Tuesday, December 27, 2011


So many words have more appropriately described both the horrors and revelations that visitors have experienced at Dachau Concentration Camp in Dachau, Germany.  For those of you who have not yet had the chance to visit one of the camps, I would like to share my visit with you...in pictures.

"Work Makes Free"

The Bunker

4 Prisoners Shared Each Bed

All but 2 of the bunkers were removed after the camp was closed.  All that remains are the foundation  stones.

When the camp was liberated there were 30 bunkers, holding up to 60,000 prisoners at any given time.

The second crematorium built at Dachau.

The gas chambers...word above the door implied that they prisoners were heading in to the showers.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Magical Merry Christmas

I still have so much to catch you up on.  It is hard to believe today is Christmas Eve.  My trip to Germany is quickly coming to a close.

Earlier this week I bought a ticket to go see an Italian men's choir, La Montanara, perform Christmas music at the Residenz - the former palace of all of the Bavarian monarchs.  Obviously, I chose La Montanara over the Vienna Symphony Orchestra because, well, eye candy is better than ear candy any day, right?  So, Tuesday evening I got all dressed up and went out on the town for dinner and a concert.  I settled on the Lowenbrau Zum Franziskaner Beer Hall for dinner.

As I waited for my dinner of Bavarian three mushroom soup and Franciscan pork shoulder with belly bacon and bread dumplings I took in the sights around me.  Old German beer steins line the walls of a room filled with long wooden tables, benches and booths.  Men and women shared meals of liver loaf and "semi-warm" potato salad over a Lowenbrau Original.  I have to say, there is something great about being in a city where you never have to worry about ordering the proper wine with your dinner.  Every table in the hall had a basket of pretzels and a couple of liters of local brew on it.  While the younger crowd was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, they were far outnumbered by the more properly dressed, mature diners in traditional Bavarian clothing.  Even a few family dogs joined in for dinner, waiting patiently under the tables of their owners.

Shortly after I placed my order, the waitress returned with my bowl of soup.  The soup, second only to my grandmother's cauliflower cheese soup, was absolutely incredible.

After finishing my soup, I was already seriously second-guessing my decision to order the pork shoulder.  Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and a sip of beer, in the vein hope that I might clear a little room.  While I was in Nuremberg I was told by a waiter that the Franciscan pork shoulder could only be found in and around Nuremberg and it was not to be missed.  I feared that having had such a short stay in Nuremberg I had missed my chance, so when I saw it on the menu Tuesday night, I knew I couldn't pass it up twice.  While I was waiting for the main course, I watched the American wearing the fanny pack across the room from me, order an Evian water in a beer hall and blow his nose into his handkerchief.  For a moment, I worried I stood out as much as he did.  And while three different people have assumed I was a local and stopped me to ask for directions here in Munich, the sad truth is I do.  After all, when my meal came, I pulled out my camera...again!

One of these days, I'll come to terms with the fact that there is no shame in looking like a tourist.  In the meantime, I must admit, I still turn a bit red every time I pull out my camera to take a picture!

After eating as much of my dinner as I could possibly consume, I made my way down the street to the Residenz theater.  Of course, despite being incredibly full, I thought it best to stop in to the local chocolate shop for a little after dinner treat.  I bought a bag of chocolate covered gingerbread and a bag of the jelly orange slices my grandpa used to share with me when I was a little girl.  He likes all things German and I think he would have been smiling down at me the other night as I enjoyed the city.

I arrived at the theater, checked my coat and managed to find my seat without too much trouble, considering I don't know more than 5 German words.  I just love Christmas - I know I've mentioned that a few times - and I was really excited for the music that night.  Imagine my surprise when I was expecting 26 Italian "Il Divo-type" men and out onto the stage walked 26 men all over the age of 50!  I literally giggled at myself in my seat.  I mean, who picks out which Christmas concert they are going to go to based on what they think the performers will look like!  Nevertheless, La Montanara was amazing.  I found myself closing my eyes and just taking in the music throughout the evening.  The entire performance was a cappella and it was breathtaking.

What an amazingly magical night.  While being away from family and friends at Christmas is never easy, people do it every year.  And how lucky am I to be celebrating Christmas in a place that I believe knows how to celebrate the birth of our Savior better than anywhere else?  As I write this, I am listening to some of my favorite Christmas carols, enjoying some traditional (and untraditional) German snacks and getting ready for Christmas Eve service in Munich.

Merry Christmas from Munich, my friends and family.  Sending love to you all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So Much to Share, So Little Space!

So much is happening so fast here in Germany that I could probably write a blog post every day - that is, if I wasn't so tired by the time I got back to my room at night!  I have a lot to catch you up on.

This past Friday I left Munich for Nuremberg, Germany, home of what I am told is the oldest and best Christmas market in all of Germany - if not the world.  I knew my stop in Nuremberg would be short, so I quickly dropped my bags off at my hotel, bundled up and hopped the train back to the "Old Town".  From the moment I left the station I was transported back to earlier times.  Nuremberg is quaint and cozy; every corner of the town tastefully decorated for the Christmas season.

I followed the path of Christmas lights straight into the town center and found the Christmas Market and my mug of gluhwein.

The night was extremely windy and, as a result, a bit chilly, but the scheduled carol band was brave enough to face the cold.  I stood in the town square, enjoying my mug of gluhwein and listening to some of my favorite carols.  Watching the band struggle to keep warm brought back memories of my marching band days in Wisconsin.  There is nothing like trying to keep a brass instrument warm on a freezing cold winter day - I give these guys credit.  The music was beautiful.  Standing in that square listening to the music that night will always be a special Christmas memory for me.

Of course, while I was in the market I grabbed a snack - or two:

And, I even exhibited a bit of restraint, passing by the chocolate covered goodies stall:
There is so much to see in Nuremberg and by the time I had wandered through all of the markets....

...I was ready for dinner at Nuremberg's Original Bratwursthaus.

Saturday morning, I met my friend Emilie for coffee in Nuremberg.  I literally have not seen her since we graduated from the 8th grade together.  Thanks to Facebook and a mutual love for adventure, somehow we were able to reconnect in Germany.  We ended up having so much to talk about and I lost track of time.  At 1:08 pm I looked at my clock.  My train to Salzburg was scheduled to leave at 1:10 pm.  Oops.  We booked it to the train station and I was able to catch the next train out, arriving in Salzburg only an hour later than I had originally planned.

By the time I arrived I only had about an hour before the Christmas markets closed up for the night and when I saw the suite I was upgraded to, I almost stayed in for the night.

I'm glad I didn't!  I ended up walking around the town for a bit and then heading down to Salzburg's Oldest Beer Cellar for a comfort food dinner of Weiner Schnitzel and a good, dark brew.

I know it may seem like I'm eating and drinking a LOT here...but at least I didn't order this:
The next morning (Sunday), I woke up early so that I could visit the Christkindlmarkt, Sound of Music sights and take the tram up to the Festung Hohensalzburg - the fortress at the top of the old town.  This blog is getting long - again - so I'll give you the highlights in pictures.  After all, they say they're worth a thousand words, right?

Not sure how they get these to grow in winter

Fountain from the Sound of Music

Not really sure what this is all about, but I liked him!

Mirabell Gardens with the Festung in the background

Old Town - Alstadt

Thought this was pretty crazy...until my bro explained it to me.

From the Festung - Alps in the background


Me at the Christkindlmarkt

Had no idea what I was ordering, but it looked good - it was.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow...the best is yet to come!  This week has been pretty great.  I'm off to Marienplatz for some dinner, gluhwein and Christmas music in the market.  Merry Christmas, friends!