Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 6 / Vienna - Our Arrival



GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
----------------------------------------------
Arrival in Vienna

Vienna Metro / The U-bahn
-------------------------------------------
Wendy and I led our 18 students from the train platform into the Vienna Rail Station and caught our first real view of the celebrated city of Vienna through the large glass walls.  Our first task was to purchase 24-hour metro passes for each member of our group, as this was the best way to navigate through the expansive city.  The Vienna underground, also known as the U-Bahn or just plain U, was located just below the train station.  I have not always been a fan of the subway and had a somewhat scary experience when my wife and I were in New York City back in my undergraduate college days.  We entered a beat up subway car that contained several shady looking characters on board, several of which looked as though they had been riding for days if not weeks.  As the train began to move, we sat down where I noticed a man sprawled out on the floor face down, who appeared sound asleep... hopefully.  There were no other passengers aboard the car and then the lights started flashing off and on, with significant periods of pitch-blackness.  We got off at the very next stop and decided to walk the considerable distance to the art museum, instead of using mass transit.


Vienna Metro / Transit Map
---------------------------------------------
New York City's subway system is so vast, complex, and quite overwhelming for a small town guy like myself to navigate. I have never ridden on it since, preferring instead to stay above ground and hail a quintessential yellow taxicab.  My only other experience on America's subway transit systems was in Washington D.C. where the train broke down before we could even board.  However, in stark contrast, the underground subways I have been on Europe were clean, reliable, well lit, and much easier to navigate. The color-coded rail lines were clearly marked and our kids soon picked up on finding their way around the city with ease.  I'll admit, I continued to be more of a follower than leader when it came to mapping out our underground route to desired destinations. Like many other short-line passenger trains I have traveled in Europe, the U-Bahn operates on the honor system, where passengers are randomly spot checked for passes by conductors.  Most abide by the rules as the fare is reasonable and penalties very costly!


Emerging into the city Streets
----------------------------------------------
We got off at the designated stop and went off in search of our hotel, located in the heart of the city.  It was a short walk with overnight bags in tow through our first glimpse of the fabled city.   Like most cities I have visited in Germany and Austria, the urban landscape was void of large imposing skyscrapers and the contrasting sites of poverty.  The city had a historic feel and protruded an easy going, pleasant and warm personality.  First impressions included clean streets, colorful well maintained buildings, light vehicle traffic, abundant bicyclers, and tree lined streets.  It was a beautiful urban landscape and easy to comprehend why it was such a popular destination in Europe. We found our hotel and checked into the building, which had an old-world feel.  We took turns ascending up to our rooms in the tiny elevator that could barely fit three full size adults.  It was nice to have a private room all to myself.  The room was exactly what I was expecting, small and compact as is customary in Europe. A little challenging for a big guy like myself but was clean, comfortable, and had a large window, that when opened, brought in a welcome cool breeze.


Terminus Hotel / My Room
-------------------------------------------
We dropped our bags and were quickly on the move, wanting to maximize what we could see of the city during our brief overnight visit. It was fortunate we were so centrally located and just a short distance away from Maria-Theresien Platz, the Hofburg, and Volksgarten.  However, our first order of business was nourishment and within a few minutes our students sniffed out an American icon... McDonald's!  When in Vienna?  Come on man!  I ventured in to check it out and compare the Austrian version to the original.  With the World Cup tournament in full swing, there were various twists of the flagship Big Mac.  The nations of the remaining teams, working their way toward the championship game, each had their own ethnic version on the menu.  I stayed long enough to use the bathroom and then quickly ventured out into city streets, seeking a more unique food choice.


Mariahilfer Strass / Looking West
------------------------------------------------- 
Directly across the way was a walk in eatery called Turkrs Take Away that looked my speed.  I ordered a Turkish-Greek-Hungarian specialty called chicken nudeln, a combination of noodles, grilled chicken, and shredded cabbage, mixed with a slightly spicy sauce on the hot grill right before me.  The friendly server wore a pressed white paper hat and served his creation in a white cardboard container to go.  He spoke English with a strong accent and asked me where I was from and welcomed me to the city.  I ventured outside and rejoined the rest of my group eating in the outdoor seating area just outside the home of Ronald McDonald.  The city street was so relaxing and I was immediately drawn to the matching rows of tall trees than ran parallel down both sides of the street.  I couldn't identify them but their tall lean stature with light green foliage suited their environment perfectly.  They provided some shade but their small fern-like leaves also allowed sun to penetrate down to the street below. It was a great location to sit and just watch the world pass by...


Mariahilfer Strass / Looking West
-------------------------------------------------
We gathered everyone back together and took a count, one of many roll calls that became standard operating procedure during our adventure.  Each of our students had been assigned one of the sites we planned to visit this day.  They researched their designated site, while traveling on the train and would now act as tour guides as were made our way through our planed route. The city was vast with collections of buildings but also wide-open spaces containing museums, government buildings, and beautiful gardens.  There were more pedestrians than vehicles making their way about the city streets and did not feel crowded like New York or Philadelphia, which can sometimes feel claustrophobic with an abundance of people and tall building, creating an overwhelming sense of congestion.  Vienna was relaxed, the streets were clean, and the weather was cooperating with a forecast of clear, sun filled skies. We arrived at the Hofburg Palace, where we heard our first student presentation.  Tune in next time as we continue our tour through the beautiful city of Wien.

Chicken Nudeln
-------------------------------


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 5 / Vienna - Rail Jet


GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
----------------------------------------------
Rail Jet to Vienna

Mühldorf Train Station
-----------------------------------
We were in the middle of our three-week exchange with our sister school KKG in Bavaria, celebrating 25 years of an educational and cultural relationship through the German American Partnership Program, also known as GAPP.  As part of this milestone visit, we were going to take our 18 American students on an overnight trip to Vienna, Austria.  The very thought of such an adventure was both exciting and just a little unnerving.  It was a tremendous responsibility to take our students 200 miles away from our German home city of Altotting.  In addition, Vienna is a city of 1.8 million people, quite a contrast to the peaceful setting of the Bavarian countryside. However, we were all looking forward to making the trip by train, the most popular mode of mass transit on the continent of Europe.  On the morning of our departure, we piled our overnight suitcases in the car and headed for the train station in nearby Mühldorf.

Austrian Railways / Rail Jet
----------------------------------------
As we arrived at the train station, I couldn't help but notice I was being dropped off by my German host Andy, much like our students who were also arriving by way of their own host parents.  This weekend trip would be just for the American students, giving our German hosts, a little personal family time without guests.  We huddled up to get our tickets, navigated our way to the proper boarding platform, and awaited the advancing train from the west to arrive.  We were soon joined by the regular local travelers on their way to work, a family visit, or even an adventure of their own.  As a kid, I loved trains and enjoyed the hobby of model railroading and still do on a small scale.  I still have the train set I had from my childhood and put it up under the Christmas tree each year along with all the plastic life-like buildings that still survive.  I had really enjoyed traveling by train in Bavaria during my last visit when we ventured short distances to local towns and our full day-trip to Regensburg in Germany.

View of the Austrian Countryside
-------------------------------------------------
We were taking the Rail Jet line to Vienna, a significant upgrade to the previous trains I had traveled on during my previous visits to Bavaria.  Our train arrived at the station as scheduled and after getting the green light from the conductor, we grabbed our gear and piled into one of the cars to get 20 seats together.  I imagine some railway employee yelled out the equivalent of "All Aboard" in German but I was much too excited to notice.  The interior of the car was very comfortable with several style seats available.  Wendy and I sat in the middle of our group in the traditional cabin-style seat pair facing forward, which were much like a airline seat.  It was well padded, comfortable, and roomy enough to cradle the back of your head, creating a lounging position.  A group of students nearby had a quad of seats facing one another with a reasonable size table between them, which soon generated a card game.  As the train began to pull away from the station, we had officially started our journey toward Vienna.  Much like bus travel, it is nice to leave the driving to someone else, enabling you to relax and enjoy the view out the large generously sized windows.  The beautiful countryside was visible on both sides of the car, giving view to colorful farms, jagged mountains, small quaint villages, and even a few large industrial centers.  It truly is the best way to see the heart of the country.

Train Station / Salzburg, Austria
-----------------------------------------------
We crossed out of Germany and into Austria as the train passed over the Salzach River, the twisting natural boundary separating the two nations.  Within a short time, we entered into Salzburg, the city known by Americans as the setting for the famous film, The Sound of Music.  Within seconds, Wendy was singing the catchy tunes of the movie in my ear in an effort to cause a continuous loop of the movie soundtrack to relentlessly play in my head for the remainder of the journey.  Unfortunately, her efforts were successful as Julie Andrews (Fraulein Maria) was singing, belting out song, after song, after song in my brain... Let's just say, I was "16 gong on 17" for quite some time!  Salzburg is a beautiful city I have visited with students twice before.  In addition to the Sound of Music, the historic city is a popular destination for tourists to visit Mirabell Gardens, the Salzburg Cathedral, and Hohensalzburg Castle, the large imposing fortress looking down over the city it once protected from a hillside known as the Festungsberg.  In stark contrast to the historical architecture of the ancient city, the Salzburg Train Station was also beautiful in its own right, a modern style of arching white metal supports and accompanying glass.  The modern station's physical appearance seemed to compliment the bold white fortress to the north.  We stopped briefly to take on additional passengers before leaving the birthplace of the composer Mozart behind, moving ahead to the city where his musical talent flourished.

A Lumberyard's Harvest
-------------------------------------
We continued on our way east through the beautiful ever changing landscape, brought into view with every passing mile... I mean kilometer.  Much like Bavaria, the rural landscape of Austria resembled a patchwork quilt of farms, villages, and evergreen forests.  We passed several large lumber yards of stacked logs awaiting processing at local saw mills.  Some of the yards had industrial sized sprinkler systems drenching the wood with water to prevent them from drying out and cracking to preserve their valve.  Stewards' of the environment, reaping the bounty of what nature had to offer was paired with responsible conservation to ensure the future harvests.  Many hillsides were covered in young, bright emerald evergreens, to replace those previously extracted from the forest. The cycle of rebirth maintained the beauty of the Alpine environment and complimented the green and amber colored fields of barley, wheat, and soybeans.  The calm peacefulness of the outside view was periodically interrupted by a sudden west bound train, flying past the windows, without warning in the opposite direction.  The surprising burst of blurred red, black, and gray of passenger or freight cars was startling to me but the veteran passengers seated nearby hardly took notice.

Austrian Rail Jet High Speed Train
-------------------------------------------------
For me, rail travel provides the best mode of transport.  You have fewer start and stop transitions of a bus, the comfort of being on ground level as opposed to 30,000 feet in the air when on a plane, and most of all, you don't have to worry about your wife yelling at you when taking your eyes off the road.  Long gone are the clickity-klak bumps of yesteryear, as the parallel ribbons of steel are now welded together, providing an endless and seamless smoothness for the train.  There is little noise as the engine is powered by electricity, fed through a series of cables located up above that run along with the track line.  Due to the lack of friction it is very difficult to cipher just how fast the train is moving along the way.  This peaceful movement can easily rock you gently to sleep and most of our students were resting deeply with eyes closed as we neared our destination.  Before long we arrived at the Vienna Train Station, where our train came to a dead end stop right up against the terminal.  As I would learn later, the train had another engine on the far end of the train that would lead the cars back west after a short rest. This particular train was scheduled daily on the same route and made the trip back and forth several times a day without ever having to turn around.  Smart!

 High Speed Train Docked in Vienna
--------------------------------------------------
We disembarked and enter the expansive modern train station to meet up with a former participant in the GAPP Exchange, who now lived in Vienna and offered to serve as our guide in getting to our hotel within the heart of the city.  Stay tuned for our planned adventures to be published soon!




Monday, December 29, 2014

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 4 / Kampenwand Hike


GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
----------------------------------------------
Kampenwand Hike

 Rugged Kampenwand Trail
--------------------------------------------
We continued on our tour of the top of the world, walking the trail wrapping around the summit of Kampenwand Mountain in the Chiemgau Alps.  Lake Chiemsee had just come into view in the valley below.  It was a beautiful day full of sunshine but slightly hazy in the midday heat of summer.  We were making our way toward a small mountain top restaurant nestled in the middle of the mountains.  As we got closer to our destination, more Alpine cows were seen grazing on the lush green grass of the nearby hillsides.  The curving path began to straighten out at the base of a steep ridge of solid rock just above us on the right hand side of the mountain.  As before, a large erected cross marked the high spot of the ridge above us, where successful climbers were massed at its base.  Erwin, my Bavarian friend and guide on this trip, told me he once climbed to the summit as a younger man but now was content to sit in a cafe in the summit's shadow, enjoying a refreshing cool drink!  Sounded good to me!

Cross at Ridge Summit of Kampenwand
-----------------------------------------------------------
We walked along the face of the 500 foot tall ridge, watching people perilously climb upward toward the location of the cross.  We came to the crowded small cafe style restaurant and Erwin went in search of seating for all of us.  The place was surrounded by wooden fencing with a wide swinging wooden fence gate that opened to allow patrons access to the tables.  What a strange doorway for a restaurant?  It puzzled me somewhat until I saw a cow walk by... Ok, now I get it.  I continued to forget, I was really walking through a massive cow pasture and the gate was to keep the cows from entering the cafe!  The cafe and accompanying cottage was called Steinling Alm and offered foods created from local Alpine farmers in the form of vegetables, meats, and cheeses.  The site also offered lodgings for overnight guests within the stone cottage, located a few short steps from the cafe.  The site is so remote, I could not figure out how the food and other supplies were delivered, especially during inclement weather. 

 Steinling Alm Mountainside Cafe
-------------------------------------------------
The fare is traditional Bavarian and I once again put my trust in my German speaking companions to order me something from the foreign menu.  My food included rye bread, fresh vegetables, sliced sausages, luncheon meats, and several kinds of cheeses.  The contents of my lunch were most likely courtesy of my newly made friends, the Alpine cows I met earlier!   The food was great and my plate was bare within a few minutes.  I excused myself to go and explore the area in more detail as the others finished their meal.  There was a small chapel further up the path, which I assumed was a stop for the many pilgrims who journey this pathway.  As I proceeded a little further beyond the chapel, there were several more mountain top summits visible in the distance, each marked with a large cross.  There were also many more cows grazing on the steep grass covered foothills and others laying down to rest in a large group directly in front of me.  Which ones should I thank for the butter and cheeses in my lunch?  I played it safe and said "Danke" to them all!

 Traditional Alpine Fare
------------------------------------
I soon caught up with my party and we headed back up the mountainside trail, which gave us all a different perspective of the same previous views from above and below.  The kids were resilient, preferring to walk much of the way on their own, which helped make the stroller much easier to maneuver on the rocky trail.  Leo, Amalie, and Rosalie took it all in as a matter of course as little Alpine hikers in training.  I noticed rows of perpendicular wooden cribs suspended by thick wires nested within the rock crevasse at various intervals directly above our position and asked Erwin their purpose.  He replied they were strategically placed to protect people on the trail during winter from being swept away by potential avalanches.  Wow, once again I was reminded I was now in the Alps!  Soon we retraced our steps around the rim of the steep cliff drop off and I felt myself instinctively drift left toward the mountain side, a safer line of travel, despite the current season of the year!  

The Mountaintop Chapel
--------------------------------------
The sun was hot and Erwin and I, as the older guys within our group and burdened with the convenient excuse of the stroller, fell further behind the youthful women and children who were now out of site.  We took several short breaks to catch our breath, as this was still the Alps after all.  However, I was all soon all alone as I continued to stop to take pictures, not wanting to later regret any missed opportunities to capture digital memories.  There were several other Alpine residences periodically dotting the landscape, that were either private homes or other lodges.  Either way, what a view to take in during morning coffee!  I eventually caught up to everyone who were all taking in the view from both sides of the ridge by the cable car station.  We got in line and waited our turn once again, divided into two groups to board the moving car.  The ride down was equally thrilling as you could see the ground level station far below.  Across the way a formidable stone castle came into view known as the Schloss Hohenaschau, a fortress first constructed during the 12th Century.

Descent View of Chiemgau
--------------------------------------
The red terracotta rooftops of the town became larger and more distinct with the descent of our cable car.  Soon we were back on level ground with Kampenwand Mountain of the Chiemgau Alps towering boldly overhead.  We briefly stopped in the small gift shop where I was able to purchase a collector's pin to add to my collection of visited Bavarian sites.  We started our drive toward home through the colorful streets of Chiemgau and I hoped I may return one day to explore the town streets and hilltop castle of this amazing place.  It was a beautiful day and once again and I was completely blown away by the things I got to do and see.  A cable car ride, Alpine cows, hiking in the Alps, lunch at a mountaintop cafe, seeing para gliders, and mountain climbers...  I was wondering what other surprises were yet undiscovered on this three week adventure.  Tomorrow was another day, I can't wait! 

Leo, Amalie, Angela, Rosalie, Wendy, and Chef
-------------------------------------------------------------------
PLEASE SEE MY ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
ASSOCIATED WITH THIS BLOG POSTING AT...
_______________________________________________________________

        

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 3 / Kampenwand Climb



GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
----------------------------------------------
Kampenwand Climb

Cable Car Ride to Summit
----------------------------------------------
On this day trip adventure, I was told we were going to go hiking in the Alps but it would be an easy climb.  Alps and easy climb didn't seem to go together in my mind but when in Bavaria... Wendy and I would be accompanied by my host Angela Shadhauser, her father Erwin, and the kids.  If little Leo, Amalie, and Rosalie could handle the climb, I think I can make it!  I rode with Erwin and exchanged great conversation, catching up with one another since my last visit.  Mr. Schadhauser, who was locally famous for his delicious backyard goulash, was one of my favorite people to spend time with during my last visit.  He had visited one of his sons in California the previous summer and was telling me all about his extensive trip to the western coast of the United States.  He drove his Mercedes with precision through the twisting and turning rural roads of the countryside, as I attempted to absorb every detail of the ever changing picturesque setting that is Bavaria.  Again, I can't believe I am here!  

View from the Summit
---------------------------------------
We passed through a beautiful small town known as Chiemgau and soon turned into a parking lot where we met up with Wendy, Angela, and the kids.  I immediately noticed the colorful cable cars scaling the steep mountainside through a gap cut through the evergreen trees.  Now, this was my kind of mountain climbing!  Mr. Shadhauser secured us all tickets and we boarded into two separate cable cars to climb the 4,921 feet to the top.  The ride provided amazing views from all sides and one window was down a few inches, allowing me to get some unobstructed amazing shots of our ascent with my camera.  The mountain face was occasionally broken up by large formations of sharp bright rock that stood out in stark contrast to the deep lush green blanket of endless evergreens.  The ride went on for what seemed like several long minutes but was smooth and relaxing.  We stepped out of the moving cars with care and climbed a short staircase to exit the station where we encountered an amazing view.  On one side was the view of Chiemgau and the accompanying expansive valley far below and on the opposite side, the distant higher snow capped Alps.  It was very humbling!

Sonnenalm Summit Restaurant
-------------------------------------------------
After taking in the views and a few pictures we decided to scale the mountain a little higher by way of a pathway of switchbacks that rose toward a large protruding  rock face.  On our way to the pathway, we passed by a mountain top restaurant known as the Sonnenalm, which serves the community year round with meals, weddings, and various special events.  It resembled a small ski resort with wide panoramic windows and a large outdoor deck full of available seating.  In winter, the topside area transforms itself slightly, to cater to winter sports enthusiasts.  I later learned, a favorite pastime of winter visitors was to take the cable car up to the summit, grab a bite to eat at the Sonnenalm, and then ski all the way down to the lower station.  We began the climb upward, which was a little challenging with a stroller, which Mr. Schadhauser and I took turns pushing and lifting up the pathway.  Soon I began to hear the sound of a distant bell that became louder as we climbed.  I could not figure out who would be ringing a bell all the way up here and why?

Real Genuine Alpine Cows
--------------------------------------------
As I rounded the final turn in the path, I was suddenly blown away by the sight before me!  Several large Alpine cows were resting on top of the mountain with large leather collars each supporting an equally large cow bell!  Where was the farmer?  In fact, nowhere in sight.  The cows roam free and were as tame as any household pet. Kids of all ages stopped to greet the four legged hikers, who seemed to be relaxing in the warm midday sun and enjoying the beautiful views like everyone else.  A nearby gathering spot supported a large wooden cross, a common site in Bavaria at mountain summits.  I would see several more today as each individual peak within sight housed its own religious themed cross.  Some people hike great distances on religious pilgrimages to a specific sacred end points by way of the mountains passes. Some pilgrims scale to each peak's cross along the way to challenge themselves as part of their quest and as a personal sacrifice of their faith.

  Amalie on Top of the World
----------------------------------------------
After taking some photos and hanging out with my new friends, the Alpine cows, we continued on our way on the path that curved around the side of the mountain.  The view continued to reveal more amazing perspectives of the valley below and the towering rock formations above.  My eye caught several small dots of bright colors that turned out to be tiny mountain climbers slowly scaling the rock face far above us.  Below, a para-glider with a bright orange sail chute glided over the surface of the sky, occasionally rising sharply upward on thermal updrafts.  It was a true adult playground of thrill seeking activity for mountain enthusiasts of all skill levels.  I had never been in such an environment before, with such extreme rock formations jutting outward around me.  The green tree covered sides of the mountains appeared soft, in contrast to the rock spires that were sharp and full of suggested danger.  

Can You See the Mountain Climbers?
----------------------------------------------------
As we continued on our way around the mountain top, we began to descend slightly, around additional large rock spires and a sharp ledge that dropped several hundred feet straight down.  I could only imagine how much more treacherous this hike would be in winter, covered with snow.  Snow hiking is also a popular winter activity at Kampenwand, but I think I'll pass and stick to the summer months.  As we followed the curve of the path, the main attraction of the valley view below came into focus. Lake Chiemsee, which is also known as the Bavarian Sea, came into view far below. The massive lake, that Wendy and I had visited two years earlier with Angela and Mr. Schadhauser, was laid out below like a large flat unfolded map.  The sky was slightly hazy, which obscured the fine details of the outline of the lake but it was certainly there.  I had no idea we were that close to Lake Chiemsee, but needed no help in identifying it, since the two islands contained within it were easily seen.   In our next segment, we will continue to explore more of the hiking trails of Kampenwand  Mountain.  Stay tuned...     

Lake Chiemsee / The Bavarian Sea
---------------------------------------------------

PLEASE SEE MY ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
ASSOCIATED WITH THIS BLOG POSTING AT...
_______________________________________________________________




Friday, December 26, 2014

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 2 / The Fuggerei

GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
----------------------------------------------
Augsburg / The Fuggerei

Corner Fountain of the Fuggerei
--------------------------------------------------
We continued on our tour through the historic city of Augsburg in Bavaria.  After having a great lunch and touring City Hall, we checked out the map of attractions and selected the Fuggerei as our next stop.  The Fuggerei is a housing project of interconnected town homes constructed for the poor citizens of the city long ago.  The picturesque enclosed living site is the most popular attraction in the city for tourists.  Annette, who was a previous native of the city, guided us through the old cobblestone streets toward the site.  Upon arrival, we passed through an arched gate to enter the interior of the housing project.  All the buildings were neatly painted in soft yellow and accented with light green shutters.  Some of the buildings were covered by vines that were lush with thick green foliage, which were squarely trimmed around the shape of any invaded windows.  The accompanying streets were clean, neatly swept, and void of any sign of debris from man or nature.  The Fuggerei was a perfect example of the traditional German preference for pristine neatness and structured uniformity.

Jakob Fugger and Sibylle Artzt 
(Painting Credit / Hans Burgkmair the Elder - 1498)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The Fugger family had made a fortune in the Augsburg area by investing in the local mercantile, mining, forestry, and banking industries.  Legend says Jakob Fugger who was known as Jakob Fugger the Rich, was told by a Catholic priest that the wealthy could never get into heaven upon their death because they lived so well on earth and took more than their fair share of available assets earned from the hard labor of the poor.  As a result of that conversation, Jakob Fugger was inspired into action and decided to give something back to the community that had been so good to his financial bottom line.  In 1516, he founded the Fuggerei, which was designed to be a public housing project, built to shelter the poor and downtrodden citizens of Augsburg.  Within seven years, 52 apartment style units had been constructed and were ready for occupancy.  Eligible residents needed to be of the Roman Catholic faith, be poor but without outstanding debts, and were required to say three prayers a day for the Fugger family to help the founders of the community get into heaven.  The prayers were rumored to be continued long after the death of Jakob Fugger in 1525, just in case he didn't pass through the "pearly gates" right away.

Fuggerei Interior Space / Bedroom
---------------------------------------------------
Over time, 67 total buildings were constructed that contained 147 identical apartments that each included a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and a small spare room, which totaled about 600 square feet of living space.  The annual rent of one Gulden (.88 Euros) for each apartment has not changed since the project's first year of operation.  I was surprised to find out during our tour that families still live in the apartments of the Fuggerei, making it the oldest continuously inhabited housing project in history.  Ironically, the fee for tourists to visit the Fuggerei is four Euros, which is more than four times the annual rent for the current residents.  The tourist fee helps support the upkeep of the interior streets, common outdoor areas, and the Fuggerei Museum.  The museum is housed in one of the apartments and allows visitors to see what the units look like on the inside.  The interior model appeared to be decorated with traditional furniture from long past but today's units were said to have all the modern conveniences found standard in any twenty-first-century home today.  However, I would imagine it would be tough, living in a tourist attraction full time, with strangers continuously checking out your home and neighborhood.  People who live within the second floor apartments probably have more privacy but don't have the nice rear patio space, garden shed, and small backyard of first floor residents.

Vine Covered Walls of the Fuggerei
----------------------------------------------------
The Fuggerei was like a walled medieval city nested within the city of Augsburg.  In fact, the five outside entrances into the walled housing project close and lock at 10PM each night.  I imagine, the place comes alive at night, when the tourists are absent and people can fully relax and be a true community.  Like most places in Germany, Augsburg was a target during World War II due to its extensive industrial sites located throughout the city.  The Fuggerei was heavily damaged during allied bombing raids.  As a result, the Fuggerei had an underground bunker for residents to take refuge when the fearsome air raid warning sirens sounded.  The bunker is part of the Fuggerei Museum and open to the public.  Exploring the underground vaults was an uncomfortable experience as the spaces were filled with historical displays containing artifacts and photographs, which were accented by the muffled sound of air raid sirens.  I can only imagine what it would have been like to be crouched within the cramped concrete space in complete darkness as the sound of explosions were destroying your town and home a few feet above your head.  It was comforting to exit up the stairs outside and emerge in the fresh air and sunlight to find everything still intact.  The museum bunker was just one example of how Augsburg is confronting the negative aspects of its connection to Germany's Nazi past.

  Corner Fountain in Bomb Ravaged Fuggerei
(Photograph Credit / Fuggerei Bunker Museum)
-------------------------------------------------------------------
After visiting the Bunker we took a short break and sat on some benches in the shade of several trees to escape the heat of the summer sun.  After World War II the damaged sections of the Fuggerei were rebuilt to the original specifications to preserve the history of this special place.  The surrounding vegetation was beautiful with gardens, shrubs, and flowerbeds.  Despite financial hardship, the current residents of the Fuggerei were proud of their property and invested their labor to make it beautiful and full of color.  The frontal facade of the buildings were uniform in presentation but individual personality was tastefully expressed within each rear patio space and accompanying garden.  We continued to encircle the massive property, taking in all the sights, wondering who lived behind each identical doorway and what hardships may have brought each to this thankful place of refuge.  A bust statue of Jakob Fugger was found within a small common area, making me wonder if they still said the prayers for him.  I found myself hoping he made it to heaven for his three dimensional institution of charity.  The property is still supported financially from a trust fund first set up by the Fugger family almost 500 years ago, which has continuously benefited the site for centuries.  It's the gift that keeps on giving...

Rear Garden and Patio Spaces
--------------------------------------------
 It was time to leave the Fuggerei and go outside the walled housing project to see what else the beautiful old city had to offer before our time was up.  We ventured back out onto the cobblestone streets and made our way back up to the main street known as the Maximilianstrasse.  We were now ready for some light refreshment and stopped by one of the many street-side outdoor cafes for ice cream, apple strudel, and complimenting beverage.  It was a hot day and taking time out to rest periodically made our visit more like a tour and less like a marathon.  After our relaxing break, we went on to visit three churches including Saint Ulrich, Saint Anne, and the High Cathedral of Augsburg.  Each church was different in design, style, and decor, beautiful in their own individual elegance.  Despite their stark differences in ornamentation, all shared a graceful interior theme of peaceful sanctity.  The sun was just about to start its descent in the western sky and we were all running out of energy.  We said goodbye to the old city of Augsburg as we retraced our way back to the parking garage.  We once again walked along the picturesque canals of the working class guild district and passed by the ancient remaining exterior medieval wall and accompanying moat that still guarded the city.  Thanks to our good friend Annette Bock for a fantastic day and tour of her historically beautiful hometown!

Parting Shots of the Fuggerei
-------------------------------------------
 
PLEASE SEE MY ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
ASSOCIATED WITH THIS BLOG POSTING AT...
_______________________________________________________________



        

Monday, July 28, 2014

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 1 / Golden Hall



GAPP Exchange Journal 2013
----------------------------------------------
Augsburg / The Golden Hall

Remaining City Protective Wall and Moat 
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Canals of the City's Artisan District

I was back in Deutschland for a second time as a chaperone with the German American Partnership Program's (GAPP) academic exchange with our partner school in Altötting, Bavaria.  Once again, I was representing Warwick High School, along with German teacher Frau Wendy Andrews with 19 students for a three week exchange.  2014 marked the 25th Anniversary milestone of the GAPP exchange between Warwick High School and König-Karlmann-Gymnasium (KKG) in Germany.  I decided to write about my experience this time by featuring some of the locations and adventures that were different from my first trip.  We will start off by visiting the industrial city of Augsburg, which is the most western city I have visited in Germany to date.  Wendy and I were guided on this day-trip by KKG teacher Annette Bock, who once lived in Augsburg and later attended college at the local university to earn her teaching credentials.  After driving by the university in the modern section of the city, we parked the car and walked toward the historical district of the old city.

    Canal Side Cafe in the Artisan District of the City
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
The first thing that showed the age of the city was the remaining protective wall first built by the Romans and expanded during the Middle Ages.  The creek at the base of the wall was actually the remains of the old moat, that once added an additional ring of protection.  Wow!  We walked into the old section of the city over ancient cobblestone streets.  Traditional colorful interconnected townhouses towered overhead to make efficient use of real estate.  Annette explained this section of the city once was home to craftsmen, artisans, and small industry.  The early machinery was turned by waterwheels fed by an extensive network of canals that remain today.  Overtime, the canals were covered over to make way for more vehicle traffic but people missed the historical connection with the canals that were first built by the Romans.  Amid local protest, the canals were slowly uncovered once again, despite the cost of modern convenience.  A small win for history!  The canals really added a romantic atmosphere to the lower part of the city, reminiscent of Venice in Italy.  However, as any proud resident of Augsburg could tell you, the city's complex canal network contains at least 600 bridges, more than Venice or Amsterdam.  Cars could still navigate the narrow streets but most people preferred to use bicycles or comfortable walking shoes, a choice which also benefits the environment.

Light Rail Lines of the Main Street / Maximilianstrasse    
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
The Ratskeller Tavern / Rear Plaza of Augsburg's City Hall

The city of Augsburg with 275,000 residents is the third largest city in the state of Bavaria behind Nuremberg and the capital city of Munich.  However, Augsburg is the oldest city founded by the Romans in 15 BC under the order of Emperor Augustus, which is for whom the city was named.  Annette continued to lead Wendy and I through the quaint canal district and eventually up a steep incline to the main street of the historic district known as Maximilianstrasse.  The first thing I noticed was the light rail passenger train that ran on tracks imbedded with in the cobblestone street.  The trains were visible throughout the day, running silently on electricity drawn from an overhead network grid of wires that were strung across the street, anchored within the exterior of the buildings.  We walked a short distance until we arrived at the mammoth Augsburg City Hall building that towered overhead with twin towers capped with onion domes.  However, before we could do any real sightseeing, it was time for lunch!  Annette chose to take us to a unique tavern located on the opposite side of the City Hall building within the cellar of the building.  We walked around the side of the building and descended a series of stairs to the rear cobblestone plaza where the Ratskeller eatery was located.  An area of outdoor seating was set up along an elevated patio that ran the length of the base of the building.  We chose a table under one of the bright orange umbrellas that shielded us from the hot bright sun.

The Golden Hall of City Hall, Augsburg
---------------------------------------------------------
Wendy navigated the German menu for me, translating what was contained within each dish offered by the Ratskeller.  Within a short time, a platter was delivered for me containing sauerkraut, a rice ball, sausage links, a pork chop, and some other kind of meat on the bone.  It was a feast worthy of City Hall!  After an hour of good food, drink, and conversation, we were on our way back up the steps to tour the interior of Aubsburg City Hall building, which was built in 1620.  Inside was a small museum and gift shop but the star attraction was upstairs in a large concert hall size space known as the Golden Hall.  As usual, I had no idea of what we were going to see and was totally blown away by the rich golden visual spectacle before me.  The hall encompassed the entire top three floors of the building covering almost 6,000 square feet.  The walls climbed to a height of 46 feet, supporting a coffer ceiling of sunken squared panels richly adorned with murals and accented with gold leaf paint.  It was almost too much for the eye to absorb.  The brightly colored murals depicted the historical past, people, and economy of the city.  The Golden Hall is considered one of the most important examples of the German Renaissance period of architecture. It was beautiful!

The Golden Hall of City Hall, Augsburg
---------------------------------------------------------
The fact that Augsburg was an important industrial center made it a prime target for allied bombing raids during World War II.  In addition to factories, the City Hall building was badly damaged and practically destroyed by fire, following the incendiary bombs dropped by the British RAF on the city.  Following the war, the historical building was repaired by 1955 with the exception of the Golden Hall, which remained a wooden shell.  The building as a whole had been refurbished in a much more simplistic style but as the 2,000th anniversary of the City Hall building approached, an effort was started in 1980 to restore the building's exterior and the Golden Hall to their original rich style.  Money was collected to help support the project, which was completed by 1985, just in time for the building's milestone anniversary.  The windows of the hall offered an excellent panoramic view of the surrounding city from above.  Legend says that a mouse is playfully hidden somewhere within the complex and intricate murals of the walls and ceiling.  We all searched but the challenge was almost impossible without knowing what the mouse actually looked like.  I think I invested a full minute and a half before giving up!  As I continued to explore, I discovered several side chambers where town council meetings might have been held.  Today the Golden Hall occasionally houses musical concerts and various other special events.  It was the most visually impressive space I visited during my three week visit.

The Golden Hall / Coffer Mural Painted Ceiling,
---------------------------------------------------------------------
We left the Golden Hall and descended into the ground level to view the small museum of history that showed the evolution of Augsburg from Roman outpost to modern industrial center.  The economy of Augsburg continues to be strong, serving as the home for many successful companies including those manufacturing old school diesel engines to high tech electronic components.  Modern Augsburg is located just outside of olde city, beyond the medieval wall and out of sight, enabling the historic parts of the city to remain mostly historic.  As a result, Augsburg does not resemble the normal perception of how a city should look and feel.  The cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, extensive canals, outdoor cafes, elaborate fountains, and relaxed pace capture the charm and romance of Old World Europe.  Each city, village, and landmark I visited during my two three week visits to Germany and Austria had their own unique cultural personality, keeping each adventure a fresh and new experience.

 The View from the Golden Hall
-------------------------------------------------

PLEASE SEE MY ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
ASSOCIATED WITH THIS BLOG POSTING AT...
_______________________________________________________________



    

Total Pageviews