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Stormy Point Village

I haven’t posted this Spring Break because we knew it would be rainy the whole week in Branson, Missouri, so we mostly brought projects to work on. But, we did have see a few things that are definitely worth sharing.7BA570A3-CC29-45B1-9BF6-4E5FE056C0F7

On Wednesday (3/28/18), we went to hear James Garrett in his tribute to John Denver. Whether you’re like me and grew up playing John Denver songs on the piano or you have never heard of him before, this is an incredible show and has been voted the best morning show for the past 6 years! In addition to James (whose music you can check out here,) the band also included Randy Plummer with gospel songs, Shannon Comer on percussion, and Shawn Pittman playing a mean violin and hammered dulcimer. Additionally, James shares about not only his friendship with John Denver and some funny anecdotes, but also his experience growing up in 18 different homes as a foster kid, leading him to start the foundation Jacob’s House at Thunder Ranch to provide a safe place for foster kids. Truly an amazing heart born out of first hand experience.

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The Wilders’ last home

Then, yesterday (3/29/18), we headed over to Mansfield, Missouri, to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane Museum and Home. Though still a rainy day, it was a great experience. The main home is entirely filled with originals, as if Laura just stepped out. In fact, everything but the kitchen floor, the curtains, and the bedspreads are original. In many places, the wallpaper is the original pattern, but has been remade.

One cool feature of the house is that Laura designed it and Almanzo built it. It’s also amazing to realize how short they actually were—Laura stood only 4’11” and Almanzo was somewhere around 5’4”, so a small couple. We took the tour in the order the home was built.

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The Rock House

 

 

There were so many amazing original pieces including the Christmas clock, which Almanzo had traded hay to get. This is the same one mentioned in The First Four Years. There are also a number of pieces of furniture Almanzo made from lamps to tables. And the storage he built in is unparalleled! (Though perhaps that was Laura’s design.)

The rock house was purchased by Rose who was the second most demanded writer in America before Laura even started writing. She bought it from the Sears Roebuck catalog, which is interesting. Though the house is much more sparsely furnished (the Wilders only lived in it for 7 years while Rose lived in their house—after that, they rented it out), it was in this house that Laura began writing the Little House books.

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Pa’s fiddle

Before we left, we headed to the museum, which contains many other family pieces—most notably Pa’s fiddle, Laura’s wedding dress, and original manuscripts. Definitely an incredible museum.

We ended off today (3/30/18) with a drive on our first sunny day of the week. We drove out to the steamboat and then walked around in the Sight and Sound theatre which is performing Samson currently.

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Sight and Sound Theatre entrance

All in all, this has been a restful trip with some neat sights to see.

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The Carter House

Having been drawn to Franklin, Tennessee, since reading The Widow of the South, we came to Nashville with plans of spending time in Franklin.  Today (12/26/17), we made a power trip to three main sites.

We started chronologically at the Carter house.  We planned to arrive around opening time (9:00 AM) to explore a bit before the 10:00 Slavery tour (held on Tuesdays at the Carter House and Thursdays at Carnton).  Since the tour was just my mom and I, and I had a good grasp on the legislation involving slavery, we got a unique experience.  Christy shared with us some of the things she felt were the most interesting in her vast research on slavery and specifically on the slaves at the Carter House.

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Slave Cabin moved in from another plantation in the area

She started with slavery’s origin in Africa.  While I knew there were huge losses during the Middle Passage, I wasn’t aware just how many lost their lives.  12.3 million slaves left Africa on slave ships and only 10.7 million survived.  That’s roughly 17%.  Another surprising statistic was that only 450,000 came to America–less than 4%.  The rest were sent to the Caribbean or South America where they were often worked to death.  One thing that made American slavery unique was allowing some slaves to stay together in family units–something Carter did.

While Christy rightfully stressed that even the best slavery was still slavery, the Carters seemed to be one of the best.  They worked alongside their slaves in the field and protected their slaves with them in the day of the Battle of Franklin.  Their 28 slaves were not only able to live as family units (and were listed as family units instead of most valuable to least valuable), but several were also left 200 acres of land a piece in Carter’s will.  The families (both names Carters as the slaves took the Carter’s name) have also remained close through the generations after slavery.  We got to see a picture, probably from the 1890’s) of the mom’s and babies of both the black and white Carters standing together–just two moms and their boys who grew up and stayed best friends all their lives.  It was neat to see Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners sit down together at the table of brotherhood” before Martin Luther King was even on the scene.

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Visible damage in both the smoke house and the field office

After the Slavery Tour, we stayed for the traditional house tour.  Adam did an incredible job of explaining the carnage of November 30, 1864.

He started with a conflict between John Bell Hood (Confederate) and William Tecumseh Sherman (Federal).  The two had been engaged in conflict before Sherman began his famous March to the Sea.  When Sherman set out, Hood tried unsuccessfully to lure him back into the area, but Sherman continued on.  Hood then decided to take Nashville, both for a morale boost and supplies.  Sherman sent Schofield to cut Hood off, leading the two to embark on a race to Nashville, where only around 8,000 federals were guarding the area.

Hood and Schofield, both with around 30,000 men, each outmaneuver the other.  Finally, Hood gets around Schofield.  He has Schofield  trapped, and both sides know it.  Hood gives strict orders to block the road, and not leave any way for Schofield to retreat.  He then prepares to accept Schofield’s surrender in the morning.  But, in the fiasco of the century, the order is dropped, and the Confederates bed down for the night on either side of a wide open road.  Schofield is somehow able to march his men right through the sleeping Confederates, a testimony to either his stealth or their exhaustion.

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View of the Carter Property

Around 4 AM, Federal Brigidier General Jacob Cox knocks on the door of the Carter house, looking for a place to rest for a few hours–his own men are as exhausted as Hood’s.  Fully believing his men will be able to retreat across the river, he tells Fountain Branch Carter there will be no battle–the men are just exhausted and need a place to rest.  Fountain Branch asks about leaving, but Cox recommends staying, as he can’t guarantee the safety of their house or belongings if he leaves.  However, when Cox’s scout wakes him up around 4:30 AM to let him know the bridges are badly damaged and none of the promised pontoon boats have arrived, leaving them trapped, things change.  Cox awakens his men, sends engineers to repair the broken bridges, and orders the rest to entrench.  They know Hood will wake up, discover they’ve left, and be hot on their heels, madder than a hornet.  They build lines of defense:  the first, a two mile trench from river bank to river bank with the city of Franklin behind.  They then build a secondary line of trenches near the Carter house.  The third line (advanced guard) is about 1/2 mile south.  Now, they wait.

Wagner (Federal) had ordered Opdycke and two other brigades to utilize their men for an advanced line of observation.  Opdycke, however, argues with this command and Wagner finally tells him to “fight wherever you d–n well please!”  Obdycke takes his men back to the Carter house–a move that will prove providential for the Union (and bring recognition to Opdycke).  Opdycke’s men who left the advanced guard go in to rest.

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View showing the distance between the cellar (right) and the front door (left)

As expected, Hood’s men start arriving around 1 (They will be seen by Mrs. McGavock over at Carnton as Franklin is mostly fields with only 750 actual residents.)  Schofield expects Hood to see the entrenched Yankees, observe the lateness of the day, and wait–hopefully allowing the bridges to be repaired or the boats to arrive.  Yet, at 4:00 PM, as it’s beginning to grow dark on Winstead Hill, Hood’s men step off.

Hood’s battle plan is brilliant and initially effective.  Attack the advance guard, and push them back to punch a hole in the middle of the Union line.  Then, pour his men through the gap to flank the Union.  Initially, his plan works.  The Union advance guard makes a full speed retreat.  The first line of defense can’t fire because their own men are coming between them and the Confederates, who punch a hole straight through.  Surprisingly, the flanks hold.  The weak links–rookies from Ohio and Missouri, who were put in the second line to keep them from screwing things up, are now fighting like the devil.  Opdyke’s men, now rested, hear the commotion and come charging in without orders.  Running to the fray, they charge straight up to confront the Confederates.

What follows is hours of the most brutal hand to hand combat in the war.  While the family, their slaves, and their neighbors the Lotz family crouch in their basement, soldiers are cut down with grape shot (canister), bludgeoned with guns, bayoneted, or bit (yes, actually bit.)  Men used everything they could get their hands on to hurt each other, and bodies piled up 6-7 deep or were used as human shields.  In some places, soldiers couldn’t even fall to die because the number of dead around them held them up.

After fighting finally died down around 9:00 PM, the sun rose to 10,000 casualties–7,500 of whom were Confederates.  There were six generals dead and another 7 captured, making this a significant loss.  One out of every four soldiers were killed in the 5 hours of fighting.  Carter described having to shovel a path from the cellar to his front door through the bodies (57 of them) and carrying a bucket for brains.

The bridges were finally finished, and Schofield’s regiment would cross the river to reinforce Nashville, where a mere two weeks later, Hood would try another assault which also fails, and he is chased back through Franklin–a town that will be indeliably changed.

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The Lotz House

Finishing the battle tour, we rushed over to the Lotz House where we had the privilege to take a tour with Thomas Cartwright–leading expert on the Battle of Franklin.  He shared much of what we heard at the Carter House, but understandably focused more on the Lotz family–particularly the daughter Matilda Lotz who became an internationally famous painter.  He explained the Lotz’s held their daughter’s birthday party the night before the battle, oblivious of events about to unfold.  The next day, the area is overrun by federals, and Matilda’s pet calf is shot in front of her.  Tom attributes this experience to the fact that Matilda will make her international reputation painting with kind faces.

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Artifacts from the Lotz House–I think there had to be a good story here

In addition to the horrors of losing a pet, Tom asks us to imagine being Mr. Lotz trying to rush his wife and three children 150 paces over to the Carter cellar.  It must have been nerve-wracking!  Tom also shows places where blood stains the floor of the Lotz house and cannon balls damaged both floor and ceiling–in fact, so much of the house was destroyed that it took Lotz four years to repair a house it’d taken him only three years to build.  Tom also points out that Lotz, a master carpenter, was obviously in a hurry to get his family out of the cellar, as there are hammer marks in the repaired areas of the floor.  Another disturbing fact is that the nails in the floor are horseshoe nails.  Knowing that six horses were left dead in the Lotz yard, and how many nails per horse shoe, it is interesting to see the same number of horseshoe nails holding together the patches in the floor.  Another indication of how desperate the area must have been left after the battle.

One connection to the slavery tour, Tom shared that Mr. Lotz’s slaves weren’t field hands, but skilled laborers.  In fact, he paid $2,500 a piece for two slaves who were also skilled carpenters.  When slaves were generally between $500 and $1,500, to pay $2,500 a slave indicates these were incredibly special slaves.  Definitely a fascinating tour!

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The McGavock’s Carnton Plantation

From the Lotz House, we rushed over to the McGavock Plantation at Carnton, one of many houses used as a hospital for Confederate soldiers.  This was the site we especially wanted to see, as it was the setting of The Widow of the South.  It truly did not disappoint!  The McGavock plantation is huge and lovely.  While the owner after the McGavocks sanded off the bloodstains on the bottom floor because they bothered his daughter (understandably!), he did leave the stains on the second floor.  These are by the windows on the South side, so doctors were able to utilize the light.  Additional tables were set up in the yard to continue to operate.

When you realize the Battle of Franklin left 10 wounded men per citizen, one can understand how every house in town became a hospital  What made the McGavock farm different is the family themselves.  Our tour guide quoted an eye witness who recounted seeing Carrie McGavock sitting on the stairs writing a letter for a wounded soldier who knew he was going to die.  Carrie’s described as having most of her overslip torn away for bandages, and her sleeves and skirt about 3/4 coated in blood.  The McGavocks were offered the opportunity to leave or to sequester themselves in one room on the second floor.  Instead of running or hiding, the McGavocks jumped in to help out, even with their young children.

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The McGavock Family Cemetery

But, the McGavocks involvement didn’t end with just offering their house as a hospital for months.  They also donated a portion of their land, next to their own cemetery containing both the McGavock’s and the McGavock slaves, to provide a cemetery for Confederate soldiers who had been buried shallowly on the battlefield, then washed up in a torrential rain.  While they had help cataloging the bodies, which are arranged by state, they also spent the rest of their lives answering letters from relatives who thought their men were here and caring for those relatives when they visited the graves.  Carrie McGavock also mourned these men as her own three children who had died young as she daily walked through the cemetery.

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One side of the Confederate Cemetery

Though our feet were killing (3 one hour tours, and one 90 minute tour), we thoroughly enjoyed our experience and hope to return in warmer weather.

Fort Necessity

I was excited to head to Fort Necessity today (8/1/17) because this is where it all began:  The French Indian War which gave rise to the American Revolution.  So much of Washington is tied up in this area–his worst defeat, his biggest betrayal, his deepest humiliation, and the loss of a surrogate father figure.  Standing on the ground here, I felt, would give me the greatest insight for my book.  It is a truly incredible place.

I hadn’t realized that Washington and his men had spent almost two months clearing land for a road to attack Fort Duquesne.  One thing that has always stood out to me in this area is just how many trees there are–everywhere.  I can’t imagine trying to carve a path through them, much less fighting in them.  When he happened upon the Great Meadows, it must have seemed an oasis in the desert.  He termed it, “A charming field for an engagement.”  For a man who desperately wanted a British commission and who had been trained in the shoulder to shoulder British style of fighting, this spot was perfect.  Still, he hadn’t intended it for military service, but merely a supply station for troops attacking Fort Duquesne.

Another view of the fort

That all changed when three days later, Washington’s ally Tanacharison (the Half King) informed Washington there were French in the area (about 7 miles away).  His actions later make me wonder if this was a set-up, and he was simply using Washington.   Washington and 40 men set out to the Half King’s camp.  When they arrive, his scouts lead them to a ravine where the French are encamped.  From this point, two different versions of the story come into place.  Like typical siblings, both the French and the British claim the other one started it.  The French claim the British surprised them, and they fired back.  The British claim the French saw them approaching and fired first, with the British return fire being self defense.  Whatever actually happened, at the end of the day, the French commander Joseph Coulon de Villiers (Sieur de Jumonville) and 9 others were killed, one wounded, 21 prisoners, and one man who escaped to carry the news to Fort Duquesne.  British casualties were one killed, two wounded.  This would lead me to believe the British fired first, though they did have the high ground, so the disparity in casualties could come from that.  The interesting thing is that Coulon de Villiers was actually only wounded and was possibly trying to surrender–until the Half King got ahold of him–literally.  With a tomahawk.

Diorama of the Fort

When British Colonel Fry falls off his horse and dies of his injuries two days later, Washington is promoted to Colonel.  With the weight of leadership on his shoulders and the expectation of French retaliation from Fort Duqesne, Washington begins to try to make the area a fort, while still trying to do work on the road.  He has men guard those working on the road, but even with reinforcements still only has about 400 men.  His Indian allies meet with him, but when they realize Washington’s supplies haven’t come through as promised, and he has barely enough provisions for his men, they decide the British are a lost cause and refuse to fight.  Thus, Washington will face the 700 approaching Frenchmen and Indians with no allies.  I’m sure this was a huge betrayal by those he thought would stand with him–especially the man who was actually to blame for the incident.  But, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

Artillery demonstration

It’s a horrible, rainy day on July 3, making fighting sporadic, as both sides are dealing with wet gunpowder, and Washington’s men are standing in trenches, which are slowly filling up.  The commander of the French Army is none other than the Louis, brother of Joseph Coulon de Villiers.  But, Providence will both save Washington and humiliate him.  The Indians with the French prefer the element of surprise and the spoils of war.  Seeing that there is neither at this time, they tell Louis Coulon De Villiers that they will leave in the morning.  He has a choice to make.

He requests a truce to parlay, offering Washington the chance to surrender.  But, when the terms are sent to Washington, they are smudged because of the rain.  Washington’s normal translator had been killed, and the man who was translating was Dutch, but could understand most of what was said.  Most being the key word.  He informs Washington that the terms are generous, allowing Washington and his men to leave with honors of war, taking their baggage and weapons (but no swivel guns–like little cannons) and return immediately to Virginia.  They had to leave two men as hostages (who would volunteer, then provide valuable intelligence as spies.)  Unfortunately, the translator left out the part where, by signing, Washington is admitting to the assassination of Joseph Coulon de Villiers, whom the French claim was acting as an ambassador, in the same role as Washington himself–though papers in his effects give the possibility he was spying as well (as the British would claim).  This report makes it all over Europe and the colonies, and Washington is humiliated.  Though Governor Dinwiddie doesn’t blame Washington when he reaches Virginia, he will disband the Virginia regiments into garrison companies, and will offer Washington the demoted rank of Captain.  When Washington is unable to negotiate a higher rank, he will leave military service less than three months after the Fort Necessity debacle and return to Mount Vernon.

Braddock’s memorial

But, Washington doesn’t get too comfortable in the quiet life as a farmer.  When General Braddock is named Commander in chief of the British forces and arrives in America with two Irish regiments, Washington sends him a note of congratulations–a great way to get noticed.  Because of the way British commissions worked, Washington would be subordinate to even his British inferiors, so he makes the decision to accept the offer to join as Braddock’s Aide de Camp–a volunteer position in which he only answered to Braddock, and he could pave the way to a commissioned rank.

I can’t imagine what he must have felt when his path led him back to Fort Necessity, where the bones of his men were still visible against the landscape (the French had burned Fort Necessity to the ground.)  But, he had another chance to assault Fort Duquesne.  Unfortunately, it would be another devastating loss.

View of Braddock’s original burial site (right) and monument (left)

Braddock has mostly heeded Washington’s advice on the advance.  He has men scouting and protecting the flanks and rear as the army crosses the Monongahela River.  When he doesn’t get ambushed, however, Braddock assumes the French are holed up in the fort and pulls the scouts in, lining his men up, unfurling the banners, and striking up the band.  There’s not a chance the French can miss their arrival.  Unfortunately.  Unbeknownst to him, the French know Braddock’s coming and had made the decision to surprise attack–they just didn’t make it to the river in time.  The two armies slam into each other.  And though the British have over twice the numbers, the French and Indians are fighting ambush style, hitting the flanks from the treeline, and the British lines literally collapse into each other, forming a mass of red coated men–a horribly easy target.  Washington and Braddock, both on horseback, are trying to return order to the situation.  Both have horses shot from under them.  Both have bullet holes in their clothing.  Both are unhit–until Braddock is struck with a bullet to the shoulder which passes into his chest.  Washington is able to get him into a wagon and off the field, then assemble the men and cover the retreat.

The original spot where Braddock was buried.

Unfortunately, Braddock, who had been a sort of father figure to 24 year old George who had lost his own father at 11, would die three days later.  Washington himself will preside over the burial, choosing to bury him in the road he had built where soldiers will march over his grave, obscuring the site from those who would seek to desecrate the body.  He will remain there until 1804 when men repairing this section of the road will stumble upon the remains and move them to the hill.

Ironically, this site of so much pain will be bought by Washington who visited after the war.  For the surveyor, it is indeed a beautiful piece of land, but I can’t imagine being able to see past all the memories he would have had.  But, knowing that he also revisited Valley Forge, I believe Washington didn’t shy away from the hard places.  Perhaps that’s another thing that makes him great.

 

 

 

 

 

View from the observation deck

Every American remembers where he or she was on September 11, 2001, when they got the news (if they were old enough to be aware of their surroundings.)  I was teaching at a small private school at the time, and it was right before our 10:00 break when the school secretary knocked on my classroom door.  I stepped into the hallway to find her white faced and tear stained.  “Amy, they’ve hit the White House and the Pentagon.  We’re at war.”  No explanation on who and misinformation on events, but the pit of my stomach dropped as I had to turn back, wide-eyed, to face a room full of teenagers blissfully unaware of what had happened.  My dad had done briefings at the Pentagon.  How could this happen?

When the bell rang for our break, we rushed en masse into the computer lab and began frantically googling.  The rest of a school day was a blur–I remember the conversations about whether or not to cancel (We chose no–terrorists will not disrupt our schedule.  Their goal is to make us afraid.  We run away, we let them win.), the phone calls saying to get gas on the way home as it might go up to $5.00 (I got it at $1.81–almost 2 times our norm–the station down the road was up to $3.15.), and the wondering of just what had happened.

Boulder marking crash site

I went home and watched the news for eight hours straight, running back and forth between my rooms and the family I lived with, swapping stories and recommending channels.  I remember how we waited for them to find survivors, hoping and praying. How patriotic everyone was, and how eerily quiet the skies were for the next several days then how weird a plane looked when they finally started flying again.  I remember President Bush’s speeches, one heard standing in a room full of enlisted men when he announces our intention to fight back, and they all cheered.  I swelled with pride at flags hung over buildings and off of equipment, awed by the tireless service of men and women who poured from across the country to help, yet I also felt the sorrow of unimaginable loss–mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children.

In the focus on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, especially trying to find survivors, Flight 93 kind of got passed over.  We mentioned they had fought back and probably saved the White House or the Capital, and Todd Beamer’s “Let’s Roll” became well known, but mostly, they weren’t the main focus.  So, when I drove into Western Pennsylvania and passed the sign, I felt drawn to find out more.

The Museum building

Today (7/30/17), a dear friend who had gone to the Memorial on Friday when it had been packed wanted to revisit, so we went, though it isn’t anything to do with my grant or George Washington.  Yet, since he also chose to fight back–even against insurmountable odds–I think I can still learn something.

The Museum itself is incredible.  Displays contained in-depth information on the passengers, their personal effects, final actions, and lives.  I was riveted by the display that gave transcripts of the cockpit conversations, showing the flight path as the struggle took place.  I had no idea the terrorists had rocked the plane back and forth in an effort to stop the passengers’ assault.  Nor did I realize how many phone calls were made and that the decision to fight back seems to have been unanimous with three passengers even ending phone calls to be part of the attack.  Additionally, I was unaware that the passengers waited to do their attack until they were over a rural area to minimize damage if they were unsuccessful.  Listening to the phone calls left on answering machines, we were struck with how calm these ladies were, usually until the very end.  One even minimized the situation (“We’re having a bit of trouble on the plane.  I’m fine for now…”)

Items left at the Memorial

Because of their foresight, FBI agents quickly realized this site would yield the most information, since there was no debris mixed in with the plane remains–a thought that never occurred to me about the other buildings.  This site is the only one where both the cockpit voice recorder (only one) and the flight recorder (one of two) were both recovered.  You can read the transcripts of the events and voices, but they don’t have the audio available.  But, reading the transcripts while watching the flight simulator is a truly awe-ful (in both senses) experience.  Additionally, they recovered one of the terrorists’ credit cards and handwritten plans/instructions–I can’t imagine how these survived the inferno of a 535 mph impact with 5,000 gallons of jet fuel.  But, this card was the key to tracing the money trail.  There were so many fascinating things to see!  My other favorite stop was being able to get a short biography of each passenger, what effects of theirs were found, and what tributes have been made in their honor.  Two of the most amazing effects to survive (to me) were a man’s NIV Bible inscribed with his name and a woman’s prayer card from her husband’s memorial service.  I’m so glad each person was honored.  We wondered how many visitors who we encountered had loved ones or friends on that wall.

Wall of names with Museum in background

After looking through the Museum, we headed down the approximately one mile meandering walk out to the crash site.  Since it is a burial ground, you cannot walk directly out to the spot, but a large boulder indicates where it is.  Additionally, there is a wall of names and niches along the walkway where visitors can leave tributes.   It’s a beautiful walk filled with wildflowers against a mountain vista–stark contrast to the horror which happened here, and yet another reminder of beauty from ashes and bravery and honor in the face of terror and evil.

It’s a poignant reminder that, as one visitor summarized Edmund Burke’s statement, “‘The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’  You didn’t ‘do nothing,’ and so evil didn’t triumph.”   May we take from this example the courage to stand against evil wherever it lurks and do what we can to fight it!

 

Washington’s Birthplace

After church at Crosswalk this morning (7/9/17), I set out from Williamsburg to take in two spots from Washington’s youth:  his birthplace, where he lived through age three, and his boyhood home, where he lived until he was a young teenager.  Both were incredible to see.

When I arrived at the birthplace, I learned that it had been the intention of George’s father Augustine to secure farms for all of his sons, not just the first one as was traditional.  He had the Pope’s Creek plantation first, then acquired Mount Vernon, and finally Ferry Farm.  Because of these acquisitions, George only lived at the Pope’s Creek Plantation until he was three, but often returned often during his youth. The house was in the family until 1779 when it burned in a fire on Christmas Day.

The reconstructed house–where they thought it stood.

While there is an outline of original house, the house on the property was built for the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday.  They built it on the spot they assumed was the original, but later archaeology confirmed a different location.

Our house tour was given by the lively Chris Kennedy, who told Washington’s whole story in rhymed verse–very fascinating information and delivery.  Kennedy stated that the stories about Washington (like the Cherry tree incident) were not meant to be taken for real events, but rather served as moral examples to the character children should acquire.  Chris said that the point of the Cherry tree story is to teach children (and grown ups as well) to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

Washington’s view out to the Potomac River

Chris also shared a bit of the Washington family history.  Washington’s dad’s first wife Jane died, leaving 3 kids.  Augustine’s second wife Mary gave birth to five more, of which George was the oldest.  As I mentioned, Augustine Washington was actively working to acquire farms for each of his sons, but when he died, all of George’s prospects changed. Now, he couldn’t go to England to study (a fact that would hinder his advancement in the British Army).  Additionally, Mary pulled George out of school at the age of 11 to help her run the Ferry Farm (she decided not to remarry–her property would be affected.  Additionally, with her older step sons (both in their 20’s) running Mount Vernon and Pope’s Creek, she felt she and George could manage Ferry Farm–George’s inheritance.)  George wanted to be in the British Navy, but his mom wrote letters so they wouldn’t take him (I’m curious to find what these say!)  Instead, she reluctantly sent George to his half brothers’ farms to learn.

The cradle came from the Washingtons, so it could have been George’s.

It is at his brothers that George does his first survey:  his brother’s turnip garden. His brother introduces him to Lord Fairfax, the richest man in Virginia and Lawrence’s father-in-law, who will hire him on as a surveyor.  George had always imagined he’d be a British officer and played with toy soldiers as a boy, but because of his lack of education, he was looked down on, even when he was able to join the militia.  George worked first as a farmer, then as a surveyor. Because of this, he knew much of the land, a fact that would advance him in battle later.

The bridge (reconstructed) over Pope’s Creek

Another tragedy struck when Lawrence died.  His widow inherited Mount Vernon. (George was next in line after her.)   George asks her to rent it to him, and she does. Shortly after, George receives a commission in the British army. His job?  Take letters to Ft. Duquesne.  Along the way, the French ambushed the company and an unarmed French nobleman was shot. Washington took prisoners so he’d have a chance to explain the situation (at Ft. Necessity.)  But, George still became the fall guy. (Apparently, he signed a confession he couldn’t understand because his translator had died–a good lesson in not signing something without reading it!)

Washington’s parents’ coats of arms

Later, General Braddock was advised by George to fight behind trees. Braddock ignores George’s advice and gets caught in an ambush where he and other officers are killed. The virtually leaderless soldiers flee to the woods. Washington is able to lead them out by a trail he knew as a boy. George himself had bullet holes in shoulder and hat. He did, however, learn that the British only want to hear what they want to hear instead of how to best protect their men.  That knowledge will help him with the attack on Trenton in the American Revolution.

Entrance to Ferry Farm

From Washington’s birthplace, I headed out to Ferry Farm.  I was surprised to enter this formerly 600 acre plantation by means of a dirt and gravel road. I knew that Augustine Washington had owned an iron works 6 miles down the road, which was probably the reason he chose this spot–that and it was near Fredericksburg, which was a bustling tobacco port. But, Ferry Farm was to be George’s property.  I found out when I went in the main building that George’s mom finally sold this property and moved to Fredericksburg in 1772. She sold it to Mercers, who rented it out. Later, a soldier in Civil War wrote a letter home in which he stated they had torn down Washington’s house for firewood. After that, Youth For Christ bought the property for a boy’s home. In 1996, the Kenmore foundation (Washington’s sister’s home) purchased it. Finally, in 2008 archaeologists found foundation of the house, and they are currently rebuilding on original site.

The Visitor Center

At the visitor center, I received an ipad to take a tour around the grounds.  There is a series of 10 flags which mark various points on the property.  At each point, you can listen to historical information as well as hear from the archaeologists.  Here are a few of the nuggets I gleaned along the way:

1.  When George moved here from Mount Vernon, he left a plantation for urban life–the city is obviously very different from the country.

2.  George’s first survey was of brother’s turnip patch. When Lord Fairfax enlisted him as a surveyor, this gave George a substantial salary.  Additionally, surveyors got to see the land first for claiming.

3.  Some slaves came with the property, some the Washington’s already had, and some came from Africa. One of the beads found on the property marked a chief.  I was reminded of the story of Cinque on the Amistad.  I wonder what his story was.

 

4.  Archaeology tells a lot about the family.  Since all of the estates were separated when Augustine died, Mary, who is 35 at the time and has 5 children, is left in charge of all the plantations. One thing archaeologists found is a punch bowl that Mary had mended–this shows that while they were comfortably situated, Mary is still being frugal.

 

5.  Being at the crossroads of trade, George undoubtedly conversed with people coming and going, which would improve his gentlemanly standing.  Also, from his surveyors wages, he paid for his own dancing and fencing lessons and to go to the theatre–which I think is both cool and hilarious.  He also learns cards and billiards, joins the masons, and is taught tea table manners. He learned gentlemanly behavior both at Ferry Farm and from Lawrence and the Fairfaxes.

6.  Archaeologists found over 115 wig curlers on Ferry Farm.  (George didn’t wear a wig–he liked his own hair better….)

The Rappahannock–this is the river Washington threw things across, though stones, not silver dollars

7.  Two court cases draw very public scrutiny of the family.  First, in there’s a trial in which one slave kills another–there wasn’t much information on that.  The other court case concerns George swimming in the Rappahannock and 2 indentured servants steal his clothes (I also think this one is hilarious!)

Construction and archaeology

Though it was unfinished, I’m glad I made a stop here, and will enjoy seeing the progress they’ve made the next time I come!

Abbey at Tegernsee

Abbey at Tegernsee

We had decided to take it easy and pack in a leisurely fashion on our last two days. The weather was predicting clouds and rain, so we had made sure to do all of our “must sees” before that time. Anything left would be a bonus. Thursday (8/8/13) was a cloudy day, but we opted to take an afternoon drive into Tegernsee just to check it out.

Lake Tegernsee

Lake Tegernsee

We had driven past Tegernsee many times on trips to and from other places, but had never stopped. This beautiful village is on the shores of Lake Tegernsee and has an Abbey dating back to 746 (not a typo–there’s no 1 in front of that…) The Abbey and the town derive their name from old high German “tegarin seo”, meaning “large lake.” It was also one of the last stands of the SS during World War II. The SS had retreated here to defend against the American forces advancing from Bad Tölz. The Abbey was later adopted as the summer residence of the Bavarian rulers. The Abbey was closed when we were there, so we didn’t get to explore inside (if the public is even allowed in.)

Instead, we browsed around the stores selling Dirndls and Lederhosen, and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. I think this is the biggest adjustment I will have to get used to back in the states. Here, regardless of how big a crowd there is, the noise isn’t very loud. Down by the Abbey, mom commented on the crowd of people at the restaurant who were somewhat loud. Still there were about 200 of them, outside, and I’d say it was quieter than a room of 30-40 in the States.

Additionally, Tegernsee, like most of this area, has beautiful gardens and the Lake. We found a local Gelato place (Eiscafe Cristallo) for one last Gelato.

Gelataria

Gelataria

This place actually had Red Bull Gelato–no, sorry, we didn’t try it. I don’t like regular Red Bull, so I wouldn’t waste a gelato on Red Bull. I had two flavors I couldn’t identify, but looked good. One ended up being a peanut butter and chocolatey flavor, while the other which I thought was Dark chocolate, was actually dark chocolate with black licorice. I hate black licorice, but it wasn’t too bad, once you got over the “Whoa, that’s not chocolate!” response.

Traditionally dressed family

Traditionally dressed family


Finally, the inevitable–it was time to go home. Now, as I sit here, we have finished the bulk of our packing, and are finishing up our stores of food and the last minutes to prepare us to leave tomorrow. When I get home, I will have one week until school starts, and another whole slew of adventures begin. This summer has definitely been a journey–From school ending, to Russia, to Gettysburg’s 150th, to Europe, and full circle to school again.
Rainy Day in Schliersee

Rainy Day in Schliersee

I deeply appreciate those of you who have come along for the ride. The thing I think I will go home with is the blessing of getting to know the people who lived here, struggled, were creative, overcame obstacles, and brought something beautiful to the world. I may not have met them personally, but their stories have impacted mine. And that, I think, is the true meaning of leaving a legacy. So, as this journey ends, I will continue to hunt down the legacies of the men and women who have shaped the world by the light they left behind, all the while trying to shape my legacy to inspire others the way they have. Til then…

Boat to Herrenchiemsee

Boat to Herrenchiemsee

We decided to finish up with Ludwig II on Wednesday (8/7/13) by visiting his last castle at Herrenchiemsee. If you type Herrenchiemsee in Google for directions, it will tell you it is impossible to get there. This is because Herrenchiemsee is located on an Island. What you have to do is go to Prien am Chiemsee and catch a boat from there. Thankfully, the GPS will take you right to the pier.

Carriage

Carriage

We arrived, got parking (ours ended up being 3.50 Euros for the time we were there), and headed out to get the boat. The boat ticket was a little over 4 Euros per person and covers the trip to Herrenchiemsee Island, plus two other island stops. The boats tend to run approximately every half hour between 8:30 ish and 7, though the times are not exactly regular–the time tables are posted, though. We managed to time things well, and got there just in time to catch a boat over. We got our tickets for free (Still covered by the castle card we bought at Neuschwanstein) and had about a half an hour to make the 25 minute walk up to the castle. While this wasn’t the steep walk of some of the other castles, we were concerned we might not make it in time for our tour, so we opted to take the horse drawn carriage for 3 Euros each. This was actually an excellent choice, as the carriage drops you off right at the entrance to the castle.

Herrenchiemsee

Herrenchiemsee

Herrenchiemsee was designed by Ludwig to be an exact copy of Versailles. His love of all things French (specifically being an absolute monarch) is more than evident here. Once again, we were in a no camera zone, except for the unfinished parts and the basement. This castle is the last of King Ludwig II’s, and he actually only spent 10 days here, though he stopped by annually to check on the building progress. It stopped being built when the King ran out of money, and consequently was never finished. The rooms that are finished, however, are as breathtaking as one would expect from King Ludwig. One thing that interested me in this castle is that he has two bedrooms.
Bottom of the Table contraption

Bottom of the Table contraption

One is the State Bedroom–an exact copy of King Louis XIV, except King Ludwig’s is a touch bigger (that ever present quest to out-do the other guy.) King Ludwig never actually slept in this bed (no one has, to my knowledge.) Yet the curtains hanging around the bed are stitched with painted thread and took 30 women 9 years to complete. They cost more than the entire island of Herrenchiemsee! Curtains!! That kind of artistry (or extravagance) astounds me. The other bedroom is the one Ludwig actually slept in (for the 10 days he was actually at this palace.) You can tell it’s his bedroom because it’s decorated in his favorite blue instead of the red of the Versailles bedroom. Additionally, it’s interesting that there is nothing Bavarian anywhere in the castle–all of the decorations are either French or mythological. Very interesting.
Funeral mask and picture

Funeral mask and picture

One other feature of the rooms here that is the same as at Linderhof is the “magical” table, supposedly in reference to the German tale, “Little table, set thyself.” This table is made to lower into the floor and return set for meals. It is located just off the porcelain room which contains an amazing collection of porcelain pieces and a porcelain chandelier.

We concluded the tour of the finished rooms and went into the museum. Here you can see Ludwig’s funeral mask and portrait of his death. (I took this before I realized the no picture rule applied here as well. Since I have it, I might as well share 🙂 ) Additionally, you can see the cloaks Ludwig wore on special occasions of state. One of the things that was the most interesting to me was the engagement photo of Ludwig and Sophie, which you can view here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12634458@N04/5812436315/ I love the way photographs speak about a person, and this one says volumes!

Unfinished area

Unfinished area

First, I noticed that Sophie is looking, while demurely, straight at the camera with a touch of a smile. Ludwig, on the other hand, is staring up and to his left, away from her and the camera. Additionally, their hands are interesting. I have been escorted by many men in many different situations with various degrees of attachment, but almost every man does the same thing when you take his arm: he instinctively tucks his elbow to his side, sometimes resting his hand over yours. Ludwig’s arm is stiff and away from his body with his hand clenched and facing up–almost recoiling. Obviously, this is not a comfortable pose for him. Seeing this picture, I think, is a foreshadowing that this marriage is not going to work. Perhaps knowing he breaks off the engagement makes me read into things, but I think there’s more to it than that.

1/3 of Ludwig's "bathtub"

1/3 of Ludwig’s “bathtub”

From the museum, we continued down into the unfinished part of the castle. Having seen so many finished castles, it’s amazing to see one in progress. Herrenchiemsee has chosen to fill the unfinished rooms with modern art (which I don’t have much of an appreciation for, but I suppose others do, and it’s better than 28 rooms of blank bricks.) One can only imagine what these rooms would have looked like had Ludwig had more time and money. There are three rooms (2 1/2) that are finished in the lower level. The first is the servants area where the table was raised and lowered. From there, you walk into an area that is Ludwig’s bathtub. I’d call it a swimming pool as it’s larger than most swimming pools in American back yards. Finally, you end up in Ludwig’s ornate dressing room, concluding the tour of the castle.

Fountains

Fountains

We made it out to the gardens just in time for the fountains to go off. These fountains are incredibly beautiful, so it was neat to see them with all the water gushing. We had opted to walk back down instead of taking the carriage again, so we headed down the peaceful path through the woods to the monastery.

This is the monastery where Ludwig would stay when he came to make his annual check on the progress of his castle. His room here is blue, but that’s about as much of home as he is able to retain.

Ludwig's room

Ludwig’s room

The monks apparently didn’t cater to his desires for grandeur. I wonder how they took to his sleeping schedule as well, or if he altered it for his stay here. Other than a small chapel and Ludwig’s rooms, there wasn’t much else to see at the monastery so we went down to wait for the other boat. and got to see a rainbow!

The boat took us over to Fraueninsel, another island in Chiemsee. This small village of 300 gives a beautiful view of the old palace (monastery), and has its own Benedictine convent. The convent acted as a “reform school for fallen women” until 1995, and is now a convent again.

The Imperial Abbey of Frauenchiemsee

The Imperial Abbey of Frauenchiemsee

It was amazing to stand inside and view the beauty, all the while listening to the nuns singing somewhere above you. Shades of Sound of Music. Finally, we decided it was time to head home. After figuring out which boat would take us back to our car, we headed out. It has been an adventure getting to know King Ludwig II.

House with images of the Passion Play

House with images of the Passion Play

On Tuesday (8/6/13), we headed into Oberammergau. I had asked my mom what Oberammergau was known for, and she said wood carving and painted houses (This not being a year ending in zero.) The thing Oberammergau is best known for is the Passion Play (I’m already planning a grant to be able to come back for that!). The story behind why they do the Passion play every 10 years is a neat one. It all began during the Thirty Years’ War. Overwhelmed by the Swedish army and battling the plague (the registry records over 80 deaths in the small town), the councillors promised God to perform a play depicting the Passion of Christ every 10 years
Wood carver's shop:  The big...

Wood carver’s shop: The big…

(They started with every year, then decided every 10 years would be sufficient.) if God would spare them from the plague. The epidemic stopped, and the villagers kept their vow. They gave their first performance in 1634, then 1640 and every 10 years thereafter, with additional performances to celebrate key anniversaries of the vow made. Initially, it was a small scale production on a wooden stage, but since 1830, it has been on the same stage it is performed on today. Now the play has a cast of over 2,000 and lasts for 7 hours, with a dinner break in the middle. The villagers will perform the play from May to October. Apparently, the village has added other plays to their repertoire for off years, as there were signs advertising the play Moses. Also, visitors can check out the Passion play museum.

We started out at looking at different wood carvers shops. While sculpting is an incredible skill, and one I greatly admired while in Italy, wood carving is another thing entirely. We started for Pilatushaus (most famous),

...And the small

…And the small

but it was closed for lunch, so we set out to enjoy the many other wood carvers in town. In the same way that I love sculpture and architectural detail, I love the precision of woodwork. From the gigantic carvings to the miniscule, each piece is an incredible work of art.

After grabbing our own lunch, we decided to explore The Parish church of Saints Peter and Paul. This beautiful building offers sculptures, not of marble, but of wood painted to look like marble.

Front of the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul

Front of the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul

They are amazingly beautiful. Since we have toured quite a few cathedrals in our time here, it is always interesting for me to note the different features each one has. In this cathedral, I noticed it is substantially lighter in color than a number of the other cathedrals we have seen. Additionally, the pews are carved. I would expect nothing less in a wood carving village, but it was still interesting to observe.

Next, we headed back to Pilatushaus. Pilatushaus (thus named because of the painting of Jesus before Pilate on the house) has been a living workshop since 1784.

Pilatushaus

Pilatushaus

It was almost destroyed in 1981, but by advertising what was going to happen, people rallied to save it. We got to see wood artists at work right on the premises. We also asked the shop owner about house painting. From her explanation, the name of the artists who do the painting is in English “Church painters,” as the men who plied this trade started as church painters. The same technique of fresco work is used on the buildings. Unfortunately, it seems to be a dying art (literally), as currently, there is no one living in Oberammergau who does it. She also explained to us that historic buildings have strict requirements by the government as to how they have to be maintained (much like historic buildings in America), and that it is quite expensive to do.

Initially, I thought the painted houses were not that different from the ones around our area, until we started walking around.

Red Riding Hood House

Red Riding Hood House

The house painting (Lüftlmalereien) in Oberammergau is an interesting combination of the religious (all the passion play art) and the fairy tale. We left Pilatushaus and set off to find the Little Red Riding Hood house and the Hansel and Gretel house. I had forgotten that a lot of the fairy tales we grew up with actually started as German tales. We first found the Little Red Riding Hood House. It is right across the street from the Hansel and Gretel House and next door to a house with the fairytale where the donkey carries all the other animals (I forget the name.) The artwork on these houses is incredible! Definitely a joy to see.

Views of Innsbruck

Views of Innsbruck

Oberammergau is definitely a place I want to explore more thoroughly, but today, we wanted to head into Innsbruck. I only know Innsbruck from “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, in which the speaker discusses a sculpture which “Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.” We wanted to have time to look around. Additionally, mom had wanted me to hear what she calls an “Oompa band” with traditional dancing. Schuhplattler is a folk dance in which men periodically leap, slap their thighs and feet, all in a rhythmic pattern. I had searched the internet to see if any would be performing near us. (Our Alpenclub staff had told us they mostly perform on weekends.) In doing so, I stumbled upon the Tyrolean Evening with the Gundolf family. The Gundolf family has been performing internationally since 1967. They perform in Innsbruck from April to October. Since the show didn’t start until 8:30, mom wasn’t sure we wanted to be driving the hour and a half drive back home after the show concluded at 10:00, but we decided to go for it. You can either purchase tickets for the show alone (29 Euro), or for dinner and a show (46 Euro). We chose to splurge and get dinner and the show. You have a choice of whether you want dinner before the show or during it. We chose before, which I am glad of, since you have to sit in the back if you get dinner during the show.

 Schuhplattler dance

Schuhplattler dance

Since we arrived before our dinner time, we chose to explore a bit around the restaurant. If you attend the show, it is actually difficult to find. We thought the GPS had misled us when it told us to turn into BP, but the restaurant is actually located behind the gas station. While the show was amazing, we found the restaurant a bit lacking in organization, though with good food. We had three courses: soup and salad, wienerschnitzel and potatoes, and apple strudel–all very traditional dishes. Though we had bought our tickets at 5:00 for the 8:30 show, we got front row seats (since there were just two of us.)

The Gundolf Family

The Gundolf Family

It was an incredible show, featuring musicians on a variety of instruments including the musical saw, the zither, the harp, and traditional brass. Additionally, we heard traditional folk songs and yodeling, and saw the traditional folk dancing and slap dance. The evening concluded with the family singing popular songs from about 20 different countries. They introduced them as the national anthems, but they were not. While most countries had people who cheered and enthusiastically applauded their songs, the American songs they chose were a bit of Yankee Doodle, blended into “Be Kind to Your Web Footed Friends,” which they sang as Lalalalalalalala instead of with words. Still, it was impressive to be able to sing so many songs in so many languages, and a neat opportunity to see who was in the crowd from which country. We were surprised that Australia had such a large representation.

Finally, the evening was over, and it was time to head home. As mom predicted, the GPS sent us home via the smallest, most curvy path through the mountain, complete with scattered showers and fog, but we made it. Definitely a full day!

Entrance to Dachau:  "Work makes you free"

Entrance to Dachau: “Work makes you free”

We set off this morning (8/5/13) for Dachau. I was really looking forward to this trip, as morbid as that sounds, as I have had an interest in the Holocaust since I was in junior high. Finally, I had the opportunity to be there in person and hopefully grow in my understanding of the experience.

I had been interested to see on the website that the time they recommended for you to stay at the site was “All day.” Being there, I can easily see why they stated this. We opted to take the English tour for 3 Euros each (Parking was also 3 Euros for the day), and let me say, the tour was a worthwhile investment. (Mom and I each gave our tour guide an extra 20 Euro–she was amazing–and a volunteer!)

"May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resister Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man.

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man.”

The tour started at 11:00, and since we had gotten there at 10, we explored a bit on our own before time for the tour. At 11:00, we met Franziska who would guide us through the experience. The first thing she shared with us is that the tour would last between 2 and 2 1/2 hours, depending on how fast we walked and how many questions we asked. This may seem like an extensive amount of time to be just walking around, but it was an incredible experience. Franziska took us through the life of a prisoner, from arrival to death. It was truly unforgettable.

Design copied by other camps

Design copied by other camps

First, we walked through the entrance gate where the prisoners would have been taken. The gate sports the traditional Nazi slogan: Work makes you free. Dachau was actually the first concentration camp to be opened (1933). It was intended as a place for political prisoners (Translation: anyone who stood against the Nazi party.) Therefore, when you hear the stories of Dachau, very few of them are Jewish. They are mostly European and Russians political prisoners, including a large number of clergy. The Jews who were there were in transit to another camp. According to the statistics we heard, the youngest prisoner was 7 1/2 (kept alive because he had small hands which were suitable for reaching down to plant crops in small holes) while the oldest was 92 (and incidentally survived Dachau. He was an intelligent man who was utilized as a tutor for SS children.)

Dachau was also a model camp in many ways. First, its structure (rows of barracks with a central roll call area) was copied in all the other concentration camps. Second, this was the camp they showed off for propaganda reasons. The Red Cross even visited 3 times, and made glowing reports about the camp. The only problem is they were shown the SS officers in prisoners’ clothes in the “Living Room” area of the barracks, drinking, laughing, and playing cards, while the real prisoners were away at work.

Dachau beds in the early years

Dachau beds in the early years

Initially, though, before the war broke out, Dachau was not “that bad,” though as early as 1935, there was a jingle people used to say, “Dear God, make me dumb (silent), that I might not to Dachau come.” In 1933, the commandant Hilmar Wäckerle seems to have been a good man. Prisoners worked two days a week in a factory (usually BMW or other car manufacturers who paid the SS for the use of the prisoners, especially once the war preparations started as their labor force had been decimated due to military training.) These factories were largely the reason Dachau was one of the first to “vote brown.” The business generated by the SS and the “free” labor of prisoners must have been a hard offer to resist. Unfortunately, like many people today, they were willing to vote for whichever candidate best lined their pockets instead of considering the principles and character of the person in office. Prisoners might also be hired out to farmers in town. Those who worked on farms often were healthier because they received rations from the farm, but the other prisoners received a piece of bread, butter, and soup for the day, and could buy other items at the canteen. Additionally, medical staff was on hand to deal with any prisoner who had been injured or was infirm. Wäckerle had a little over 50 men to a room, and each bed had dividers between it and the one next to it. They were a meter wide and two meters long. At this time, there was a 99% survival rate in the camps. Since this was a prison and a camp for political prisoners, occasionally, those who had served their terms were released. Those who did not survive were usually the ones interrogated for information or charged with high treason.

Bedding Stage 2.

Bedding Stage 2.

All of that changed when Theodor Eicke took over. Eicke, who would eventually be placed over the entire concentration camp system, was a World War I veteran whom Himmel rescued from a psychiatric ward, where trouble with a local had sent him on the charge of being a “dangerous lunatic.” I’d say they had him pretty well pegged. He instituted a series of changes that gave the SS full range for brutality. Prisoners could be shot for disobeying an order, whether it came from an SS officer or the kitchen staff. He also instituted punishments such as having a prisoner stand on a chair, placing the prisoner’s arms behind his back, tying his wrists to a rope that was suspended above him, and pulling the chair away, thus dislocating the shoulders, or worse. Unfit to work, the men were usually then sent to other camps to be killed. Another punishment was essentially an extreme corporal punishment. The prisoner would lean over a table, while an SS guard (or a family member if one was on hand–chosen as a dual punishment), would beat him 25 times with a whip supposedly made of a dried ox penis. This was designed to humiliate the prisoner even further by implying they weren’t even worth a traditional whip. The prisoner had to count in German as he was being whipped. If he didn’t know German or stumbled on the numbers (or passed out), the count began again.
whipping table and whip

whipping table and whip

Also, guards had prisoners do menial tasks that would steal the less than 5 hours a night they had to sleep (usually 3 or 4). They had to polish the floor until it shined, make their beds so the checked squares were opposite from one bed to the next, forming a continuous pattern, or pull all the brown and yellow leaves off of the trees lining the roll call area in the fall.

Additionally, Dachau accepted more prisoners, and expanded the camp so the living conditions changed. Rations were cut approximately in half. Beyond that, beds were made smaller and with more people in them. (By the end of the war, there were three men to a bed less than a meter wide, sleeping head to foot.)

Bedding final stage

Bedding final stage

Because of these cramped conditions, disease was became rampant, so much so that SS guards refused to work in the barracks for fear of catching the diseases. Rooms and prisoners were disinfected, and conditions improved slightly, but never fully. One tour member asked how many concentration camps there were. Franziska explained that this is a difficult question to answer because, “What defines a concentration camp? A munitions factory (Like in Schindler’s List) utilizing prisoners can be considered a concentration camp–so can a farm with prisoners working it, or the area of land where they’re forced to sleep because the camp wouldn’t invest in barracks. The numbers are tricky.”

I was not aware that Dachau was an entirely male camp until 1944 (aside from the 7-13 female prisoners kept in “The brothel,” for obvious use.) Men were granted visits to the brothel, glasses, or boots in exchange for giving information about another prisoner. Fewer than one percent of the camp ever received such a bonus. Most who did chose the brothel because it was secret and didn’t advertise they had ratted someone out. Another way the Nazis kept resistance down was by constantly rearranging the barracks. Nationalities were mixed and parts of barracks were moved regularly in order to insure that no prisoners spent enough time together to really form bonds. This made the experience even more lonely and difficult.

Roll Call area

Roll Call area

From the barracks, we moved into the area where roll calls were done. One tour member asked Franziska how the Germans felt about this, while another questioned how strange it is that a site of such horror is a tourist attraction. Franziska answered both questions, giving a perspective I had never considered. She talked about the fact that Germany focuses on the Holocaust so much because the rest of the world continues to punish them for it. She explained that as a child in Hamburg, her school took her on trips to concentration camps 8 different times. In one instance, her teacher made the children stand motionless for 2 hours in the roll call area so that they would have a small taste of what the prisoners experienced. Even today, when she drives into another country, her car is not safe for 15 minutes before someone will have scratched a swastika on it because her license plate has the DAH of Dachau. She’s been refused service in restaurants in Italy because they saw her drive up in a car with DAH on it. Like so many cases of racism, each person assumes the other is racist, which is a form of racism in itself. I think this is the biggest “take away” for me. I remember being in high school when the Berlin wall came down. I remember the fear people felt because of what a unified Germany would mean to the world (while, in fact, the unification of Germany made it harder for those in the West because they had to absorb and remedy the problems of the East.) That fear led many to judge the German people unfairly.
Shooting Wall

Shooting Wall

Franziska went on to explain that she has heard former SS leaders give school talks with great remorse for the role they played. They explained how they had been convinced that they were doing the right thing. When you understand that German students started math problems in elementary school that said something like, “If a handicapped person costs the government $30,000 marks a year, how much will the government spend by the time that person is 30?”, it’s easy to see how some of the thought process came to be. In point of fact, there’s a larger Neo-Nazi group in America than in Germany. And many items that have disappeared from Dachau (Shower heads, faucets, etc.) have turned up on Ebay in America, Canada, and Australia. Additionally, the Allied forces were not entirely innocent. Some shot surrendering SS members, even in hospitals as well as family members in the SS area outside the camp. Others used extreme forms of interrogation and forced soldiers to confess to crimes they may not have committed. (These crimes were uncovered in 1991 and had been covered up by General Patton.) I’m sure each side thought they were doing their duty, or avenging others, but it does bring to mind the question of what is justifiable force in dealing with an enemy–a question we still haggle over today.

Special Prisoner Holding cells

Special Prisoner Holding cells

From the roll call area, we went to the shooting wall. This is the place where political prisoners were executed. Interestingly, because Dachau was so close to a town (The SS quarters and their families are just past the prison wall), the officers used to shoot prisoners on Sundays when the church bells were ringing and the noise wouldn’t be noticed. Those accused of high treason, which interestingly enough included SS soldiers who had helped prisoners or tried to let them escape, were executed immediately.

Just beyond the shooting wall is the holding cells for “Special prisoners.” The prisoners thought of this as being a safe house from which no one returned. What I mean by that is the prisoners were given decent food, didn’t have to work, and were kept alive–until new batch of political prisoners came in to “replace” them. The special prisoners included men like the former chancellor of Austria and several prominent clergy members.

Crematorium

Crematorium

Having finished our course in the life of prisoners, we walked over to the crematorium area. While the crematorium was used at Dachau to eliminate bodies of those who had died of disease or starvation, the gas chamber located there was never used. One interesting fact is that the crematorium was located outside of the camp and facing east. This way few of the prisoners and none of the town knew what was going on. Those prisoners who worked in the crematorium were killed every three months to keep news from leaking. Eventually, though, use of the crematorium stopped as well, due to the coal shortage. It is for this reason the U.S. soldiers who liberated the camp found 11,000 dead bodies there and in almost 30 rail cars outside the camp. Quite a staggering number! Because they were unable to identify the bodies of the dead, they cremated the bodies and put the ashes in a mass grave with the monument of a coffin and the sign “Never Again” in five different languages. (I was touched by the fact that
Mass grave of 11,000 unidentified dead

Mass grave of 11,000 unidentified dead

as we walked by it, one of the young men in our group added a stone to those already on top of the monument as a sign of remembrance–he couldn’t have been much over 20. Please note, the monument is just in front of the museum building which used to be the former check in area and showers (real ones). The roof in the picture belongs to this building, not the monument.)

From the area of the crematorium, we walked back over the bridge and stopped beside the electric fence. Here, we heard the stories of why no escape from Dachau ever succeeded by going over the fence. Between the barracks area and the fence is a strip of grass, nicknamed the “Green zone.” Any prisoner who stepped in this area would be shot immediately. They were not shot in the head, which would have been an easy death, but either in the shoulder or the stomach, which were slower and more painful. Past the green zone, there is a ditch about 5 feet down and 6-8 feet across.

Measures to prevent escape

Measures to prevent escape

On the other side of this ditch was first gravel, which would have caused a noise to alert the guards, and then on top of the gravel, coils of barbed wire which were arranged in approximately 1 foot squares, all electrified and going up higher the closer one got to the fence, which was also electrified. Franziska informed us that it is because of this that prisoners who wanted to commit suicide, usually did it as they were returning to the camp by throwing themselves against the fence from the outside.

This referenced a monument she had shown us earlier. After the war, Dachau had been used as a holding place for German prisoners associated with war crimes. Then, it became a place for refugees. While it was still being used for this purpose, a contest was held among survivors to create a monument to be used in Dachau. Sixty-five entries were made. From these, this sculpture of Nandor Glid’s was chosen.

Memorial Sculpture

Memorial Sculpture

Glid himself had not been at Dachau, but instead at a labor camp where he had joined the National Liberation Movement to fight against the Nazis, and was later wounded. He chose the design for his sculpture after talking to numerous others who were at Dachau. One of the most striking images they had communicated was this fact that some, wanting to choose the time and method of their death instead of having the Nazis do it for them, had chosen to throw themselves into the electric fence. The Nazis would leave the bodies there until the rotted, which in winter, could be months, so workers would have to pass by the bodies on their way to work. That image was burned into the memory of anyone at Dachau.
Protestant Memorial

Protestant Memorial

That is why the judge, himself a survivor of Dachau chose this statue. In it, the hands of the victims make the barbs for the barbed wire fence, and the center person (with his head down) forms the swastika with his body.

Just inside the fence by the green zone, Franziska also pointed out 4 different church memorials. To the best of my knowledge, Dachau is the only concentration camp with religious monuments for faiths other than Jewish. At Dachau, there is the Russian Orthodox memorial, a Protestant Memorial, a Catholic Memorial, and a Jewish Memorial. Additionally, there is a monastery just outside the wall.

Portable Altar

Portable Altar

These memorials are due to the fact that a number of the prisoners at Dachau were members of the clergy who took a stand against what Hitler was trying to accomplish. One interesting item I saw in the “Special cells” was a portable altar to be used by the clergy for holding religious services. It makes me proud that almost 3,000 clergy took a stand against the evils of the Nazi party.

Finally, we made one last stop to see how Dachau was laid out at the time, and compare it to it’s use today. Interestingly enough, the former SS area and training facilities are now utilized by the Dachau police. Apparently, they have gone to great lengths to preserve what they can as a remembrance of the crimes committed here. Franziska told us one last story here. She had recently met a survivor in his 90’s. He shared that he used to work in the area of the camp that made honey for the German officers. He explained that he used to pee in the honey as his own form of resistance. So, a number of German officers received “tainted honey” from Dachau. All in all, our tour had been an amazing experience!

Residence Munich

Residence Munich

We then headed to Munich to the Residence Museum and treasury. Driving around Munich was every bit of the insanity predicted, but we finally managed to find both the Residence and the parking garage right beside it. (Max-Joseph Platz is super convenient, but charges 4 Euro for the first hour and 3 Euro an hour for every one after that.) The Residence is an unimpressive façade compared to some of the other places we have visited. However, this was more the seat of government for the Bavarian rulers and the place where the royals stored their treasures. Here, at last, was a castle in which you could take pictures. Unfortunately, the lighting set up around the area makes getting a good shot extremely difficult.

Hall of ancestors

Hall of ancestors

We started out in the hall of ancestors. Once can immediately feel the weight of responsibility a young ruler must have felt as he or she walked past all of those eyes staring down at them. There’s even a portrait of Charlemagne and a gigantic family tree. It was an incredible contrast to see the gold and glitz of Munich right after the brick and concrete of Dachau.

From the hall of ancestors, we went into one of the areas displaying the treasures of the king. Here we were confronted with a number of reliquaries. Reliquaries are one of the most interesting things for me to see.

Skull of John the Baptist

Skull of John the Baptist

As reliquaries were supposed to bring blessing to the one who owned them (and even miracles), the king was expected to have the largest collection. While I know historically a number of reliquaries exist that did not contain anything close to what they are supposed to house, there were a few here that were especially interesting. First, there is the ever popular piece of the cross of Christ. Apparently, a whole forest of these were sold at the time. They also had the typical bones of the martyrs. But the things that most interested me were two fold. The first was a crystal casket containing the skeleton of a small child, supposedly one of the children murdered under Herod’s orders.
Public Chapel

Public Chapel

While I think carrying around bones of any kind is morbid, the skeleton of a child would especially creep me out. The other curiosity is the skull of John the Baptist. What interested me most about this is the way they decorated it and put a crown on it. Still, you’re carrying around someone’s skull!

From this point we took in the Chapel for the public. What interested me here is that the royal family sat in the gallery (the spot from which I took my picture), while the rest of the congregation sat below. I guess they wanted to keep an eye on things. Another odd thing is that the gallery area is in the back. Usually, if royals are seated above the crowd, they are often in a prominent position to allow the congregation to look at them. That is not the case here.

Maximilian I's chapel

Maximilian I’s chapel

Additionally, just off the Gallery is an ornate chapel, which was the private place of worship for the king and queen. Maximilian I had it completed in 1607–interestingly, the same year of the Jamestown colony. It is a beautifully decorated area which definitely inspires worship.

We left the chapel to go through a variety of the rooms of state. Here the royals conducted business of all sorts. What interested me the most is the themes of the room are incredibly religious in nature, from the room showing the law of God is higher than the law of men, to the room demonstrating the virtues a ruler should posses, to rooms that remind mankind of their command to subdue the earth. Unfortunately, many of these rooms were damaged during World War II, so the center paintings in each room no longer exist.

Rathaus-Glockenspiel

Rathaus-Glockenspiel

Finally, we left the splendor of the Residence (Residenz) and headed a few blocks downtown to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz. For once, we timed something exactly right and got there just in time for the 5:00 show. Since it only plays 2 times a day (Three times in the summer), this was a rare treat. This breath-taking 105 year old clock tower tells two stories from the 16th century. The first is of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. They have figures from each country who joust (the one from Bavaria always wins…). The second story is of the coopers who danced through the streets after the Plague. This is supposed to be a picture of loyalty during difficult times.

With that, we called it a day, paid our 10 Euro parking bill, and headed back home. I must say the Alpine Club treats us like family. They’re always helpful and interested in what we have done for the day. It’s a great place to stay.

The road driving home

The road driving home

The weather forecast was predicting rain for today (8/4/13), so we planned to have a day of rest and catch up. We watched the video cast from my home church, did some laundry, and tried to catch up on a few things, all the while realizing it was a gorgeous day. We tossed around the idea of driving out to Herrenchiemsee–another Ludwig castle–but, with the anticipated drive time (plus the assumption that the drive time would not be accurate) and the hours it closed, decided to stay around town. We headed to Fischbachau, a quaint little town near-by, only to discover our lovely morning was quickly turning overcast with the predicted rain clouds.

We made it to Fischbachau and found the recommended restaurant just as the sprinkles were starting. We opted to go back home where we had left all of our umbrellas and raincoats (and my clothes drying on the clothes rack.) Back at home, we decided to make our own dinner (to use up groceries before we leave.)

We set out later in the evening to explore the town around us (and grab a gelato.) We found an amazing gelato shop called Veneto Eis, which sells gelato for a Euro a scoop. We had thought we would be frequenting there over the next week, but there’s another one around the corner which looks just as good–updates to follow :).

Simple elegance

Simple elegance

Incorporating history

Incorprorating history

Playing on the shutter design

Playing on the shutter design

More elaborate

More elaborate

Advertising your business

Advertising your business

Medieval

Medieval

Multi-colored

Multi-colored

And the ever popular God giving the 10 Commandments

And the ever popular God giving the 10 Commandments

Which one? One thing that is unique about this area is all the painting on the buildings. As we were walking, I contemplated all the variety of styles. I wonder if there is someone who paints these as his/her business. How does that work? Do you just walk in and say, “I want this design in these colors,” or is it like a tattoo parlor where you can bring your own design or use a standard one? Either way, they’re magnificent. I’m including several of the ones we took out and about, so you can be the judge of which design you would choose.

The "sea"  from Schliersee

The “sea” from Schliersee

We also passed a number of interesting people in our trek. Finally, though, we made our way down to the lake (“sea”). This is an amazing area to bring kids, since, in addition to the lake (“sea”), which is clean and shallow enough for children to swim in, it also offers an incredible playground complete with short zipline, water pumps, and a variety of climbing equipment. We opted just to enjoy the beauty of the lake before trying to find our car and head home. Tomorrow, our plan is to head to Dachau, which I am looking forward to seeing, as strange as that sounds. I have wanted to do a Holocaust tour for a long time, but this will be the first concentration camp I will visit–and I actually know people who had relatives there.