Off to Nuremberg tomorrow for a tour.
Camp entrance and our guide.
Where the gas chamber process began.
Memorial to the unknown prisoner. In the camps, prisoners weren’t allowed to have their hands in their pockets. Since his are, this is to represent all of the liberated prisoners.
Memorial to those who committed suicide or died trying to escape.
The maypole in Munich.
A dead ? and then a dead, female martyr in St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Apparently rubbing Juliet’s breast will bring you love if you’re unlucky in love. I’m not sure I am lucky or unlucky at this point in my life, but it brought me a hot hand that almost burned because the sun was shining down on the sculpture!!!
The beer house: Hofbrauhaus. It was huge!
We went to the English Gardens. You’re supposed to be able to see nude bathers there. We saw a Japanese and Cosplay fest. That was interesting enough.
Dinner and apple strudel!
Propaganda poster. Jews were depicted here as evil, money stealing, communist, Bolsheviks.
7/18/15 – Hallstatt – the most amazing place on earth (besides Glacier National Park) (PS don’t forget we didn’t blog the day before, but I added an additional “bonus” blog about how Kristy and I fight travel together and why we won’t try the Amazing Race, meeting new people, and Europeans. 😉 Scroll past our 500 Hallstatt photos to read it!
Today we ventured by bus down to the fairy tale town of Hallstatt, a protected UNESCO location. It is every bit as amazing as our photos below indicate. The weather is cool in the evening and morning, but we did get a little hot in the late afternoon trying to find our B&B. Since we were headed back to Salzburg to then go to Munich the next day, we left our big packs in a locker. Upon arrival in Hallstatt, and after we took 1000 photos, we grabbed some food at the supermarket (something we love doing—food is very inexpensive there and you can always find the perfect assortment of lunch/dinner items–sandwiches, chips, drinks, fresh fruit, chocolate, wine, and pizza, to name a few favorites of ours through the years). We hopped on another bus to Oberstraun, a town 3 km over. We took the cable car up the mountain to the ice caves and an overlook called the five fingers. The ice caves were fascinating, beautiful, and flipping cold! 0° Celsius. Guess who forgot her coat? Yours truly. I survived. The overlook was a hike (we think a mile) we didn’t expect, but the view, as all have been so far, unprecedented in its beauty! We tried to get back to Hallstatt to do a salt mine tour, but didn’t make it in time, so we meandered through town with our map trying to locate our place in the high heat of the day. Keep in mind we had emailed this lady months ago and only heard back from her once. We printed what she sent, mapped the address, and crossed our fingers. Our reservation was real! “Kristina?” The woman declared in broken English as we walked up to the house. “Two guests?” She then showed us the room and bathroom. This elderly lady (in her 70s or 80s) was as cute as can be and was a stress bucket. Will explain more about her later. For dinner we walked to the town center, where there was a sundowner concert taking place (that was the name they ascribed to it!). What a delight! The town square was tiny, but was full of a band, people, and the local restaurant there had all their food out, and it was inexpensive. We tried open faced sandwiches with pumpkin, spicy tomato, fish, and potatoes on them, respectively, Portuguese wine, and two desserts. We also tried Bosna, a sausage sandwich our guide in Salzburg recommended. After dinner we tried to rent a boat but they all closed for the eve. The next morning, I woke up for a nice run along the lake, then came back for breakfast by our host. She was nervous. She brought me coffee instead of tea and hot milk instead of cold. She didn’t understand why Kristy wanted only water to drink. Our meal was traditional European: rolls, cheese, butter, meat, and she also had apricot jam. After breakfast we booked it to the salt mines. What a very cool experience! The tour was one of our favorite things we’ve done so far. You get these scrubs to put on over our clothing to protect us from the mine, then we walked 300 meters into a cool mine (41° Fahrenheit). We saw two levels of the mines, called horizons. To get from one to the other you must slide down wooden slides. The first was easy. The second was 68 meters. I got up to almost 30km per hour! It was fast and fun. I lost my hat in the gift shop and had to go ALL the way back up the funicular and the hike up the hill to get it while Kristy found us lunch before we headed 2 hrs back to Salzburg then on to Munich. Our place in Munich is the absolute cutest! Books everywhere, quotes on the walls, and our host you can tell loves wine and apple products so we think she might be okay. LOL. We took her suggestion to eat at a Chinese place called Mimi, and since the menu was in German and our waitress spoke next to no English, we totally guessed on our order. We ended up with wontons filled with ???, chicken and pork with veggies and rice, and some shot of a fruit juice supposedly with alcohol in it to close. Tomorrow we are off to tour Dachau.
Breakfast at the B&B
Fun sign in town
Train on the way OUT of the salt mine.
Up above Hallstatt
Our cute B&B
Bosna is DELISH!
Local treats during the sundowner concert!
Near the ice caves:
Up by the 5 Fingers.
On the way to our place!
Up the funicular to the salt mines!
This guy points you to all the right places in Hallstatt related to the salt mines.
Slides in the salt mines are fun AND scary at first!
Want to move here yet???
We are on the 5th floor in Munich…
Why we won’t go on the Amazing Race, and why Switzerland and Kristy and I are alike: An entry… Just for fun! 7/17/15
And now for something completely different… Today we are going to blog about traveling with each other, the people we have met, some of the things we bicker and fight about, getting around in a foreign country, and some things we have learned. And one of my friends asked why we haven’t tried out for the Amazing Race— well, we aren’t ready to show the world, and our families, that it would just be one really long fight. First, traveling in Europe last summer helped to prepare us for his summer. It’s one thing to have a guide and/or a prearrangement. It’s another to get a map and then go. Each city and town is different when it comes to the quality of map you can find as well as the the ease of use of the public transportation. Most places you’ll find TWO maps… One of the transportation (bus, tram, trains) and another of the city. Rarely will you find an overlay of the two that makes sense. And keep in mind that Kristy and I are actually very good with directions and maps. And we have some fights about which way to go according to the map. And our answers come in levels of confidence: 100% sure this is the right way, I think, and no clue. If I answer with the latter two, Kristy doesn’t want me just going with my gut. Occasionally we don’t mind to screw up and get a little “lost” as it can make things interesting or allow us to find an hidden treasure. It’s the adventuresome spirit in me. But sometimes one of us contends we’ve wasted and waste too much time doing that and should just get to where we are going. If it’s a time constraint, things can get a little more heated between us. We fight about other things too, which will not be listed in this blog, but now you know we really don’t always get along! Often, we swear in every city, we are asked for directions by others. It makes me wonder if we are walking around exuding confidence that screams, “hey! We know what we’re doing!” Imagine how cocky we’d look if we really always knew what we were doing! Hehe. And people sometimes think we are locals. Kristy and I could belong anywhere in Europe, and especially Kristy with her blonde hair and blue eyes, so maybe that’s it? So far on this trip we’ve been asked if we are from Germany, Britain, Norway, and well, everywhere but Poland. Now keep in mind, we have our backpacks and usually a map in hand while out and about and people still seem to find us! And not to stereotype, but many believe women are horrible at directions. So why ask us? We’ve had many men ask for help too! (Kristy even got asked for directions two years ago while at Machu Picchu—she clearly doesn’t look like a local there!) On my run this morning a man stopped me to ask how to get to the paragliding spot. It’s never ending! Now on to people. We don’t always try to strike up conversations with strangers, but on trips it can both pass time and allow us to learn all sorts of new things and make new connections. In Amsterdam, we found ourselves in line for the Anne Frank House next to a woman who was traveling alone and clearly from the USA. In the blistering hot sun, we talked for about an hour and found out she was also in Europe on a grant to learn at a Jewish institute in Israel, is an AP English teacher from Tennessee, and had been on Kelly and Mike and been on a trip the summer before. We exchanged info and emails at the end of our wait! The next friendly soul we met was our host, Jasmin, in Celle, Germany. She immediately made us feel welcome and was extremely helpful before during and after our short stay there (we visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp). She has a bubbly and cheerful disposition and asked to follow our blog and become Facebook friends, and we are looking forward to keeping in touch. She also speaks excellent English. We have noted on our trip how insecure many Europeans are about their English. We try to reassure them not to worry! At the Mundo restaurant in Celle, the waitress was shocked we were in her town. She also spoke excellent English and had been to the states and knew of Missouri! Which leads us to our next topic–opinions of Missouri and the USA. After we tell people we are from the states, we are asked where and we say the middle and Missouri. So far we have heard comments of: oh, fly over land? You have tornados? Or where is that? One man had been to the arch. Another man had seen all the drama in Ferguson on the news, and we had a long conversation about racism. We also have had a few conversations about the way Europeans act. Now keep in mind they (Europeans) are all not like what I’m going to write about, but many are. First, people do not move out of the way for you on sidewalks, or really anywhere. I do not understand! It doesn’t matter if I’m running or walking. It’s like being at high school where my students are so engrossed in their phones that they aren’t paying attention–only these people ARE paying attention. There is a lack of this type of common courtesy we are used to. One man even made a raspberry noise at me when I moved out of the way, and around some construction platforms to make room for him! So rude. On our way up to the ice caves yesterday on a small trail, mind you, no one would get over to their right! In fact, a woman refused to move while I had only a drop off of 100+ feet on my right so I let her hit me (it was better than the alternative…) then Kristy and I made sure by our “geezes” to let her know she was clearly out of line (and in the way!) Another thing we have noted is how everyone exits a plane. In the USA, you exit row by row. Here, doesn’t matter! First up is first out! Then when it comes to the language thing, we’ve had two Germans we talked to make fun of us for knowing English and no German. No offense, but I’d rather learn Spanish which is why I took a few years of it oh high school! Our tour driver in Poland was fun to talk to about our perceptions of what is rude and not rude. We explained to him our cultural norms of politeness and common courtesy. He mentioned how he agrees and when he was a bartender he thought the French, Spanish, and the British were the rudest and messiest and loudest at the bars. He did say the Brits were the loudest bar attenders. It’s funny how even in other countries people have these perceptions of the other neighbor counties just like we do of people from Arkansas…. Might I throw this in here next: Europeans fit one of two levels of scent–disgusting or amazing. There is no in between. We had one young tour guide in Copenhagen who about knocked us dead with his body odor. The teacher in me about spoke up. On to another story about a man we met… on the plane to Copenhagen we sat by one of the most strikingly handsome men (think: a thinner Ryan Gosling and Kristy snuck a picture) we’d ever seen who wanted to talk about where we are from and also what he did. He was well traveled and was an interpersonal designer, which is similar to an engineer, only more focused on the human aspects of designing products. He noted it was a newer and fascinating job, but it has made him cynical. We discussed Switzerland since we are going there soon, and he noted how funny our perception of that country was. We have always thought Switzerland = neutral and peaceful. He said they as a country are always bickering within themselves and it actually has allowed for the country to find stability. And maybe if that is all true about Switzerland, that is a metaphor for Kristy and I and our 5-10 silly fights a day over who is right and wrong about this that or a map–but we still aren’t going on the Amazing Race anytime soon.
7/16 Thursday – Salzburg – Lots of Sound of Music, but some depressing stuff for you too…!
We began our Thursday with the original Sound of Music tour. What a delight! Our guide knew EVERYTHING about the real story, the movie, the music, and he was absolutely hilarious. Our bus took us by the sites in the film including the church where they were married, the gazebo, the lake, Mirabell Gardens, different houses that were used, and the mountains used in the film were also pointed out. I’m pretty sure the entire soundtrack got played on the bus, as well. Sing a long? You bet that happened! The whole bus joined in with “Doe an Dear…” when our guide made us all sing together. After our tour we ventured 35 minutes down the road to take the cable car up the Untersberg and what a panorama! We got to see a 360° view of the mountains and hills surrounding this part of Austria. It was hot today… 93, so dinner, though delicious, was a little miserable, as was some of our moving from point A to point B… We rounded off the evening with the “Sound of Music” marionette show. Ten puppeteers controlling the marionettes—phenomenal! Though marionette puppets I contend are still somewhat creepy, this stop was well worth the time and money, and not creepy. A must see if you come here!!! When it comes to the narrative of the Holocaust and WWII, the Von Trapp (Sound of Music) story is interesting and important to tell, because it’s a side we usually don’t consider. Here you had a man who was not interested whatsoever in joining the Nazis as they overtook Austria, and had heard warnings of what was and was to happen. They wanted out. Though the movie fictionalizes how, the family did escape to Italy first, then made enough funds to arrive in the USA. They landed with $4 to their name, and after traveling for a few years they were able to buy land in Stowe, Vermont where their lodge still exists today (and we’ve been there… It’s beautiful!). Read more here about their true story: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps.html Also note this paragraph from the link: “When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, the von Trapps realized that they were on thin ice with a regime they abhorred. Georg not only refused to fly the Nazi flag on their house, but he also declined a naval command and a request to sing at Hitler’s birthday party. They were also becoming aware of the Nazis’ anti-religious propaganda and policies, the pervasive fear that those around them could be acting as spies for the Nazis, and the brainwashing of children against their parents. They weighed staying in Austria and taking advantage of the enticements the Nazis were offering—greater fame as a singing group, a medical doctor’s position for Rupert, and a renewed naval career for Georg—against leaving behind everything they knew—their friends, family, estate, and all their possessions. They decided that they could not compromise their principles and left.” Like yesterday, we did find many new brass plaques in the ground again. In a town that commemorates “The Sound of Music” there are people doing their part to remember via these plaques those who were deported by force, not by their gut feeling to leave as the von Trapps. We did note that several plaques noting people who were sent to the castle Hartheim, an extermination location that was mostly for the disabled or who we might label as a SPED student at school. If you’ve heard of the Action T4 by the Nazis, Hartheim is one of the places these actions were carried out. One of the sickest things we read about T4 and the killing of millions is that the Nazis actually calculated how much money was saved by the extermination of people! For example: “The Hartheim statistics included a page on which it was calculated that “disinfecting 70,273 people with a life expectation of 10 years” had saved food in the value of 141,775,573.80 Reichsmarks.“When we return with stories for our students, we know we have some who will make personal connections to leaving a place for someplace better (i.e. family issues, immigration related things, religion, etc) or the connection to our SPED students. Mistreatment isn’t necessarily in the form of extermination currently in the USA, but it does occur in other formats related to bullying, being unkind, and racial issues. We’ve seen and heard so many stories so far, and most of us are already familiar with this one, and we were glad to experience two different takes on it today! Off to Hallstatt tomorrow. We are anticipating no internet. Google the town to see where we are headed! Nothing Holocaust there. Just a world wonder of a town.
Thursday market breakfast finds:
Our guide, Peter.
“Is Maria yawning?” Peter asked. He also told us, “Single ladies! Be a nun, then go on vacation and you might end up married and with 7 kids!”
On our way to Monsee, Austria to see the church from The Sound of Music.
Behold, the church.
Ate at a cute cafe! Appropriately named.
On our way up the Untersberg.
More brass plaques.
Dinner. More traditional Austrian. Delicious!
The marionette show!
And more plaques…
Amy is 16 going on 17… at the original gazebo.
7/15 Wednesday – Salzburg
We took a late night flight to Salzburg, Austria last night, found our hotel thanks to a taxi driver, and then woke up early to head up in the mountains in Bavaria to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Hitler had it built visit and plan, though his girlfriend/wife spent more time there. He came up only around 10-15 times. Today this place is worth 140 million euros, and rightfully so. It is huge and almost everything is “authentic” as our guide put it (original)–quite an architectural masterpiece with thousands of stones, bricks, and a marble fireplace from Mussolini. The elevator held around 30 people, and yes we were cramped, but it was a big elevator–Hitler was claustrophobic. There is obviously nowhere higher you could get in the area, perhaps indicative of the level of power Hitler thought he had achieved. There were only three roads in, and they were very narrow, and our guide said the steepest roads in Germany.
We ate lunch at a small town at the Golden Bear on our way home with a couple from Oklahoma. Very nice people! I ate a traditional mashed potato and sausage lunch (the mashed potatoes were closer to a potato salad flavored au gratin cut, not mashed!), and Kristy had mushroom dumplings. Dumplings here are more like stuffing, not like the ones we ate in Poland!
The rest of the day we visited the fort on the hill here in town by going up the funicular, saw some marionettes at a display at the top, walked around part of the Old Town of Salzburg, and walked through a catholic cemetery that was partially in the hill by it. At dinner we had more local cuisine: chocolate cake (sachentorte), spinach and parmesan dumplings, boiled beef and veggies (similar to roast), and goulash with sauerkraut.
On our way back to our place, we heard lots of live music including a military band, walked through the Mirabelle Gardens, and also we were able to locate some brass Holocaust plaques imbedded in the sidewalks. These honored men and women who were taken from this area, and often the plaques were indicative of the actual place the person might have lived. Their names and date of deportation scripted on each one.
Pano shot from up at the Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.
Amy at the top of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest mountain. You can see the Eagle’s Nest behind her in the 1st photo.
We ate lunch and found QUITE the typo!!!
Local faire: “mashed potatoes” and sausage. Very good!
Beautiful cemetery near the fort in Salzburg. Thanks to Zeina for the recommendation!
“Love is All” on the lock bridge. This city reminds me of Paris, only much cleaner!
Wandered through the Maribell Gardens this evening. Also very Parisian feeling, only again, cleaner. 🙂 A military band was playing. The park was full of life and music!
Jewish brass plaques.
The lock bridge
Amy loves chocolate cake!!! This one was dry, but the icing was great!
City overlook from the fort.
Top of the fort!
Cemetery I mentioned above.
The river is crystal clear!
Tunnel on the way up to the top of the Eagle’s Nest.
Our guide, Johannes. He was hilarious! He’s yelling to all 120 of us, “Come to papa!!!”
7/14 Tuesday – Photos from Auschwitz-Birkenau, yesterday, and Oslo.
I’ve had some major photo issues, and no clue why. Finally decided to do this the easy way! Here are some photos from Auschwitz, yesterday, and Oslo. Enjoy!
Photos from my run in Krakow. I went up the hill to the Wawel castle!
Photos from Auschwitz-Birkenau
Limbs from amputees:
Cups and bowls:
Cosmetics and combs:
Schindler’s List of names:
Kristy in Oslo, Norway
Amy found her absolute FAVORITE chocolate in the world in Norway!
Our place in Krakow.
7/14 Tuesday – Auschwitz-Birkenau
First, before you read this post I recommend watching this short video of a drone flying over the camp without any visitors in it. It will allow a visual for those of you who are reading today’s blog. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=449ZOWbUkf0 Second, I highly recommend buying and reading this book as it corroborates much of what we heard today on the tour. http://www.amazon.com/Auschwitz-True-Tales-From-Grotesque/dp/0807841609 The video and book are not the same as a visit, but are actually a close second to what you’d see and hear on a tour here. So on those tiny notes, let’s move on to the day; we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Schindler’s factory.
Auschwitz-Birkenau camp… The amount of torture, extermination, and removal of human dignity that occurred here is beyond human language and thought. I’ll humbly attempt, though, (and Kristy too) to put into words some things we saw and internalized today on our tour. Excuse my poetics and some of the grotesque content, if you will. Reflection, to me, holds power in remembering places such as this. Here begins a long post… but necessary.
Doctor. Musician. Teacher. Skilled worker. Baker. Artist. Priest. Mechanic. War and the evil within it, like cancer, knows no boundaries of status, socioeconomic standing, occupation, gender, or the like when it comes. Photos of many of these men and women line the walls of the blocks and barracks of the death camp—showing their emotion, or lack there of, much like a mug shot, next to their names, occupations, and birth and death date. We questioned: why even bother documenting any of that at all when you’re going to murder them eventually? Sometimes up to 12 pages of paperwork for each person was filled out as each came into the camp. Why? But then there were the nameless. For many of us, names are very powerful and meaningful. We were named after someone, something, or because of what the name means. At the end of the war, trains would arrive to the camp platform, where flowers were blooming gleefully. The camp didn’t look so bad, and these new arrivals had no idea what was happening or would happen very soon. And the sign read “Work sets you free.” Freedom and flowers. Such a lie. The Jews getting off the trains would be told to strip naked, remember which number sign they put their clothing and shoes and personal items by so they could gather them later, then they were escorted to what they were believed to be shower rooms. They were actually gas chambers. No one was asking or documenting names then. You weren’t even a number. You were a body, if that, a problem that would disappear in this ‘final solution’. And this solution was at epic proportions before the allies liberated the camps and the war ended–in fact, so many Jews were arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau that the gas chambers and crematories could not keep up, causing mass shootings, then the burning of all of those bodies immediately thereafter. It was believed that 20,000 a day were being killed at that time. The overage of ashes were thrown in the river nearby. “A factory of death” is the name our guide ascribed to the camp. Everything was well planned, executed, and useful, and I use that last word fully in its context. Let me explain–ashes were used to fertilize farms, bed mattresses were stuffed with human hair, and hair was also used to create other textile products. Everything had a purpose–like that of a factory. Some of the artifacts we saw today were piles of hair, shoes, glasses, suitcases, and cosmetics. The artificial limbs were also taken from each person before they were exterminated. Why? Why not burn them with their bodies? The area the camp was built in was already a community, but as the war passed and the final solution was to be implemented and carried out, the Nazis made sure the land surrounding the camp was unoccupied then reoccupied only by the Nazi camp leaders and their families so locals didn’t know what happening. Of these leaders, only 10% were ever punished. Many, such as the famous evil doctor Mengele, escaped to other counties and lived out the remainder of their lives, unpunished. Was there ever any remorse? Auschwitz is huge. If you watched the video above or have seen photos, you’ll note that very quickly as it was basically a three part camp (supposedly there were also 40 close camps nearby that were also connected to it). Each of the wooden barracks were originally set up for 52 horses but housed 400 people, sometimes who had to sleep 12 per bunk (twin size) in a place where in the winter it could be considerably below freezing and only one bucket of coal per day to keep everyone (supposedly) warm. When the camp became more and more full, sometimes up to 1000 were in each barrack. Cynical phrases were posted on the beams: stay healthy, be quiet, get rest, keep clean. Block brick houses were a little better; usually two slept to a bed there. However, right next to these blocks were where many of the more horrid crimes took place besides starvation and immediate gassing– the shootings, medical experiments, a suffocation room, starvation rooms, gas chambers, and standing block/rooms torture (you basically had to stand in a one meter squared area with three other people for an unknown amount of time). We saw the location of the execution wall where over 4,000 were shot. If someone escaped from the group you were in, 10 were taken and executed in punishment for that action. We heard the story of a man who sacrificed his life for man who had a family and was to be a one of the 10. We heard stories of the propaganda of postcards–people would write home saying they were well and being treated like kings and queens. They were post-dated three months, and usually those who sent it had been long dead by the arrival of the pleasant news to their family members. We heard stories of pregnant women trying to save their babies by hiding them in the toilet rooms as the Germans didn’t go near them for fear of disease. It was believed that only around 50 babies of 600 lived. The book I read and mentioned above said that Jewish women told the other Jewish women they had to deliver their children “dead” or they too would die or be experimented on. “Dead” meant they would need to somehow themselves, or with the nurse/midwife, take the life of the newborn. You take your own child’s life to try to save your own. But even your own life isn’t guaranteed. It is difficult to even begin to fathom the evil that must exist in a person to be a part of such an event that murdered the same amount of Jews and others as the amount of visitors who walk though the death camp each year. As we were headed to our next tour, we asked our driver about the attitude of our generation about The Holocaust. He agreed with our guide from a week ago who said they acknowledge it happened, they’re sorry it happened, and it’s time to move on. He knows one man who survived the concentration camp, but the man NEVER talks about it. Someone else he knows was a prisoner of the Nazis and was treated very well. (Never sent to a concentration camp.) We talked for awhile about the different levels of treatment that were received based on where you were. Our second part of the day was a tour of the Schindler factory. Many of you may remember well the Oscar-winning masterpiece Steven Spielberg film that came out years ago. Watch it. It’s a very difficult film, but honest in its depictions of the atrocities of the camps. The tour was more of a well documented timeline of the war and ghettos in Kraków. Schindler obviously had his place and story, as well as his list of names of those he helped to save, there were only two rooms about that, surprisingly. He legally saved a lot of Jews. He was rebellious and yet always seemed to wiggle his way out of trouble and jail. His gambling spirit allowed him to not only save Jews but also keep them healthy. Those in the ghettos were not so lucky. At its zenith, the ghetto had 320 homes and 17,000 people inhabiting it. Jews were told the ghetto was set up for their own good, to protect their health, and so the police could keep them safe. More lies and propaganda. Over the course of four years the Jewish community diminished from 68,000 to 8,000. There has been a definite contrast between here and the other places we have been, but rightfully so. For instance, while the Danish were able to save almost all of the Jews in Copenhagen, the Germans loved Kraków and came in and overtook the city with their charm and propaganda. High schools were closed and textbooks changed in younger grades. Ghettos were set up. Jews were the outcasts. The Germans and Furher were to be praised.The brainwashing, ‘concentration’, and hatred of the Jews was nothing but evil and we came face to face with those via these memorials today walking where over 1 million died–through gas chambers where fathers, sons, moms, and daughters breathed their last; by the door where 99% of the naked men and women who walked through would be shot within minutes; and over stones memorializing each single victim of Auschwitz near the crematories. One of my favorite books I’ve read and teach explores this idea of the evil within us (and more specifically the Nazis) in an allegorical and hypothetical setting in “The Lord of the Flies.” William Golding writes in his afterward, “the theme (of the book) is an attempt to trace back the defects of society to the defects of human nature…The moral is that the shape of society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system.”Meaning–we all have the power within us to both love and hate, be evil and good. What or who is the problem? Look in the mirror. We all are the problem. And the solution. Our dichotomous, human nature–it’s befuddling. How can the “bad” ever truly be overcome by the good in humanity? My innocent, oversimplifying mind thinks, “yes, it can!” but then when you look at a newspaper, watch tv, or Google the latest on CNN, the cynic in me then believes, perhaps knows, otherwise. With evil being in all of us, I’m reminded of deeply profound Jars of Clay song “Oh My God” where the writers wonder about all of evil in ourselves and the world and state: “we all have a chance to murder.” We have our chances every day. So with our daily interactions, remember still–the macabre parts of history repeat themselves when people stand by and do nothing. Speak up against what is wrong. Stand up for those who can’t. Be light in the darkness. And as Ray Bradbury writes: “Do your own bit of saving.” Note: more photos to be posted later. I really did take a lot of good ones here at the camp and on my run. Having issues! 😦
Wawel Castle. Saw on my morning run.
Auschwitz train platform:
Schindler’s Factory Tour:
The empty ghetto:
Barracks at Auschwitz:
Each stone represents a life lost at Auschwitz:
7/13 Monday – Krakow
Amy here…. First, I’d like to say “Hi” to my dad who is reading this. We talked last night to my parents and mom is making him read it so if anyone tries to strike up a conversation with him he really will know what’s going on! 🙂 He was cute about the whole blog, and he was adamant we print a book when we’re done with the trip. Silly dad! 🙂
Second, I’m having major photo issues. So if you’re liking our pictures, there is a really good chance I’ll add more photos to these past two days in a few days… meaning, come back to these dates and see our other photos! 🙂
Okay… I’ll get on with it! (Bonus points if you know that movie reference…)
This morning we had an early flight to Oslo then Krakow–let’s just say I’m not a fan of Norwegian Airlines. We then got our transfer by a man named Daniel, who was very nice, to our “flat” near the city center. After dropping off our luggage, we booked it down to the Jewish Quarter to try to see some sites before they closed for the day. Sadly, we made it only into one, a Jewish Synagogue called Remuh and cemetery. We wanted to go inside because we had read they had a wailing wall made up of damaged gravestones from WWII. You can see the photos below.
After that we went to the Ghetto Heroes Quarter which honors all of the Jews who were in and taken from the Ghetto in Krakow, and from this very spot. You’ll see below empty chairs, symbolic of the leaving of their homes. Two chairs face a different direction, we read towards Schindler’s Factory, and they represent a way out. There were very little ways out here. 65,000 from this city died. We also saw an original part of the ghetto wall. Something that was surprising to me was how tall and thick it was. It was also concrete. For some reason, I’d always thought the ghetto walls were wooden and barb wired. Kristy noted that concrete and design (you can see in the photo below) meant planning. These were quickly put up, MAYBE, but definitely well thought out and planned.
For dinner, we found a restaurant near the Jewish Quarter that was AMAZING, and I use that word it its full extent. Note what we had below. We had heard mixed reviews about Polish food, but found this place to be a gourmet selection of a sampling of the country’s best dishes! To round things off, our waitress brought us Hazelnut vodka at the end of dinner to take a shot of–it’s tradition!
We’ve found Krakow to be very nice so far, but sadly we realized (quickly) that we need another day here. Might have to come back? I love how it reminds me of Europe and South America, both. Kristy thought it was a lot like Honduras and I was thinking Peru. Lots of good eats, things to see, and a beautiful, busy, and large city square.
Ghetto Heroes Quarter
Photos from the cemetery. Note the wailing wall. Very sad and haunting.
Dragon near the Wawal Castle. We heard it spits fire every three minutes. That wasn’t true, at least this eve.
More street art.
We had AMAZING Polish food this eve. Below is “Russian” Pierogi (potato, cottage cheese, and onion… and not really Russian), pork, sausage and potato soup w/herbs, baked cheese, and salad. We also had the most amazing red, house wine (better than Tuscany!) and bread. All for $20!!! Poland is so inexpensive!
By the river
Our cute place!
7/12 Sunday – Last day in Copenhagen
With the Holocaust sites being few in Copenhagen, we took most of today site-seeing and enjoying the cityscapes and cool, breezy weather. This is Kristy writing, and I’m anything but Vague and Wordy (the name of Amy’s blog). If anything, I’m more of the Blunt and Direct type. : ) Point being, I’m just going to label the pictures and let you enjoy. We had a great day traveling ALL over Copenhagen.
To end our day, we bought some cider and walked to Nyhavn to enjoy some jazz with lots of locals. The sun was going down and it was gorgeous. The last song they did was “When the Saints Go Marching In.” People from all over the world sang it together. Very cool ending to our days in Copenhagen!
Live piano music on the street. There was nothing around him, so we’re not sure how he got the piano to the spot!
Copenhagen Street Food. The old factory that now houses bunches of street food carts from around the world. We could’ve eaten there for days.
Co-ed bathrooms WITH windows. Strange concept.
We had Brazilian, Korean, and Danish food all in one sitting!
Three-meat Brazilian dish from the street food area.
Kristy outside an area called Christiania. It’s basically a hippie commune. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside. Needless to say, not everything felt/was legal there. We left quickly!
Church of Our Savior. We climbed to the top of this and you’ll never realize how scary it was! At one point it’s more like a ladder than a staircase. At the top it spirals up to a point. You’re walking OUTSIDE. Needless to say the view was amazing and we were both glad AFTER it was done.
Copenhagen has a small but interesting Amber Museum. The pic above is the largest piece of amber in the world. We were on the Baltic Sea and from what we read they find 75% of the world’s amber there.
Amy grabbed a cider and then realized it had caffeine in it. Strange combination.
VERY old incense burner at Islamic Art Museum.
It was an Islamic Art Museum, but I was super excited about smelling the Frankincense and Myrrh and thinking about the Wise Men bringing it to Jesus! : )
We were lucky enough to sit through a short marionette show in a park near our hotel. I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists there…which made it fun. Also, we both agree that marionette shows are kind of creepy.
Trying to find weird stickers is a hobby of mine in these European cities. This is right up there with the weirdest one I’ve seen.
We climbed The Round Tower also. There was an observatory at the top that’s still used today by astronomers. They let us have a look through the telescope.
This is the core of the tower. You can look down it and see to the bottom. Note my toe in the corner. I was too scared to get any closer.
Walking up the Round Tower. They used to drive to the top with horse pulled buggies.
Pork Dumplings from a street cart. SUPER good! We also want to note here that 7-11 was our favorite place in Copenhagen to get treats, drinks, and spicy taquitos…. Too bad Monett doesn’t have one!
Park pics Amy took during her run in the morning.
7/11 Saturday – Sweden, more Copenhagen, and Hamlet’s Castle
Today was pretty laid back but also very long. We started out by taking a quick visit to the Hans Christen Anderson Eventyrhuset (not sure what that last word is…), which gave a little history of his life and then read 4-5 of his major stories with the touch of a button. We decided not to listen to the children’s tales as we were low on time. This place was cute, but more for young kids. We did get to see some of his books in print, and one worth noting was a story called “The Evil Prince,” which was used by an illustrator to recreated the tale with Nazi-related connections and illustrations in the book. Interesting! Then we began our 6.5 tour of two castles in Denmark including the Hamlet castle (known as Elsinore in the play) and we saw the town of Elsinore, made famous in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, visited Kronborg Castle, the setting of Hamlet and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we passed Fredensborg Palace, a residence of the Danish royal family, and we ended the day at the 17th-century Frederiksborg Castle. We also ran into some people who were on a tour with us in Berlin. Along the way north we got to see the beautiful coast along the Baltic Sea, beaches, thatch roofed homes, boats, and the Beverly Hills of Denmark. The boats and coastline allowed for Kristy to really see and experience firsthand the shores of what would be the setting for “Number the Stars.” The tour guide didn’t provide a lot of connections to the actual Hamlet story, however I was able to see the rooms that correlated to the story and imagine for myself the drama unfolding–especially in the queen’s room, the ballroom, courtyard, and the chapel. If you know the story of Hamlet, well, you’re with me here. I’ll stop and spare the rest of you! If you haven’t read it, well, there is always Spark Notes or Disney’s “The Lion King,” which is basically the story of Hamlet. Seriously on the last one. Google it if you’re skeptical! When we returned to Copenhagen, we took an hour canal tour, which was enjoyable and a way to see some places we didn’t want to trek to on foot. The Little Mermaid statue, Nyhavn, the opera house, and some churches were a few of our favorite sites. On our tour this morning we realized we did NOT buy the tour that took us over into Sweden. This wasn’t that big of a deal, but we had it in our plans to go over the sound, so we bought our $30 round-trip ticket and headed to Malmo for a few hours where we walked around and grabbed a bite to eat at Harry’s.
By the Baltic Sea
In the Hamlet Castle Catacombs.
With the Hamlet Castle in the background.
Hans Christian Anderson books.
A castle near our hotel
Amy ran in the park this morn.
The Little Mermaid statute
I’ll let you guess this one….
Dinner in Sweden. Amy had a chicken salad and Kristy had beef stroganoff (which is way better than in the states!)
Square in Sweden
One of the castles
Something cool we saw in the big castle.
Art. Or something like it.
The oldest functioning organ in the world!
Hamlet and Ophelia
Shakespeare on the wall at the castle.
7/10 Friday – Arrival in Copenhagen
We left Berlin bright and early this morn by bus and then plane for Copenhagen, Denmark. My friend, Lyndee, said we would love Copenhagen, and she sure was right! Minus the fact that it is VERY expensive around here, it is a picturesque city, and we haven’t even seen the half of it. Like yesterday, I’ll walk you through the day backwards. Someday I MIGHT decide to do it the other way, but don’t count on it.
We ended our day at the beautiful Tivoli Gardens. It’s a strange combination of amusement park, botanical gardens, shopping, and eclectic local dining–and people watching at its finest. Below are a few shots of the beautiful gardens, in existence since 1843, which see 3 million guests in the summer. We only walked around for a little bit as it is VERY cold here: in the 50s today!!! We had some chocolate kebabs, too.
We couldn’t find a sandwich shop to try the local food, so we opted for Thai street food. It was excellent! Kristy had chicken and teriyaki noodles and Amy had a chicken-pineapple-very mild curry-rice dish.
Near the city center, we could not find the Hans Christen Anderson house so we took pictures in the city center instead. We also enjoyed jazz music in the downtown area. The annual Jazz fest is going on this week (Lady Gaga was here singing in it yesterday!). The lady we heard sing was from Norway. I bought her album and she gave me a hat. She wasn’t Eva Cassidy, (who wasn’t exactly a jazz singer, but had one of the most pure voices ever next to Karen Carpenter… and could do Jazz) but she was a darn close second!
NY Carlsberg is an amazing art gallery. We spend around 45 minutes there, enjoying my favorites: the impressionists/post impressionists (Van Gogh, Monet, Cezzane, and an impressive Gauguin collection). There was also a large collection of Degas sculptures. A commission of Rodin’s “The Kiss,” one of the world’s most famous sculptures, is also in this museum. It was beautiful, and definitely invokes an incredible moment of passion. (Didn’t get a photo, but search google images for photos, or click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kiss_(Rodin_sculpture) )
Jewish manhole covers in Copenhagen streets:
We’ve seen this quote before!
One of the first things we did in Copenhagen was visit the Danish Jewish Museum and its special exhibition on Danish Jews returning from the Holocaust and assimilating back into their own lives and culture after being away. Many escaped with the help of the resistance to Sweden. The Danish Jews were known as the light in the darkness of the WWII and the Holocaust, as 99% of the Danish Jews lived. We didn’t realize that many lived and how effective the Danish non-Jews helped spare the Jews. Children were left with other families to live, adults were smuggled out, mostly by clippers (boats).
Many of you have read “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry. Her book takes place here and at the end of the book, you might remember how one of the young girls saves her Jewish friend and her family in such a way. We saw many pictures and some art related to this type of “saving” by the Danes.
Like many other stories we have heard so far, necessity is the mother of invention and cleverness. Many Jews who fled early bought round trip bus tickets instead of a one way ticket so people wouldn’t catch on that they were not planning on returning.
What we did read about, though, was the return. It was interesting to read about how the Jews were put right back into culture with little issues culturally. The most difficult parts, though, were the fact that they were moving back to Copenhagen with families (not always the norm for Jews after WWII), but without jobs, possessions, homes, and so forth.
Today was also the first time we read about the issue of mental illness–which is nothing new to us in the USA in our times. PTSD was not recognized at the time as a term, but a few years down the road “concentration camp syndrome” was (1954). Most of what I have read in years past has been that many people do one of a few things: 1. write down their memoirs never to speak of them again 2. talk about them consistently so others can learn 3. never speak of what happened. How a person can (or I suppose can’t) deal with living through the Holocaust is beyond me. Imagine a time period where counseling and mental illness terms are very different or do not exist, and less people see counselors. If you’ve ever had counseling, you know how valuable and life-saving/changing it can be. I wondered then how these people “dealt” with their camp years the rest of their lives. How do you move past that? You can’t unsee true horrors.
This was also the first time we saw a museum dealt with and address the God question (even if it was in a small way… see photo below): where was God in all of this? This has been one of our biggest questions so far, mostly because of the horrible nature of the stripping of dignity of humans BY humans. I can’t answer the question, and addressing it is puzzling. It’s difficult to make sense of what doesn’t make sense. The question is so vast and you see the worst of the worst of times through amazing miracle-caliber stories that have all came out of the Holocaust. Honestly, I think we are asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t ask where was God. He wasn’t in the evil. Much good was happening, by altruistic and Godly people, alike, and we have seen and read about so much of it, especially here in Denmark. I’m not sure what the right question or questions are, though.
To begin our day, we found a guitar store where Amy played the model of guitar Cheryl Crow plays, saw some $20,000 + collectors guitars (Gibson, PRS, Martins, and more!), ate some Mexican food, went to a beautiful bookstore/coffeehouse, and then headed downtown and saw some fun art (note the horse photos) and a flea market/street market.
Amy edited this photo she took today:
Air Berlin gives out Lindt chocolate!
We bought this in Amsterdam before we left… decided to eat some this morning.
7/9 Thursday – Berlin – Last day here!
Today I’m going to tell our day more in pictures than narrative. Something different for those of you who are OCD. HA! 🙂 And it will go in chronological order from the end of our day to the beginning. More OCD busting. Oh well! I’m feeling a little bit witty and snarky tonight. Good luck with this blog today, folks… we are off to Copenhagen tomorrow morning EARLY!
This evening we decided to take a Trabi – Safari car ride around town. We previously had thought about taking a boat tour on the river, but we did one of those last year in Paris and it was just “okay” so we opted for the more adventuresome choice AND because it was 60 degrees here today (boat tour = freakin’ cold!).
I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t want to drive this matchbox, stick shift, giraffe-painted car around town? Just look at it!!! We felt like celebrities! People waved, laugh, smiled, and took pictures. It was fun, but my lungs now hurt from breathing in the fumes from the three Trabis in front of us. We were joined by our guide, Jordy, and a group of college guys from Malta and Russia in the other cars. As we drove around, it was VERY scary at first because the cars are old and you have to almost always have your foot on the gas or they will die. ALLLL while trying to NOT hit bicyclists, NOT get hit by busses, and while trying to listen to Jordy tell us about the landmarks to our left and right. We both got to drive over the course of town in two hours, and saw a large majority of Berlin. Lots of fun!
Anyone want to tell me how to adjust these photos in Blogger? Sorry I’m sideways.
Another fun part of our day was ice cream. This ice cream was actually made using liquid nitrogen in the churning process (Click here to see the process: http://www.chefsteps.com/activities/liquid-nitrogen-churned-ice-cream). We ordered chocolate brownie. YUM!
The German Resistance Museum was one of our key Holocaust sites for the day. The part that stuck out to us were the stories about the failed assassination attempts on Hitler and the failed coup that cost 150 lives in the process. Keep in mind this museum was small and it focused on the history of the resistance from the German perspective, as well as personal stories about men and women who were German and/or German military members who were a part of the resistance movement. Lots of the men on the inside wanted Hitler out and knew if they brought him down (by death) they were good to go and the war would end soon after.
Cool graffiti we saw as we were walking. Graffti, street art, and stickers/posters are EVERYWHERE in Europe. Kristy always finds the cool ones! Might frame this one. Be brave!
These bears are everywhere! Thought I’d finally get a picture with one. We both needed a big hug.
Another fun stop today was Checkpoint Charlie/Checkpoint Charlie Museum. For a person who has self-diagnosed ADD, it was stimulation overload for my brain. Every inch of EVERY wall was full of photos, words, artifacts, and on and on. I can’t describe it any other way. It was lots of fun, though! We weren’t supposed to take pictures. Let’s just say sometimes I don’t follow the rules, and when I know I won’t get caught, probably won’t get caught, or don’t care, the temptation is that much greater…. Like today!
Ghadi’s diary and an explanation:
Cool globe with an explanation about what it means. It’s a valid question…
Signs in the museum.
Cart used by people in tunnels as they moved them from one side of the wall to the other.
People also hid in cars to get over. We saw around 20 or more different ways they crossed the border!
Outside Checkpoint Charlie:
Below is the explanation of a sculpture known as “Trains to life; Trains to death.” Look closely as the faces of the children—haunting once again!
One of our favorite places in Berlin has been Hackescher Market. They had a Thursday market today and we ate some cherry strudel and more fresh cooked, Turkish falafel. So good.
Our first stop this morning was at the Anne Frank Museum and the Otto Weidte factory for the blind. The Anne Frank Museum wasn’t much of anything new, however, it was a very cool visual of her life set up on the left with the Nazi rise to power and political issues on the right. We thought this set up could make for a unique addition to our curriculum, and we hope to develop some lessons based on it. (see photo below). Otto Weidte was a German who was almost blind himself and he employed blind men and women in order to help save them from being sent away. He would also help them to hide, get them food ration cards, falsified documents, and had people helping him do the same things.
Speaking of cool artwork, check out the work outside the two places we just wrote about. Very cool!
We look hot! Getting ready to leave for our day in our tourist garb.
Amy ran in Volkspark Friedrichshain this morning. And of course took some fun photos of some of the landmarks and sculptures!
7/8 Wednesday – Berlin and Sachenhausen Concentration Camp
This morning was cool and a little rainy before we headed out on a 6 hour tour of Sachenhausen Concentration Camp, which I will refer to as SCC in short. We met our guide, Darren, a Phd candidate at Cambridge who was very knowledgable about the camp and what happened in WWII. We noted no birds here, either (see note from earlier days). After the camp, we decided to see some memorials and landmarks. We saw the Herbert Baum monument near the Dom, then walked to the Burned Books monument across from Humbolt University in Bebelplatz. The Brandenburg Gate, both large and beautiful, was a fun place to both take and watch people take selfies. Next we walked to the Field of Stelae, and then to the location of one of Hitler’s bunkers. It is now a parking lot, and a sign notes the location and history. Last, we went to the Topography of Terror and another part of the Berlin Wall, which were near Checkpoint Charlie. The Topography of Terror had some powerful photos and documented the Nazi rise to power and its place in Berlin.
Some of the very interesting things we learned today on the SCC tour that we want to pass along (in no particular order):
- Concentration camps meant that enemies were ‘concentrated’. Indifference and division were two very key tools in the hatred that could be built in the war. Not only did it build hatred within Germans, it also caused division within the camps, which is why very little did people in camps cross lines of hierarchy to unite and try to overthrow the camp leaders. Think about it. Such an effective way to keep the prisoners at your control. A good example at the camp we visited today was the group of privileged Jews who created counterfeit money; they had better housing, their own bed, and more food. The other prisoners looked down upon them. These men knew their job would end, so they messed up on purpose in order to not have their job, or possibly their lives, terminated.
Badges and triangles of color were put on their garments, causing for the division to be very visible.
One of the quotes we heard today was by a British Historian, Ian Kershaw that says, “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate but paved with indifference.” When we shrug our shoulders and don’t care, of course things can’t change. A pastor named Martin Niemoller was also quoted. When the Nazis first rose to power, he was supportive of them because the government seemed to be running very well–things seemed to be in order. He was held as a prisoner at SCC.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This theme of indifference is a conversation VERY worthy of our students AND ourselves… what are we ignoring in our time and our lives that we need to take action with? Is it items in our own country? Is it something political? Genocide in Africa? Sex-Trafficking in Cambodia? Not taking care of the planet by recycling or not littering? Feeding the poor? Child labor? The list is endless. What part can we do with our time, money, and efforts? If you’re religious, also with your prayers?
- We found out that there were around 20 some big camps and hundreds of tiny camps, most of which were in Germany. Heimmler wanted this camp’s layout (a triangle) to be the model for all other camps because you can see all from a tower in the triangle shape. However, a triangle is not fit for growth so this idea was quickly abandoned as new camps were being built. Surprisingly, there were a lot of Germans in the camps at the beginnings of them in the 1930s instead of the outcast groups.
- This camp was primarily used as a Soviet special camp and forced labor colony. When you visit, a lot of the walls still exist, but only a few original buildings.
- This was the head of all of the concentration camps. Our guide called it the ’empire’ camp. All of the other camps were managed from here.
- Today here at SCC and another place we visited, the Topography of Terror, we learned about arbitrary terror–the Nazis inflicted terror upon their captors, but there was no consistency to the amount and there were no rules. When there are no rules, you can do what you want, control how you want, and the prisoners live in constant fear.
- If you wanted to work for the SS, you had to trace your family history back to the 1800s and if you wanted a higher rank, 1700s and all had to have no Jewish blood.
- One of the key quotes from the head guy at Auschwitz was “These are not people, they are prisoners.” This mentality was apparent in all camps.
- The youth who started Kristallnacht was held at SCC.
- Stalin’s son was held here, but tried to escape and was shot, which means he most likely committed suicide. Stalin was offered a trade for his son and would not rescue him. The son most likely did NOT know about his father not wanting him.
- One of the most haunting parts of our day included the experiments and torture we heard about. One place was a track of different rocks where the men would test shoes by running the equivalent of a marathon for 400 straight days. Then these men were all killed when the shoes were tested. Another one was where they would hang men on poles in order to pop their arms out of socket. The last thing we saw during the day was known as Block Zed. Two things happened here 1. it was where prisoners were taken when they thought they were leaving 2. new prisoners at the end of the war came straight here. All who came to Block Zed died immediately by gun shot to the back of the head and were then cremated. Those with gold teeth had them extracted before death.
- We read at the Topography of Terror about how Hitler was directly targeting homosexuals and abortionists and that anyone involved in those things would pay. We talked about how if you consider abortion to be murder already, who are you then to murder? Such a double standard by Hitler and others in these areas!!!
One of the questions a woman today wanted answered was why many things have been free. Our guide said that it is Germany’s way of “coming to terms with the past” and keeping such a bad part of their history from being to commercialized.
Why did the death marches happen? Our guide noted that there seems to be no real answer to that question. They were the last of the last horrible things to happen to the prisoners before liberation.
How do the youth in today’s society in Germany view the Holocaust, especially knowing their grandparents could’ve been involved? Since there is no personal ownership, there is now distance. The first generation after the Holocasut was silent. The second probably talked about it too much. This current generation is finding a healthy balance.
Turkish pizza and Falafel sandwich – actually tasty! We read that Turkish food is one of the top two things to try here in Berlin. Just might eat some more tomorrow. So good!
Latrines and wash areas at SCC.
Crematory at SCC
Prisoners were hung here and had their arms pulled out of socket.
Near the Spree River. “Three girls and a boy” – Amy got scolded by a woman for not acknowledging the “art” of the sculptures initially. Apparently you can’t say, “Oh look, naked statues!” in a foreign country…. (unless you preface it with the words “art” and “nude”????)
We keep seeing these bears around town! Where’s Kristy???
Herbert Baum memorial
In the Field of Stelae/Holocaust memorial
Powerful memorial in the crematory and shooting room at SCC. Here they are depicting the scenes of taking out gold teeth before they execute.
Communist memorial in SCC
Book burning memorial.
Note this man’s defiance. We saw this picture at the Topography of Terror.
Hitler was more popular than the Beatles. Picture also from the Topography of Terror.
Germans apparently love American shows! Had a whole walk through OITNB set up at their outdoor mall.
7/7 Tuesday – Berlin
Berlin was 2.5 hours from Celle, and we arrived in time to settle into our new place, then head out for some local faire: currywurst, schnitzel burger, fried potatoes, and potato croquette–all very good! We figured out the tram system very quickly and headed out to Eastside Gallery, one of the longest sections of the Berlin Wall that still exists and is painted upon by many, many artists. See some of our photos below!
After that we ventured to Judischer Friedhof WeiBensee – the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. Herbert Baum, a local WWII Jewish revolutionary who died at just 30, is buried there; there is also a memorial to all of the Jews who died at the camps during the war. Herbert was the head of a local Nazi resistance group and is best known for his group’s uproar about Nazi propaganda.
The next place we visited was The Rosenstrasse Rebellion/Block of Women memorial, dedicated to German women who protested their Jewish husbands being sent to war. To protest, they stood out on Rosenstrasse (Rose Street) demanding their families to be able to return. This was actually a very peaceful demonstration. Since the women were both Germans and non-Jewish, the Nazis were forced to do nothing. They couldn’t shoot or capture the women. Five days later, the men were released. Read more about the story here:
After the Block of Women we visited the grocery store to get some meals for the next few days, then had reservations at the top of the Berlin TV tower. Pesto ravioli and other amazing food!
Amy at the Alexanderplatz city center.
Yeah, we’re important.
Amy at the top of the TV Tower.
Amy at the Berlin Wall Eastside Artist’s Gallery
Currywurst, Schnitzburger, potatoes! YUM!
Our apartment in Berlin. Amy is chilling on the bed.
Kristy at the Eastside Artist’s Gallery.
Block of Women Memorial
View of the tower from our apartment.
Mozzarella cheese and pesto, tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette.
nom nom nom
TV Tower selfie.
Top of the world.
From the Jewish Cemetery.
Kristy at the top of the TV Tower.
Jewish concentration camp memorial at the cemetery.
Worst picture EVER, Kristy!
Eating up at the top of the tower.
7/6 Monday – Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp
Monday we took at 6 hour train ride to Celle, Germany, a small city near Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. We knew this day would be a shotgun day and if we made our connections it would be a small miracle. After a cancelled train, we arrived an hour late to Celle, met our house host, then had to rent a taxi for the 24 km drive to the camp. Let’s just say it cost around $110-120 USD to get there and back, but there was no other option. The busses are all hit and miss, so we learned.
Bergen-Belsen opened our eyes even more to the atrocities we all know to be true and have read about.
As you come to Bergen-Belsen, one of the first things you notice is its remoteness and the serene nature of the vast field, if you will. Tall, thin pine trees surround the camp–enclosing it naturally. Birds sing in the trees of the forest, but do not fly over the camp. We had heard before we left that birds at many concentration camp areas still do not fly over the camps that had a crematory– that their migratory and “muscle-memory” patterns were altered in those dark days of WWII, and then passed on to future bird generations. We found that to be true here, and will report back about the other three camps we are going to visit.
Those of you who have ever visited Gettysburg or a national battlefield would find Bergen-Belsen to have the same feel about one of those places. As you walk around, there are many mass graves marking the number of bodies in each one. The POWs in charge of burying made sure to give exact counts by piling 100 bodies at a time, then documenting the number. Though the amount of deaths is pretty acturate for this camp, surprisingly WHO died here is not. The SS destroyed all of the records and over 55,000 people are still believed to be unaccounted for from this camp. You will also note many gravestones–memorials only as exact burial locations are unknown. Seeing Anne and Margot Frank’s grave was a haunting moment, as was the two hours we spent on the camp grounds and in the documentation center. There was a cross memorializing the Polish, then markers and memorials for the Soviet POWs, gypsys, homosexuals, anti-Nazi Christians, Czechs, and more. It is difficult to talk about the overwhelming sense of the juxtaposition of the serenity of the place with what we read about and what we saw while walking around the enormous grounds.
Bergen-Belsen is best known for the fact that Anne and Margot Frank died there after they were transferred from Auschwitz. A Typhus outbreak is believed to take them both. I know I wrote earlier about the will of Anne to live, but after seeing this camp (what is left… nothing but a few foundations and many mass graves as well as some headstones) and hearing about what happened, there was no way for her to survive, will or no will. Typhus and a handful of other diseases ALONE took the lives of so many, around 35,000, that when the liberation happened, the English burned the camp to the ground it was so contaminated. Had Typhus not come in, starvation would have probably taken Anne. This camp saw horrendous malnutrition at the end of the war, and also they ran out of water many times. To make conditions even worse, over 13,000 bodies were just lying around in the camp when the English arrived. AND to top things off, the camp was only designed to hold 10,000 people. Near the end of the war, 9,000 women were added, as well as many others causing “tent cities” and huts to be built. The camp population rose to 60,000. The tents offered little shelter from the elements and the huts often collapsed, burying people alive. Many worked during the day, but most had to stand at attention for roll call for hours on end. Many died from the exhaustion of that. We also learned that this was where many Soviets were taken as POWs and 20,000 or more were exterminated. There were no gas chambers at this camp, supposedly, but the poor conditions, shootings, hangings, and diseases killed far too many. One woman in charge in part of the camp when the camp first started taking in prisoners and the crematory began to help reduce the body count taunted Jews by saying, “You smell that over there? That’s your ancestors burning because they didn’t do what they were told.” Sometimes we forget that the camps were more than physical torture. Constant bullying and belittling were also a part of everyday life in camps.
One of the questions we wanted answered was what did locals make of camps? I found that answer, and it’s in a photo below. Here it is: At Bergen-Belsen, “Out of curiosity or sheer craving for a spectacle, many Germans made weekend excursions to look at the prisoners described by official propaganda as “subhuman”. The reactions to the conditions at the camps varied. In some isolated cases, cautious criticism of the treatment the prisoners received was voiced, and sometimes German civilians would throw food over the fence.” Some prisoners would also throw out letters and the locals would mail them.
Another question we wanted answered was what became of some of the SS and Nazi men and women in charge of the camps? At Bergen-Belsen, few were tried after the war. We haven’t found a number, but we are guessing that hundreds, if not thousands, got away with murder in WWII to the fullest extent of that statement.
We do recommend that if you visit Germany, take a trip to Celle, stay there with our new friend and cheerful host, Jasmin, (she has an apartment through AirBnB.com) then spend the money and taxi up to this memorial. It is worth the small side trip!
Jasmin recommended for us to eat at Mundo, which we did! Had a burger and enchiladas.
Jewish Memorial in Bergen-Belsen
In memory of Anne and Margot. This is a memorial for them.
In the House of Silence at Bergen-Belsen.
Many Soviet prisoners were sent to Bergen-Belsen. Here is some additional info about them.
Many artifacts have been found on the grounds. Here is one case full of them. There were around 20 cases similar to this.
At the entrance to Bergen-Belsen
Enchiladas are a Mundo specialty. Delish!
Amy had a morning run in this park in Celle.
Part of our place in Celle.
Amy outside our apartment in Celle.
7/5 Sunday – Amsterdam
The first thing we did this morning was visit the World Press 2015 contest winners tour for ten euros. Quite an amazing collection of the best photojournalist photos of the year. Click here to see the winners and their stories: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/collection/photo/2015 Past winners of this contest include the Napalm Girl Vietnam photo http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2153091/Napalm-girl-photo-Vietnam-War-turns-40.html and the Tank Man photo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man Many of the photos were really tough subjects: war, drugs, more war, some sports, and a lot of dead people. This past year I had my Dual Credit students read a persuasive article about the ethics of photojournalism and what should be printed or allowed to be published. The students had very mixed opinions after we read the article and then googled some difficult photos that had been taken through the years. One photo in particular was the controversial vulture/little girl photo that sparked the suicide of Pulitzer prize winning photographer Kevin Carter. Visit http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/vulture-little-girl/ if you want to read his story and see the harrowing, Pulitzer Prize winning photo.
It’s a tough question: what should we show? As we have been traveling only a few days, I can tell you that we have seen more than our fair share of videos and photos of the dead, the dying, bulldozers getting rid of bodies, people killing people, and on and on. You can almost become calloused to what you see. But then I ask myself this: what if there were no videos or pictures? Would I still believe the Holocaust happened by the texts of authors alone? Do the images help or hurt what I believe? What should we be okay with showing our students or children? I can’t readily give an answer. Honestly, I think students should be allowed to see as much as they can handle, as Google lets them see whatever they want to anyways these days. Caveat: it also comes back to the conversation. I also think we need to have conversations with images, not just a “hey guys and gals, go and look up some Holocaust images today” free for all. If we are using images, use them with purpose. Kristy and I are trying to make sure to take fun pictures, yes, food pictures, yeah, but also pictures we can use for purpose in the classroom. Some we can’t post until later (August) because they’re on our cameras.
We finally made it over to the Jewish Quarter today to visit the Portuguese Synagogue, Dutch Resistance Museum, the Dutch Theater, and the Jewish History Museum. Honestly, the JHH and the synagogue were not really up our alley and had little to offer in terms of information we could use in our curriculum, but the other two places were awesome! The Dutch Theater was used in WWII as a deportation center. The theater has long been destroyed, but parts of the walls still remain. Names line a wall inside with an eternal flame nearby. You can walk outside and see where the building used to stand as well as a short story about a woman who was waving to her friend from a nearby apartment. The apartment gal took a picture or two, but never saw her friend again. Her pictures mark the spot. There were also tulips hanging on the wall with notes on them from kids. The Dutch Resistance Museum was phenomenal. It documented the history of the Resistance movement in Holland. After walking through, it made a lot more sense to us how Hitler’s plan to turn the world against the Jews was very detailed and deliberate, how quickly he did it, and at the same time how many people really put their lives on the line to help others who were of different races and faiths and backgrounds. An estimated 45,000 were truly involved in Holland, but it is believed that over 350,000 were helping in smaller, more subtle ways. At the JHH museum we had a nice Jewish lunch of potato latkes, pitas, hummus, salad, appletart, egg salad, and some delicious raspberry sherbet. Walking around there wasn’t too bad. We did notice they focused on the Jewish part of history and really avoided much to do with the Nazis and Hitler–barely mentioned and we aren’t sure we saw a single thing about either!
On our way back to the apartment we saw that Hillsong has a church in Amsterdam so we hopped off the tram and went in to worship! For those of you who have seen Hillsong in concert, it felt like a concert, only this one was free! HA!
We then had dinner at an Argentinian steakhouse. They’re really popular in Amsterdam so we had steak, potato, bread, salad, and cold water, which is a rarity.
Tomorrow we are up early to travel 6 hours to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where Anne Frank and sister Margot are buried, then on to Berlin.
Argentinian steak dinner.
Hillsong church in Amsterdam!
Dutch Theater Memorial
Part of the names of all of the Jews taken at the theater area.
Warm pita, hummus, a potato latkes at the Jewish Cafe.
Finally ate an appletart! Delish!
Cabana in the Portuguese synagogue.
uncut star of David material
7/4 Saturday – Amsterdam
Happy 4th of July! We’re a little sad to not be joining in on patriotic activities in the good ol’ USA, but we are taking an evening trip to the Red Light District, so that might be a close equivalent to something fun, right?… Nope. We went to the Red Light District, walked around for close to an hour, then came home. It was busy, stinky, smoky, and honestly, just flat out sad. On that note, let’s talk about our day instead!
We woke up early to take a train/bus/tram to Haarlem, a town near Amsterdam where the Corrie ten Boom house is located. Long story short, the train schedule was messed up and it took a little longer as we had to ask a lot of questions to the information workers on how to get there. When we arrived at the CTB house, we were worried we wouldn’t get in. We waited in line as many, many people arrived, some with reservations only to find out we had one too! I had booked a tour many months ago and forgot about it! Lucky us, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it in.
The tour was about an hour long and simple and very hot thanks to another warm day. Christian volunteers give them 3-4 times a day. Our guide told us the story of the ten Boom family, how they were arrested, and about how they hid people in the attic and then later the wall. We heard also about how the family, devout Christians, relied on their faith to do the right thing for the Jews and others, even if their faith wasn’t the same. Corrie survived the war, was released from a concentration camp by an error, and went on to inspire millions with her faith and story. We got to step in the original hiding place and see many artifacts from Corrie and her family’s life. Kristy and I were reminded of the hymn that sat on the family’s piano, “You Are My Hiding Place.” We also saw a stiching of Corrie’s that she used to tell people how your life isn’t a mess if you look at in from the right perspective. See photos below.
After our tour, we visited the market in Haarlem and toured a cathedral there. Both were very cool! The cathedral was very intricate in design and the floor (this was sort of creepy) was all catacomb/gravestones. We also saw a cannonball from the 1500s and an enormous organ played both Bach and Handel. After that we walked through Haarlem’s market, supposedly the best around!
Upon our return to Amsterdam we made sure to take photos of ourselves at the “I Am Amsterdam” sign and refresh our feet in the pool at Museumplein near the Van Gogh Museum. As we waited we got a ‘show’ from a nude bike tour that rode past us. You read that right! It was like a car accident–we couldn’t look away! Kirsty ate her ice cream cone, and I stared in disbelief. Now back to Van Gogh…. that was a wonderful museum! I am a huge Van Gogh enthusiast and it was quite humbling to see so many of his great works in one location including “Sunflowers,” “Almond bloom,” his famous bedroom painting, seascapes, many self portraits, and two of his last works.
After Van Gogh, we went to a cheese museum and bought some delicious cheeses, then took them back to eat and have dinner at our place, then took a one hour trip by tram and foot to the Red Light District. In our own opinion and words: smoky, pathetic, shocking, disgusting, and well, just sad. Unhappy people trying to be happy by paying for a cheap thrill. It was a little unreal.
Red Light Area
Music at Corrie ten Boom House
Kristy in the Hiding Place
Though the back of a stitching may look like a mess, it’s because we can’t see the full picture. A metaphor for life!
Amy in the hiding place.
Toured this church in Haarlem: Grote of St. Bavokerk. it was beautiful!
Market in Haarlem
Bought some gouda cheese!
Amy enjoying the water and hiding from the sun near Rijksmuseum.
Kirsty getting left behind.
Amy at Van Gogh Museum.
Kristy at the same.
The ten Boom house.
7/3 Friday – Amsterdam
After two very sleepless flights, we made it to Iceland only to turn around very quickly and head to Amsterdam. Our apartment we are renting is tiny, but perfect. We found it pretty easily thanks to good directions and a nice tram worker who noticed we were a little confused on buying tickets. After dropping off our luggage, we ventured to the very close Anne Frank House and after a quick lunch, panini for Kristy and ham and cheese croissant for Amy, it was a good hour wait to get inside the AFH. We quickly struck up a conversation with a lady behind us who was clearly, by her southern accent, from the USA–Tennessee at that, and an AP English teacher on a grant through another non-profit. She was traveling to visit the AFH before a three week seminar in Holocaust studies in Tel Aviv.
Anne Frank House was everything we thought it would be–a simple, yet touching memorial to a young lady whose words have touched the world. The house was normal sized for Amsterdam, and the hidden bookcase was still intact. We saw how no one would really suspect a hidden room or two or consider the third floor and attic. On the self guided tour, you venture through the house, winding up to the very top before spiraling down to exit. Most of the house is very empty only with artifacts and photos of the family and what the apartment looked like. Quotes from her diary are inscripted on nearly every wall, showcasing a chronology and sometimes key moments in her life. You can see Anne’s original diaries (yes, plural as she re-wrote it near the end of her stay there). The most moving part of the tour was Anne’s room. Though empty in the floor space, her postcard and movie star collection she glued on the wall is as she left it over 70 years ago. It’s the quintessence of a teenage girl’s room, juxtaposed against tourists from around the world and the empty room cleaned out of both furniture and the families who occupied it. Kristy and I teared up. Anne’s words had such power in my own life as a teenager–she was a child fully alive yet fully trapped in a war and hate filled world that stifled her dreams too young.
After Anne Frank, we went to the Homomonument which consists of three pink triangles near a canal. Conversations with students about the treatment of homosexuals in the Holocaust and even today is one teachers do, and I think should have. According to Wikipedia: “It commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. Opened on September 5, 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle, on the bank of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church. The Homomonument was designed to “inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination.” It was the first monument in the world to commemorate gays and lesbians who were killed by the Nazis.”
One of the things we have discussed the past two days is the why and how of the Holocaust. It began so much sooner than we thought we had learned in high school and college. There was so much silence surrounding it–everything from people who knew nothing to those who did not believe to those still who were involved with it and stood by doing nothing thanks to the stripping of their dignity and humanness. It’s also difficult to see these things and know how close many were to freedom, but their lives were cut short days or months beforehand. If only Anne could’ve held on another month or two. Another thing we noted was the amount of SS and Nazi’s who did not get punished. Did these leaders every have remorse, grief, or guilt?
One last thing we’ve been talking about is for you parents: how do you explain and talk about the Holocaust with your children? Yesterday at the USHMM I saw a young, disabled, minority boy (and I note these things about him only because he would’ve been Nazi prey 70 plus some years ago) being hugged by his mother as they watched some horrific videos showing dead bodies being bulldozed at various concentration camps. The boy, no older than 10, asked his sniffling mom, “Momma, why did the Nazis do this?” I couldn’t hear her answer, but she gave one and hugged her little boy even tighter, pulling him closer to her. On the other side, at AFH today, the expectation was for no photos for a more silent and respectful atmosphere. A family of 5-6 loudly caught up with us. The two boys, one a young teen and the other probably a 5th grader, along with the dad or grandpa were skipping around each room, barely reading, and talking about who knows what very loudly. Trust me, there was NO conversation about the atrocities of the Holocaust. It looked more like a “hey where did so and so go” game in each room.
Besides these families there were many families together experiencing both the DC attraction and Anne Frank soaking in each place. Parents: talk to your kids about this when they get old enough! Take them to DC when they’re teens, encourage them to read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and if you can, visit some of these places in Europe. Most importantly, talk to them.
More tomorrow! Below are some of our photos from the day.
Canal near our apartment.
Our cute little place.
Amy trying to get in the apartment. The cat wanted in, too!
Canal in Amsterdam. Insane amounts of bikes!
Pizza and an apple sweet pancake for dinner.
Amy at AFH
Kristy at AFH
Ham and cheese croissant for lunch.
Iceland was short lived, but hey! We have a passport stamp!
Chocolate with ??? in it? Wasn’t too bad.
Icelandic treats on WOW Air.
7/2 – Thursday
Today we visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. We walked through a display called Daniel’s Story that followed the life of a young Jewish child. The display was created for children, but was still haunting nonetheless. Next we entered the Permanent Exhibit and worked our way through three floors of information. The top floor focused on Hitler’s persuasiveness and “set up” what was going to happen. The middle floor focused on the Ghettos, Work Camps, and Death Camps. Definitely some hard stuff to read and watch. The bottom floor focused more on the liberation of the camps and the people that helped save lives. At the exit of the exhibit was The Hall of Remembrance. This is the spot where we both shed some tears. It’s quiet and very reverent. There are scriptures on the walls and a flame that always burns. We both lit a candle in memory of all of the lives lost. The whole exhibit was impressive, but that hall was something we’ll both always remember.
After some frustrating public transport and a ride from Blake, we’re now at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport waiting to board our plane to Reykjavik, Iceland where we’ll have a small layover before arriving in Amsterdam at about 4:00 am Central Standard Time. 11:00 am in Amsterdam!
Children’s tile wall at the USHMM
The hall of rememberance
All was good until we came to the hall of remembrance. Then, let the tears flow! We lit a candle for the Auschwitz victims and survivors.
We are hoping to see this in person in Europe!
Another shot of the photos (see note below)
Real torahs that were saved from the Holocaust!
Some stats we found interesting
Beginning of the exhibit at the USHMM
We were near the Washington Memorial
Photos of citizens from a village that no longer exists by four photographers in Lithuania
7/1 – Wednesday
We made it safe and sound to DC, even after quite the delay in Chicago thanks to a plane computer being out. 2.5 hour delay! Had some interesting characters on the flight… The woman across the aisle was playing solitaire with her sound ALL the way up. I thought some 12 year old boy was playing a shoot ’em up game. Nope. An 80 something year old woman. The boy next to me was tall and after asking him if I could take the middle spot he said “ah man, I sorta wanted to drool on both of you if I fall asleep!” He then asked what we were up to and if we taught in a place with lots of hicks since we were from rural Missouri. He also wanted to fall asleep on me, I swear! We also met some people from Bulgaria and in our 2 min conversation they told us NOT to travel there. “Too many communists,” the man said.
Flight was decent and we got to fly near all the monuments and the pentagon.
In DC we are staying with a friend of mine from college, Blake. We went to dinner at a local brewery where we enjoyed some delicious local food. Fish tacos and sweet potato fries for me!
We will be up early to visit the holocaust museum then fly out in the eve!
Solitaire is LOUD!
I’m spending some time this week reading a book called “Auschwitz” by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk.
So far it is stunning and harrowing. One of the items she wrote about in the first few chapters is how no one stood up for themselves. The Jews, and others, didn’t believe they would be marching off to deadly showers of gas instead of real showers. Even more shocking was the fact that many of the heads of each bunk were in charge of selecting or taking the prisoners to their death. All without the help of any SS men. Such lose of humanity and dignity allowed for no fight, no element of survival, to take place by the prisoners. Sara writes the “will was paralyzed” (pg. 35). WOW! What power. What loss. I read these three pages of hers over and over trying to imagine how dark a situation must be for someone to get to this point of no return–the point of giving up. And it still happens today. I think of suicide and depression–people in pits of despair in their personal lives.
Kristy and I shared some personal teaching experiences with the fellowship selection committee about personal connection to Holocaust stories and how they have the power to affect our students, helping them get past some rough places in life. Here are our stories:
Amy: A few years ago when I was teaching Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, I took my students on a field trip to the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in the Kansas City area to hear a Holocaust survivor speak. Afterwards, I had the students write a reflection both about the book and the account they heard on our field trip. I remember distinctly a sophomore girl who wrote about how reading the book and hearing the lady speak gave her the courage to be able to finally heal from past sexual abuse. She poured her heart out about how if this lady could survive torture, survive the Holocaust, and forgive the Nazis, then she, too, could rise above her circumstance, move forward, and forgive the person who violated her. I found myself in shock and tears after reading her story. This was the first time in my teaching career I felt absolutely certain that literature had the power to transform a life.
Kristy: Teaching Boy in the Striped Pajamas has been life-changing for me. Sixth graders are at a point in their life where they are centered on themselves and cannot always relate to characters in literature. Something about this book opens up that barrier and truly allows students to live through this time period with Bruno. At the conclusion of the story, when Bruno dies, the conversations that I’ve had with students make it very evident that they finally understand what atrocities people experienced. They’ll say, “Miss Berger, why did he have to die?” There are always a lot of “why” questions that lead to basic ideas of morality. Sometimes these ideas take days of discussion and reflection after we are done reading. This book has made it possible for my students and myself as a teacher to connect with what really happened during the Holocaust.
I’ll write more about my reflections from the book if there is more worthy of sharing!
The purpose of this fellowship is to experience first-hand the physical, cultural, and geographic settings of the books Night, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank, and the movies Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful. These works, which we currently teach, provide a way to discuss, understand, and study the Holocaust in the ELA classroom. It is always easier to grasp something if you’ve seen it with your own eyes. We want to put our feet where these events took place, soak in the environment, and really experience the history of this horrific tragedy. We want to see what it might have been like to live in terror, to hide from the enemies, and to work hard for others with no benefit to oneself. These are just a few of the experiences we will bring back to the classroom to help us impact students. An eyewitness account makes things much more tangible and can help our lessons feel more “real” to students due to the physical and photographic artifacts we will return with. Our passion after a journey to these places would flow into the classroom and be catching to the students as well.
We also want to contextualize each character in our stories: these were real individuals (or characters inspired by real people) in the sea of millions who were affected by the Holocaust. In order for us and our students to truly understand what these people went through, we want to go and see the places where they endured such inhumane suffering.
Hello! Amy & Kristy here. We are off to around 9 countries in 28 days to visit some of the major Holocaust sites, memorials, concentration camps, and so forth. This past winter we applied for the Rural Trust’s Global Teacher Fellowship and were awarded funds in order to take this trip of a lifetime.
The primary objective of our trip is to experience these places first hand in order to bring them back to our students and implement into our curriculum. We will also be doing some site-seeing and tourist type attractions to keep our minds from becoming too depressed due to the content of this fellowship!
Check back here every few days in July to see what we did!
Our trip will follow this outline:
Washington D.C. – United States Holocaust Museum
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Anne Frank House, Corrie Ten Boom House, various Dutch Resistance sites
Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp – where Anne Frank and her sister were
Berlin, Germany – Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, SS headquarter ruins, various Nazi and Hitler sites
Copenhagen, Denmark – Jewish communities related to the Resistance, locations related to “Number the Stars” book
Krakow, Poland – Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, Schindler’s Factory (from the movie and book “Schindler’s List”)
Salzburg, Austria – “Sound of Music” locations, Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest
Munich & Nuremberg, Germany – Dachau Concentration Camp, Nuremberg Trials and Documentation Center
Innsbruck, Switzerland – Kristallnacht markers