The last two days have been quite a whirlwind. We awoke very early on Sunday morning and set out for the Mauthausen concentration camp. Three years ago, Kendra and I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, yet even having been to another concentration camp, I was still not prepared for the emotions I felt in Mauthausen. It was almost surreal – the sky was overcast, and a gentle snow began falling as we began walking through the camp. I have never seen the kids listen so intently as when they listened to our tour guide explaining the atrocities that occurred in the very place they were standing. It was an intensely emotional experience for all of us.
We rode in silence on the way to Salzburg. As Jon said, after that experience, there was really nothing to say. I think we needed that bus ride to process our thoughts and emotions. As we pulled into Salzburg, we drove past where Kendra and I lived in the summer of 2006. It was a wonderful feeling to be back in a place we enjoyed so much. As we began walking to the old city, the sun came out and everyone’s spirits seemed buoyed by the warmth. Bonnie stopped for a few brief introductions to the city, and then we set out for St. Peter’s, the church in which Mozart was christened. I had been there before, but it was much less crowded, which provided me with many more opportunities to wander around and explore the interior.
Lunch was at a small Imbiss (think of an outside lunch cart or stall) with the Cahills and the Betleys. I had yet another meal of Brawtwurst and pommes frites. After eating, the six of us ducked into Kollegiekirche (Collegiate Church), and it was remarkable to compare the relative emptiness in comparison to the lavish decorations in St. Peter’s. We rejoined the group and purchased lattes and Mozart chocolates in a local pastry shop. Bonnie then led us on a tour of the old town, including stops at Mozart’s birthplace and the Mirabelle Gardens. Through they weren’t in bloom like the last time I visited, the grounds, covered in snow, were still quite beautiful.
The bus ride to Munich brought us onto the Autobahn and through the Alps. The views were stunning! We stopped in Munich for dinner at the Augustiner-Bräustuben. The waitresses were dressed in Dirndls, and the locals seemed to be enjoying themselves. By watching them, we learned the only way to get out of the far end of the bench was to walk along it, carefully stepping over your seatmates. The meal was decent – soup, braten, mashed potatoes and gravy followed by lime jello for dessert. We headed to the hotel for an early night, though the kids managed to keep themselves entertained through card games and Taboo.
We slept in a bit this morning (8 am!!!) and had an awesome breakfast. In addition to the usual, there was fresh fruit, yogurt, nutella, brie, and so much more! It was quite the feast. Back on the bus once again, we headed into Munich for the day. Bonnie gave is a quick orientation tour, and we traveled to the Glockenspiel, Munich’s famous clock. It was a disappointing show – ten minutes late and a little boring, but we can all say we’ve seen the famous Glockenspiel… after that, most everyone split up for free time, but a few of the kids stayed with us and the Cahills and Betleys as we followed Bonnie to a local church. For the next thirty minutes, he provided us with an amazing lesson on religious art and architecture, symbolism, and history. I am astounded by the wealth of knowledge he possesses.
We then parted ways with Bonnie, and proceeded to climb up the tower of another church. It was well over 400 steps up, but totally worth the view. We had a clear 360 degree view of the city, as well as the Alps surrounding the outskirts. However, the climb made us hungry, so we headed to a local market and got great sandwiches at a small pastry shop. A this point, Kendra and I headed off for a bit and stopped at the Hofbräuhaus, Munich’s most famous beer garden. It was here that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party held their first rally. The history that is entrenched in these buildings is overwhelming. Later, as we drove through the city with our local tour guide, John, he pointed out al of the buildings that had been used by the Nazi party, as well as examples of buildings that had been half-bombed during WWII. One building we passed had been bombed through the center. On either side of the rebuilt building, the original building remained, providing a stark contrast in construction and architecture.
The rest of the tour with John was just as fascinating. We stopped at Nymphenburg palace, and traveled along the outskirts of the old city as John pointed out historic buildings, monuments, old city gates, and related the history of Munich from its origins to present day. The tour ended back in the center of town, and we had a quick, albeit bland, dinner in a local cafeteria. We made up for it by finding sweets in yet another pastry shop. There seems to be an endless supply in Munich. We also spent an hour roaming the streets of Munich, enjoying the snow as it was falling from the sky. The city looked beautiful at night.
Tomorrow we are off to Neuschwanstein Castle, and then to Innsbruck. I am not sure if we will have Internet access there, but we will in Luzern, so stay tuned!