The longest day of my life began at 5am. Because of some funky scheduling with trains and buses, to ensure that I had enough time for “security” in one of the smallest airports in the world, I left at the earliest hour possible. I had a 40 minute train ride to Jerez de la Frontera, 20 minute bus ride to the airport, and then I hurried up and waited. I started marking down the ingredients in German from the little box of cereal I had bought: apple, Banana, Folic Acid, etc. You know, the things I thought would be most useful on my trip to Germany. In case anyone needs to know how to say Folic Acid in German I’m your “go to guy”, which is Folsäure by the way. The plane was of course tardy and after chatting with some fellow Spring Break travelers I finally pulled my feet onto the Condor flight headed for Frankfurt International. I was so terribly excited. Really just overcome with the feeling of having accomplished this long-lived dream. We buckled up and we took off. When landing in Frankfurt the plane had to actually circle a few times because of terrible rain and wind. And of course the passengers all started clapping. I mean that’s nice and all, but seriously, isn’t that their job? Maybe I guess maybe people just like the cheap thrill of it all.
· on a side note, while going through security at the airport I scraped my thumb up somethin’ fierce with my bracelet and instead of scurrying to find me a band-aid the Spanish security men looked at my hand gushing blood, had to show all their peers and then only when I stopped a cleaning lady did they find some random paper for me to wrap around my thumb. So now I have an awesome scar on my thumb, which may or may not look like I got into a mean knife fight. You should see the other guy.
I bought a ticket and found my way to the train headed for Wurzburg. The train should normally only take a little over two hours, but because of some track construction and rerouting it took about 3 ½ hours. I was also standing the majority of the time because of it being Friday afternoon and not having a “reserved” seat. At one point a little girl handed me a cookie because she “pitied me for having to sit on the floor”. Oh, how I love English translation. Upon arrival I was blasted with AMAZING beauty, cleanliness, friendly people, wonderful architecture, people who don’t walk at the speed of molasses in the winter time, and a really lovely town. I moseyed around and found my way through the scavenger hunt type directions my friend had written to me for our rendezvous point. Around 7:30 or so we finally met up, and hugged! It had been six years since we’d seen each other, however it felt like just yesterday.
Think I woulda stopped there? No way! We dropped my bags off, skipped across an ancient bridge over the Main river and stuffed ourselves with the most amazing sushi. Then went to his favorite bar and spent the evening meeting lots of his good friends, trying uber (which means super or above in German by the way) delicious quality German beer. Finally at about 3am or so I rolled into bed.
Saturday 27th of March:
I slept in a bit and then had a much needed beautifully displayed and scrumptious German breakfast. Od course Jamie did most of the meat and cheese eating, but I did however chow down on a yummy salmon sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes. I even ordered a second cup of coffee (after gathering up the courage to say it in German. Which took about 15 minutes I might add). Oh how beautiful the display of food is in Germany, how much customer service they have and how friendly the people are!
After a bit of time we cruised down the autobahn in a beautiful black shiny car and well, just say we took advantage of the autobahn’s no speed limit driving regulations. Oh man it was so fun! After making a temporary discoteca in the car (aka jammin’ out to wild fun car songs and dancin’ this way and that), we arrived to the army base in Heidelburg. Had a great time at the USMA Alum. Founders Day Dinner, ate some good food and met some really amazing people. Course we were all dressed up and I was feelin’ like a little princes at this point. After dining, some speeches and a slide show, we went down into Heidelburg and got a feel for the night life of that precious little town. A surprise game of beer pong found me in it and I kick a**. Oh yeah I’ve still got some college moves!
Sunday 3/27 – Got a nice big cup of American Latte coffee on base and then we cruised up into the Heidelburg castle and spent some good hours, laughing and chatting and observing the castle. Oh man how lovely and amazing. It is so high and looming and with great sculptures.
I had the best Kebab of my life upon returning to Wurzburg. Germany is filled with the Turkish style kebab shops and while I have been poked fun at because I don’t eat “real” kebabs, the falafel is just fine with me and it was about 20 minutes of ecstasy eating that kebab by the Main river. Apparently if you bring a girl into this establishment you are treated with suckers as a special dessert treat. My dear friend, who frequents this place often, has only been handed suckers when with female friends. He he.
Monday 3/28 – I took on Wurzburg by storm that day and walked all around that joint! I investigated beautiful gardens, magnificent buildings, fantastic churches and even took a little hike to find my most favorite of all, the Kopelle. A fantastic creation at the top of the hill over looking all of Wurzburg valley. From up there you can see the Feisteng Marienburg castle, the river, the city center, and even the outskirts. It’s a tiered walk up through sculptures and buildings depicting the story of Jeusus on the cross and the mourners. It’s so beautiful. After you climb up 4 or 5 different landings all with different periods of the walk with the cross you are shadowed by a lovely yellow and white glowing church.
I ordered a kebab on my own, found the Haus der 150 biers and had a sign language communication experience with a random person at the river. We had four languages between us (German, English, Spanish and Arabic) and we still were only able to communicate that we wanted a picture taken, we both like soccer and what our names were. 😀
Last night in Wurzburg we ventured to a Spanish/Latino restaurant called Fuego and had some SUPER delicious amazingly beautiful salad. I still couldn’t help but gleam and look up in delight at the fact I kept on being served such beautiful lovely food. How lucky we are! For an appetizer we shared some sauteed mushrooms and I indulged in a Franconian wine (Wurzburg has a reputation for it’s wine), so I tried a local glass. It was dark, dry and thick, quite good.
It was a lovely meal, surrounded by a variety of languages, a nice glowing flame next to the table, fresh night air, a simple walk back to the house and great company. It surely was a nice way to say a temporary Auf Weidersehen to this lovely town and amazing friend.
Tuesday – 3/30
As soon as I arrived in Munich on Tuesday it hit the list of my favorite cities in the world. It was a sunny day and I was greeted by a friend with a little smirking grin and arms wide open.
We stayed in the nicest hostel I’ve ever seen in a lovely top floor room, met some great people, watched a soccer game at an Australian bar (and Munich Bayern beat Man. U!! HAH!. Not that Munich Bayern beat them but finally that Manchester United lost! 😀 ), and then went to bed fairly early (about 12ish).
Today we departed on a walking tour of the wonderful city of Munich. There we had a crash course of German history (maybe one of the first times I’ve ever been SUPER interested and enthralled in history I might add). We also saw many famous buildings, the Glockenspiel, the Hofbrauhaus, a wonderful market, churches, parks, many sausage stands and sculptures. The most awesome thing bout Munich? Well, okay ONE of the most awesome things about Munich is that it is really a relatively young city. There are only FOUR structures which still remain after it’s destruction in WWII. Most things were rebuilt in the last 60 years, but because it has such a delicate and unique style it was rebuilt with the old style. It appears to be quite historic and antique, however don’t let that fool you. There was so much Third Reich Nazi history here it was unbelievable. Many may have known this, but I did not and was quite surprised and intrigued that the Nazi party was actually started in Munich. We walked along the same steps as a massive group of Nazi’s did in a blockade in the famous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 and rubbed a lions nose, for luck I think?
We climbed up in the bell tower (first exercise in about 5 days and oh boy did it feel good) and got a GREAT 360 view of the city and the Rathaus (town hall) with the famous Glockenspiel dancing dolls. Hey local Leavenworthians…Those little dancing dolls down on Front Street really do come from some form of history…..
….legend has it that….well into the years of the Black Plague when the people were not leaving their houses and terribly afraid of anything, the “Coopers” (men that make beer barrels) were told to dress up in funny outfits, and go dance in the streets to help revive some spirit. Apparently they did and the people who were shivering in fear inside their houses peeked through their curtains and were curious about why they were dancing in the street. People eventually came out into the sun filled sky and in a short while the plague vanished from Europe. As silly and simple as it seems, it worked.
This day I finally found some yummy dried fruit and after chewing some uber good pineapple we laid down for another mini-nap. Later on that evening we rounded up some of the newly made friends from the hostel and enjoyed a quite good Italian meal and later went out dancing. After tripping over some cobblestones and rounding a few corners we found ourselves at a German dance club entitled Atomic Café, where we got our groove on ‘till the wee hours of the night. We crashed into bed around 3 or so, only to have yet ANOTHER early morning train and pulled our gear together and made that 7:11am train like our lives depended on it.
9ish in the morning and I found myself on a German train chugging through Zurich and the only thing I could see when my eye lids fluttered open was snow and more snow. The train station sign was completely covered as well as the trees, cute little houses and mountains. It was quite a Swiss winter wonderland.
We arrived in the tiniest town of Lindau in Bondensee around 10am. Although it could have been any time of day and we wouldn’t have noticed because of the awful cold and gray cloudy skies. What a welcoming the island had for us. Lake Constance still looked beautiful though. Grandpa once told me that gray is the best color for bringing other colors out. When green, or blue or whatever is situated next to gray it really pops out. Well, the other colors that were placed next to the gray, were dark gray, white, lighter gray, white, medium dark gray and teeny bit of dark blue. So don’t get too down on the gray, we need it 🙂
We hitched our backpacks on and found our way to the cutest little hotel in the world. It was the cutest little hotel, on the cutest little island. I think I may have said “cute” about 23,094 times during those two and half days.
We took a walk around the island and I stuck my hand in Lake Constance. Oh boy was that water freezing! We took some photos, but most of them were of frozen statuesque bodies (ours). We were definitely not dressed for the occasion, nonetheless we enjoyed the day and found a quaint and completely delicious and filling Thai food place for dinner. I ate some yummy Jasmine rice and Tofu salad, with melon, onions, cilantro and a nice sweet chili sauce oil dressing. My drink came with a pretty purple flower, which I later stuck in my hair.
After we had finished eating a tiny little toddler, toddled on up to our table in search of another flower. After realizing we spoke English her mom got all excited, and said “honey, you know a little English, what can you say? What can you remember?” The blond bobble-head girl thought for a moment and finally came out with….”HOT DOG!” We all had a good laugh.
We were blessed with a wonderful sunny day. Although incredibly cold to start off with, it was definitely a glowing day beckoning us to come outside. So after we enjoyed a very cute personable and filling breakfast at the cute hotel, with the cute woman-owner bustling around making sure we all had our own pots of coffee, we stuffed up and jumped outside. We got a ferry and crossed the lake to Bregenz, Austria. The wind was bitterly cold, but if you stood up and jumped around on the ferry, your feet wouldn’t completely freeze. Plus, with the sun sparkling on the water, and atop the snow-covered Alps, it was the most delicate and beautiful sight.
After docking in Bregenz we took a Gondola up the mountain and had an amazing view of the lake, a little of Germany, a little bit of Austria and tiny tip of Switzerland. We were absolutely not prepared for the amount of fresh snow which had fallen, but we shrugged our shoulders and went on a walkabout in tennis shoes, jeans and light jackets. We ended up trekking through a “Wilderness Park” on the top of the mountain, with the sun high over head. There were some funny looking mountain goats, some RUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Sizes) and plenty of deer. After the snow hike in runners we were becoming quite warm, the sun was helping and so we shed our jackets and sat at a cute little restaurant and sipped on some fresh cold Weisbier. It was lovely! We were plopped right in the Austrian Alps, with a fresh blanket of snow that was quickly melting and a clear bright blue sky.
The boat ride back was just as grand and we spent the rest of the afternoon milling around the island, which had suddenly become jammed packed with leisure travelers. Who knows where they call came from! The day before had been a complete ghost town, but the following day was another story. It could have been because it was a Friday or because it was like heaven on Earth with the sparkling reflecting lake, looming pure white mountains in the background or aroma of fresh lake and mountain air, but there wasn’t a free spot on the whole island. Lucky for us however, the best view at the best little lake side restaurant was just waiting for us with a perfect spot on the deck. We parked our behinds there for a solid three hours, talking, chatting, and taking pictures of the breathtaking scene.
Again with a small, recharge nap and then went out for one last meal in the cute little town. It was yes, a cute meal, of salad and pizza. Guess who had the salad and guess who had the pizza?
The following morning, we had another early train (not to waste any moment of the day) and so we arrived back in my new favorite city around 10am. We were blessed with a sunny sky, and a bearable slight chill in the air.
Big moment for Madamoiselle Liliana Jones! We were in the market and I was incredibly hungry and I didn’t want to have to be so picky and go really far out of the way to feed the food devil so I decided upon a bakery with a Tomato-Mozzarella caprese sandwich. I had the intention to remove the three pieces of Mozzarella, dripping with goodness, however…and this is where it gets really ridiculous. I took out three of the two pieces and for some odd reason left one piece in at the end of the sandwich. I got all the way down and stared at it for a good 5 seconds. My meat eating companion who was gnawing away at a Brautwurst was looking at me with scrunched up eyebrows. I stared at the sandwich, looked at the ground, thought for a moment, and looked at him. “oh man I’m being really dumb”. So I bit in to it and my whole world exploded in my mouth! Two and half years of no cheese and oh man it was fantastical! So I finished that sandwich and savored every bite, and then definitely ate the remaining two pieces of cheese. Oh glorious cheese day!
Somehow we found our way back to the beer garden in the famous Englischergarten and I watched my friend down a Pork Knuckle covered in a layer of it’s own fat crackling, while I nibbled on a pretzel and a small bowl of SaurKraut. Liters of beer were being consumed left and right and we were not one to be lame tourists, so of course we ingested a bit. However, I stuck with half liters. The couple next two us had THREE, 1-Liters of Helles, each! They were a Bavarian couple each in their 50’s, I’m guessing. The woman was a riot! She was giggling and asking question. “oh you’re a vegetarian? How come you’re in Munich?” :p That was a common question of the trip.
We decided to walk off some of the hops and carbs and ended up at another, smaller, lake further into the Garden and rented a little peddle boat. We spent a good hour or so peddling around the lake and playing with the ducks. I hadn’t had any exercise in days and this felt so good. So good in fact I said, “Hey friend, if you wouldn’t mind would you let me do all the peddling so I can get some booty exercise in?” Well of course he didn’t mind and for a good portion of the time I really worked my Gluteus Maximus! To the maximum. Ha ha. The lake was small and so was the boat. Not cute anymore, but a FANTASTIC place to be. I fell right on in love with Munich. As soon as the sun set the air became super chilly and we went back to the hotel. We had a fairly early night that night as we had big plans for the next day. And what were they?
Sunday, April 4th
To go to the first Concentration Camp ever. The city of Dachau was only bout a 30 minute train ride from Munich and we jumped on the 10:15 S8. What an experience that was! Although it was reconstruction of the original it was still very eerie and the cold gray day didn’t help with the feeling at all. “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free) was welded into the gate entrance and there was the creepy barbed wire encasing the entire compound. We listened to our audio tour guide tell us about this and that, we read signs and walked across the dreary gravel with the crunch-crunch following every step. The biggest surprise for me was when we entered the Krematorium site. It was across a little creek and in a pleasant green area, covered with a nice canopy of friendly trees and more grass than in the entire camp. I rounded a corner of a wooden shed and wasn’t prepared for what I saw as soon as my eyes peered around the corner: the old-fashioned body incinerators. More or less, what they had to use to rid of the multitude of massive cadavers that flooded the camp. Their doors were flung open with gaping holes just waiting for a body to be hauled in, it really caught me off guard. Even though it had been rebuilt, it was all still very lifelike.
There was also a smaller building which was the most eerie to walk through. At first there were rooms for the “delousing” and “cleaning” of “camp prisoners”, which was followed by the waiting room. It was a cold blank square of a room. This is where they would wait before they were to be “showered” and cleaned. After the waiting room was a smaller room with shower heads at the top and six drains on the floor, there were two heavy iron doors and no windows in this room. It was quite creepy and fairly dark. Although there were killings and executions at the Dauchau camp, it is said that there is no technical evidence that the gas showers were officially ever used there.
Following the showers, was the room for the dead to be piled in. There were a few mangy black and white photos and information plaques discussing how many were lined up and stacked, waiting to be incinerated. Then there was the room where they loaded them into the ovens and made their ashes fly into the sky. After stepping out from this building your eyes are blessed with some lovely green trees and a nice forest feeling. Along this deceiving walk are gravestones and signs labeled “execution site, blood ditch”, etc.
It was a solemn tour, but so worth it. Its important to see, try to understand a bit more and pay your respects. There also many dedications and memorials around the camp site: a church which is open all the time, a cross-shaped convent with a little book store run by nuns, and two beautiful monuments one made out of perfect oval stones and the other out of shiny basalt, dedicated to the millions of people who lost their lives in this terrible time.
After walking in a circle, literally, we found our way back to the bus station and got back on the train towards Munich. We did stop in Laim however, which is home to the biggest Bier Garten in the world, Hirschgarten (Deer Garden). It was a dreary cold day and it was quite sad to see the bier garten in progress because there was NO ONE outside! A thousand empty tables and sad dripping table umbrellas, but we went inside and were instantly blasted with the sounds of grilling meat and a mixture of German, English, and Greek.
We were appointed a very ostentatious and proud Greek waiter and after simply inquiring what a word was, in case it meant it was some form of meat, he instantly retorted “Oh that is not for you! You cannot have that! That is only for Bavarians and I think you wouldn’t like it, no, no you wouldn’t like it.”….in my head I was thinking, “oh, okay, well I was merely curious, but that’s fine.”…So I ordered my usual dark beer and bowl of SaurKraut. Of course he made fun of me a little bit, but I didn’t care. I like the warm fermented cabbage. Ben ordered some Bavarian size platter of three different kinds of meat, some potatoes and a Liter of Beer. I asked him one time how he’d feel about eating all three at the same time. And without blinking he put a little quack-quack, a little bambi and a little moo-moo on his fork, dipped it in potatoes, wrapped some Kraut around it and savored the chewy iron-filled bite. I’m sure it was delicious and I watched with keen interested as I politely picked out bits of bacon and popped strips of cabbage into my “Yankee Vegan” mouth. (Yankee Vegan is the nickname the Salt Grass employees bestowed upon me while working at the Steakhouse in Texas.)
Did we ever stop eating and consuming?
I don’t think so. In fact, I really became quite frustrated and guilty by the whole bit. I sure do like being a tourist and enjoying the cultures of many countries and experiencing it all. But about five days into it I began to feel so gluttonous and guilt-ridden by all the indulgence going on around me. Do we really need all of this? I’d think often. I was often flooded with a mixture of feelings when a beautiful plate of food was set in front of me. On one hand I was so blessed and lucky to be able to have the opportunity to be able to eat like this, however the question of need over want always floated into my head and thoughts of people who can’t eat like this came into my mind. It’s really unnecessary all the consumption. Can’t we go on vacation without consuming like mongrels? Water from a glass bottle, mineral water, bread, pretzels, scoops of ice cream and sorbet, pounds of meat, snacks here, meals there, drinks here, ice there, etc. I cannot find the line of neutrality here. I am blessed and lucky and appreciate it all, but look around me and observe the shoveling, and consuming and wasting and want over need being taken advantage of so much it makes me cringe. Is that fair to feel this way? It’s no one’s fault. And I’m no angel in this, as I did eat my first piece of cheese in two and half years and have two scoops of Mango sorbet.
That night we indulged in a sushi dinner. I got my usual Spicy Tuna and turns out I’d met my match on the Wasabi appreciation. We had to ask for a refill twice, almost three times and we sat there with eyes watering, but enjoying every nostril burning moment. We strolled around Munich and enjoyed the night streets. Oh how I love the city at night, especially such a beautiful and historic place as München. We found another random bar, with a twist of about 12 different themes mashed into one and had another strange encounter with what we ordered. Again I ordered a “usual” (gin on ice) and Ben ordered a Mango Daquiri. However when the drinks came, it wasn’t Mango, but rather strawberry. The waitress said the bartender said he’d like the Strawberry better so he didn’t make the mango. We looked at each other and simultaneously mentally thought “are you kidding me? Again? Really?”….so yeah. We chilled out there for a good while, while I danced around in my seat to a variety of good music and tried to invigorate some spirit into my travel buddy.
In bed around 1:30am or so, and up again at 3:30am to make the 4am train. We got on the U-Bahn and got up to the Munich airport around 5:30ish. It was an easy check-in, smooth security, and before departing Munich I bought one more cheese and tomato sandwich and said my good-bye’s to the wonderful country which I will be living in one day.
“Don’t cry for me Germany, the truth is I’ll never leave you”