August 28, 2014

Augustiner Bräu Brewery's German Pancake.

After leaving Dachau our emotions were pretty heavy and we decided to focus on enjoying our time together with a nice meal.  We headed to the Augustiner Bräu brewery that has a wonderful restaurant attached.  (Different than the Augustiner am Platzl that we ate at previously!) 

My mushroom and dumplings were great (Germany certainly knows how to make a hearty dish), but by far the most amazing part of the meal was my German pancake.  (I forget the actual German term for this dessert, I wish I could remember!  Forgive me.  Maybe someone out there can enlighten me?)  This dessert required 30 minutes notice to make, a sure sign you have ordered the right thing, if you ask me!

^There she is in all her glory, not too sweet, but juuuuust right.  Soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside.  Holding every dream and wish I've ever had for a dessert.

Ahem.  Backing up, Charles was excited to be at the actual brewery (the smell of beer permeated the air outside!), and it was extra special since this is our favorite of the 'Big Six' beers.  If you missed my Bavarian Beer 101 post, it might clarify the basics of what the 'Big Six' means.


The restaurant managed to be open and cosy at the same time.  A very traditional beer hall with long communal tables and benches.  There is a real sense of community in Bavaria, and I love it.  I constantly felt like I was showing up to a great party with all my family and friends.  I felt very welcomed.

^It isn't a meal without the prerequisite beers the size of your head!

It doesn't get more Bavarian than this meal... beer, pretzels, and semmelknödel mit pilzen (bread dumpling with mushrooms.)


I had to end with one more shot of that dessert.  While it may not be the healthiest of cuisines, Bavaria does what it does very well.  Amen to that!

August 22, 2014

Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau Concentration Camp

In all honesty, I feel somewhat uncomfortable writing about my visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp and wavered on whether or not to share it publicly.  Please know that I do so with a heavy, somber heart and the intent of conveying my experience to others in order to keep the memory and respect alive; I do not intend to exploit or undermine the gravity of events that transpired here.

Becoming immersed in history is one of the greatest benefits of traveling. Sometimes it reminds us of the progress we have made and feeds our soul with inspiration, and other times it takes us to the depths and darkness of human capability.  I personally strive to experience the good and the bad.  Any discomfort and pain I experienced during my visit is exceptionally minor in comparison to the pain that transpired there.


Dachau is a city located 10 miles north of Munich and is easily accessible by train.  After going back and forth, we did hire a guided tour and I am 100% glad that we did.  We learned far more about the history, unfolding of events, and he greatly enriched our overall experience.  During our bus and train rides, our guide provided us with an extremely detailed history starting with Hitler's rise to power, the beginning of the Holocaust, all the way to the liberation of Dachau.  By the time we got to the gates of the former concentration camp, the experience had a greater context that allowed me to understand and absorb more in the moment.

Upon entering the camp, you walk through the infamous gates pictured above reading "Arbeit Macht Frei" or "work makes you free."  If that isn't a sucker punch to the gut, I'm not sure what is.

There are various monuments and official memorials inside, commemorating the lives lost and the suffering that occurred with the gates.


The words on the right (above) read NEVER AGAIN.

The open area pictured above is where the imprisoned were forced to line up in snow and heat, for hours on end, most often with little clothing.  Many were sick or feeble and would frequently die during these exercises.

Behind the open area are old offices, processing rooms, and other structures that are now museums with displays and artifacts left behind.  I was glad to be guided through, as the information was overwhelming.  The display below shows the colors that would appear on a uniform as part of an identification system.  The color indicated one thing, and the shape, another, (whether you were a political prisoner, gypsy, homosexual, etc.) . The badges were easy ways to identify and shame prisoners.


Below are photos of the grounds where the living barracks were located.  There is one reconstructed barrack visitors can walk through, but the rest are where the long beds of rock mark their former location.


One of the guard towers can be spotted in a few photos above.  A request of the survivors was that no one be allowed in the towers, so no person could have the power to look down on the people walking the land any longer.

On one side of Dachau there is a jail.  The entire camp was a prison, but this area had single cells for extreme political prisoners or troublemakers to be kept, and sometimes even tortured or experimented on.  It is the one place, other than the gas chambers, that our guide would not enter.  It was dank, cold (even with the heat outside), and completely unsettling.


I dreaded the moment we would enter the gas chambers, which were connected to the crematorium.  Dogs are allowed everywhere in Germany, even where food is prepared, but evidently (at least according to our guide) dogs are no longer permitted in these chambers because they would whine, cry, and bark while inside them.

That really stuck with me.


It was just as depressingly soul crushing as you'd imagine it might be to walk through those rooms.  Absolutely horrifying to be faced with human nature at its most evil.

I wish that this were the first and last time something like this has happened, but it still happens in the world today.  Being at Dachau was a reminder of this.  Like the memorial reads, never forget.  It is easy to feel this way standing on those grounds.  To feel determined that fear and propaganda will never get the best of you.

Dachau is now a modern town, and a desirable suburb of Munich.  I am glad that life is moving on and people are finding happiness in what is a beautiful city, I just hope that the sacrifices made and the events that unfurled do not become a distant memory, but remain etched in the hearts of many to remind us what is worth standing up for today.

August 18, 2014

Summer musings.

Confession... summer just isn't my favorite time of year.  It never really meshed with my soul in the giddy way that other parts of the year do.  That being said, I am making an effort to enjoy the little parts of this time of year that do bring me joy.

On an afternoon in early summer, I sat outside with Zora and attempted to appreciate what she was enjoying about the day.  Reading on an Adirondack rocker, the breeze blew through the trees, I heard conversations and laughs from across the creek, the splashes of a pool party, the buzzing of a lawn mower, and watched a hummingbird hover near a flower.  Zora would move her head back and forth, carefully analyzing each sound and movement, while the light from the patio slats danced on her face.  Sometimes her eyes would close and she would let the sun sink into her face, calm and happy.

Zora taught me that summer is about more about reflecting and connection and less about being hurried.  I can definitely get on board with that.  Or at least try to.

Since Charles acquired a grill this year, we've been trying to all spend time together outside after work and simply enjoy the last rays of a warm day...


This part of summer is good.  Really good.