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Germany Up-close and Personal

Author: Lyn Hargreave
Date of Trip: July 2014

gifhorn windmill germanyA visit to the Gifhorn International Wind and Watermill Museum, with it’s many styles of windmills and the Ukranian church there brought the week to a close.

Every night, we were treated to dinner in different homes, as we were previously during our stay near Hamburg. Our hosts planned and showed us what we asked to see. So easy! No cars to rent, no train schedules to hassle with. The hospitality of new friends through Friendship Force International made this a warm and very personal experience. We now look forward to welcoming these new friends to our homes next year. Though that is not always the pattern with a Friendship Force visit, it will happen this time.

After our last stay, my husband and I ventured by train to the very southeast section of Germany to the Bavarian town of Piding. Here we stayed with another Affordable Travel Club member and found this an excellent location for visiting Salzburg, Austria, where we walked up to the Hohensalzburg Castle. Two other days we took the train to Berchtesgaden, reportedly the end of the German Alpine Road. The mountain views there from the Eagles Nest, Hitler’s summer retreat were spectacular. We cruised on Königsee and walked to Obersee, and marveled at the many murals painted on the buildings in Berchtesgaden..

Munich was our last stop. A visit with other friends, a journey to Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle which Walt Disney had in mind for Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom, a walk in the English Garden where we watched young folks surf on the river, and the lovely West Park with it’s small but serene areas of Asian landscaping, taking in the Tollwood Festival, riding bikes to Olympic Park and the BMW Welt were hightlights. Having breakfast at the Café’ Glockenspeil on the 5th floor right across the Marienplatz from the Glockenspeil was absolutely the perfect place for pictures of the 11:00 a.m. carillon.

Throughout the journey we were overwhelmed with the symbolism and memorials that have been left in place as reminders of the era of Adolf Hitler. The bells at Marienkirche in Lübeck, St. Nicholas church shell in Hamburg, the stumble stones in many city sidewalks, the hook left in place in Schwerin where a woman who cheered because she heard that Hitler was dead and where she was immediately hung, the special exhibit in Berlin of culture lost with photos of artists and scholars who were killed or forced to leave the country, the Holocaust Memorial and below ground museum also in Berlin, the memorials and statues in Königslutter, the Aegidenkirche in Hannover and the list goes on and on, and of course includes the concentration camps that remain. All so “we will never forget”.

It was a memorable holiday where we felt we got to the heart of the people. We lived, dined and shared innumerable conversations with a countless number of German citizens. We visited Germany as a traveler, not as a tourist.

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