Day 6: Dachau Concentration Camp and Arrival to Reutte

5/29/15

Bus to Dachau Concentration Camp

On our bus ride to the Dachau Concentration Camp, Jennifer gave us a history lesson. She has been doing this on the bus before every city or location we stop at in order to help us understand the culture before we get there.

Something Jennifer said that stood out to us was that the ß symbol seen in German words stands for “SS,” which was removed from grammar after the war because it was a horrible reminder of what the SS did. She also told us how Germans do not fly their flag proudly like other countries, because of shame they feel from WWII. In fact, the flag is really only flown during a soccer match when they win. The national anthem is rarely ever sang either and it was a monumental day during one soccer game when Germany won and the crowd started singing it. It just does not happen here because of what happened in the past.

Work Camp Not Extermination Camp

Our local tour guide, Brendan MacGurk, shared with us the history of the camp. Many people mistake this camp for an extermination camp, however it was a work camp only. People were not sent here to be murdered, but to be worked to death.

Only one barrack was left standing and it served as a reminder of how the living conditions quickly changed over the years for its inhabitants. It was built with individual bunks to house people separately, then the partitions were taken down and people had to share their bunks, by the end of the war the bunks were turned into one long bunk that spanned the entire room, and thousands of people were shoved into these living quarters like animals. The camp was built to house 6,000 people and by the end it had 30,000.

It was interesting to learn that this camp was not created for the Jews. Instead, its purpose was to house the political opposition and homosexuals. Eventually, the Jews were brought here too.

Crazy human medical experiments went on here. People were purposely infected with malaria, frozen underwater to see which organs die first, etc.

Sometimes the Nazis would make everyone in the camp stand at attention in the courtyard for 24 hours at a time in the freezing cold. If someone collapsed due to hunger or exhaustion, not one person could flinch or he/she would be shot on the spot. It was complete terror here!

Lunch

Lunch was on our own in a cafeteria located at the camp.

A Surprise Stop at Wieskirche

After Dachau, we were treated to a surprise stop at the “Little Church in the Meadow,” Wieskirche, a rococo style church. It is said that, in 1738, tears were seen on a dilapidated wooden figure of Jesus and so a small church was built to house it. This miracle resulted in a pilgrimage rush to see the sculpture so a bigger church had to be built (next to it), which is flamboyant with gold, angels and over-the-top rococo style.

Last Judgement

On the ceiling in the Wieskirche, a mural shows Jesus sitting on a rainbow. It is a happy depiction of the Last Judgement, which is rare.

Beautiful Bus Ride

The bus ride to our hotel was the most beautiful and scenic yet! Everything was so green, huge lakes were sparkling, cows grazing, meadows full of buttercups, snow capped mountains, and glacial colored rivers. The closer we get the more amazing mountains. It reminded us of Glacier National Park. We also saw both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castle from a distance.

Here, they say “Groo-scot” (Go with God) as a hello or greeting. We are in Tyrol region where they spend more money on education than the military.

Group Dinner

After checking in, we had a glass of Gruner Veltliner wine on the patio facing the mountains. It was so relaxing and gorgeous!

Our dinner was great. We had a goulash and salad, and crepe over ice cream dessert. We met two new Americans in the group, Bill and Chris, and four Canadians, Peter, Bev, Pam and Darlene. We were the loudest table full of laughter and great conversation. It was great getting to know everyone.

After dinner, a few tour members were interested in trying the local Schnapps liquor. So, we met up at the bar area. It tasted nothing like sugar sweet Schnapps in the U.S. It was like straight alcohol! We got a chance to chat with our driver, Richard again. He had one drink with our small group.

Before going to bed we walked around the back of the hotel and saw the Ernberg Castle illuminated at night. It was so cool!

Day 7: Castle Tours and Tegelberg Luge

5/30/15

Tour of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles

We had a guided tour of Neuschwanstein Castle, which was built by King Ludwig. However, only 1/3 of it was complete before he died. No photos were allowed inside, so we could not document the beauty of it. It was very elaborate with lots of swans in the decor, walls and furniture. This castle was the model for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Cast in the Magic Kingdom.

Before the tour, we hiked to Marien Brücke (Mary’s Bridge), which offered an extraordinary view of the castle.

Next, we went to Hohenschwangau Castle, which was ruled by King Maximilian and were Ludwig lived as a boy. No photos were allowed in here either. While it was decorated beautifully, it was not as elaborate as Neuschwanstein Castle. The colors and decor were more subdued. In one room there was a telescope that pointed out the window at Neuschwanstein Castle, which let Ludwig to stare at his castle while it was being built.

Tegelberg Luge

Since the weather was nice, our guide Jennifer to us to the Tegelberg Luge. It was a highlight of the trip! We rode down a long metal luge on a sled that had a lever to control the speed. We were able to go really fast! Everyone in the group did it at least once, while some of us did it a total of three times.

Group Dinner

Dinner at our hotel was good. We had a roast beef, spinach pasta, wine and a cheese and apple strudel with a delicious sauce.

The Hotel

We stayed at the Aplenhotel Ernberg. Many of the rooms had balconies, however we did not get one that did. We did have a large window that opened and let in a great breeze. The breakfast was good. It had a bar and nice patio. Overall a nice stay.