When my author/publisher Deana Driver and her husband (Publisher Al) planned their special vacation in Europe for this past summer, they knew that visiting a concentration camp was one of the stops they wanted to make on their journey. They took me - the Never Leave Your Wingman book - along on this day, and this is my report of what we saw at the camp memorial site in Dachau, Germany. (I've been blogging all fall about our trip. Here's my first blog in the series.)
Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of about 20 such camps in Germany set up by Adolf Hitler's regime during the Second World War. The camp was built for 12,000 prisoners but from 1933 to 1945, more than 200,000 prisoners went through the camp. About 40,000 of them died there. Prisoners were experimented on, starved, beaten, tortured, shot by firing squads, and horribly abused using methods that were later used in other concentration camps.
We spent about two hours walking through the memorial site, looking at the remaining and reconstructed buildings, and visiting the museum. It was all very sad.
This is the International Monument art installation to commemorate the prisoners of Dachau.
In the background are two reconstructed barracks buildings.
This monument says it all - Never Again.
Here`s my author in front of the barracks. A guard tower and section of the outer wall are behind her.
The prisoners were packed so tightly in the barracks that they slept head to foot on these bunks.
This is where the other 32 barracks buildings used to sit, behind the first two that have been reconstructed.
The crematorium building on the left is yet another testament to the terror. On the right, a photograph shows when it was in use.
There are 12 stops along a Path of Remembrance leading from the concentration camp memorial into the town of Dachau. We could only walk to the first seven before we were overwhelmed with sadness and had to head back to our vehicle.
The town of Dachau itself is more than 1,000 years old. This article answers some of the questions we had about how the people of this town could live in a community with such a horrid history. Survivors, history buffs and members of the new generation are honouring the history while trying to move on from the past.
We left Dachau the following day and headed for the town of Füssen in the Bavaria region of Germany. Here, we expected to see hills, mountains and beautiful castles. We were not disappointed.
Oh, we saw several Ausfahrts, too.
Publisher Al is the one who drove us everywhere on our long European vacation - and he couldn't stop himself from laughing every time he saw one of these signs - Ausfahrt.
Fahrt is German means ride or drive. Ausfahrt is the exit. Einfahrt is entrance. But that didn't stop Al from smiling at each one of these signs. It’s a guy thing.
Sights near Füssen include the mountains...
...all variety of bird houses on the side of a large building....
a lovely river...
...and unique treats like these large cookie balls.
My author bought a couple to try them out. She didn't like them, but at least she tried.
It’s always fun when a local person takes an interest in me - in this case, a local statue.
Did you notice she even put aside her own book to check me out?
Ah yes. While she is reading me, her friends are having fun with the watering can.
What a fun idea for a statue.
“Prost!” says Publisher Al, as he hoists a glass of beer at our German hotel.
“Yummmmm!” said Publisher Al and author Deana, when they enjoyed homemade apple strudel – complete with both whipped cream and ice cream – the only way to eat strudel in Germany!
And now it`s off to the first of two amazing castles.
Here are my publishers on the grounds of the Hohenschwangau castle. It was the childhood home of King Ludwig II, who as an adult spent 18 years building the opulent Neuschwanstein castle you see in the background. I’ll tell you about that castle later.
Castle Hohenschwangau is a beautiful castle...
...overlooking the town and providing a breathtaking view.
We weren’t allowed to take photos of the inside of the castles, so you`ll have to either do a Google search or take my word for it - they were ridiculously plush and amazing.
These are some of the gorgeous flowers in its garden and, at the bottom of the hill...
...we were surprised to see this lonely swan swimming so close to the shore of Lake Alpsee.
Schloss Hohenschwangau means High Swan County Palace, and the castle walls are full of references to swans. So I wondered if this swan was raised there to be part of the local story or if the swans came first and continue to make this their home. Hmmm...
This is one side of the Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s amazing already and we haven't even gone inside!
The front of the Neuschwanstein Castle is only visible by air from the opposite mountain, or in this glimpse from a nearby viewing spot. Walt Disney based his Sleeping Beauty Castle on this incredible German palace. He sent artists to Neuschwanstein to take photographs and to make sketches of the castle. When they returned to the U.S., they created the famous Disneyland castle from those images.
Neuschwanstein as seen from below.
Paintings in the town’s shops offer idyllic views of this spectacular castle.
While inside Neuschwanstein Castle, we saw people walking on Mary`s Bridge - which provides a great view of the castle as well as the waterfall in the gorge below the bridge.
We did not walk across that bridge. I don’t like heights - or being on a bridge high above a waterfall. This pretty picture will have to do for a memory of that spot.
“What’s that, you say? This is a good book?”
Ah, yes. My story does make people – or in this case, horses - fall in love all over again and my story gives them hope. Isn't that nice?
So that pretty much finishes our adventures in Germany for the summer - except for catching our flight home from Frankfurt, but that will only be a stopover night.
From here, it’s on to Switzerland and France for a couple of days - and then home!