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!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
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Manheim, Pennsylvania
 u
Guildsman Way / North
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Once upon a time in a magical land far, far away... The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire located in Manheim, Pennsylvania is an experience far, far away from the ordinary.  I had been to the mansion for live theater many times over the years on annual school field trips held every fall season, dedicated to the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  Every year the students formed into lines outside by assigned group as we awaited entry into the mansion for Poe Evermore.  I was always intrigued by the tops of the old Tudor style buildings just visible above the red palisade fence line that ran along the edge of mansion's courtyard.  I always made a mental note to come back at another time to visit the faire and see what was beyond the fence walls.  I finally followed through, taking my son Tyler when we were both obsessed with The Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels and accompanying blockbuster movies.  It was the perfect setting to lose yourself in a world of fantasy, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth

Garden Shop Greenery
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The main gate of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is in the form of an impressive castle wall and accompanying towers.  Don't even think about sneaking through, as archers from above could very well stop you dead in your tracks.  I was instantly amazed at the layout of the grounds that truly resembled a bustling town in the middle of Sherwood Forest complete with multiple Robin Hoods roaming about, causing me to secure my wallet... just in case.  The whole event resembled a giant costume party for kids and adults of all ages, with the majority of visitors in period correct fashion from various periods from Europe's historical past.  You quickly realize why they call it a faire because the majority of the structures throughout the grounds are dedicated to selling you anything and everything you might need to fit into the crowd.  Tyler was quick to catch on and was soon sporting a festive green felt woodsman's hat accented with a wooden sword and matching shield.  However, I decided to continue portraying a modern visitor from the future to save some money.    

Pirate Ship Weapon Shop
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The items were not cheap in price but the quality was exceptional and withstood the hard play and punishment Tyler dished out for several years.  In fact the sword and shield are both still in excellent condition and are safely stored in the basement, just in case we are suddenly attacked by an angry dragon.  There were multiple shops selling costumes of all kinds, hats, replica flintlock firearms, swords, incense, glassware, pottery, jewelry, and everything in between and beyond.  One shop was even creatively selling small green anole lizards and playing them off as baby dragons.  That was a tough one to dodge!  There were also a lot of craftsmen and artisans working their chosen craft and selling their practical and decorative creations.  We visited a glass blower, ironworkers, potters, blacksmiths, and weavers.  There was something to catch your attention in every direction as you navigated your way along the colorful pathways of the past.           

Tyler and I Make a Memory!
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One of the highlights for both of us was an elephant ride for a few additional dollars.  It's not everyday you get an opportunity to ride an elephant with you son, even if it is for just a short loop around a small track.  How can you pass up such an opportunity?  It was a little scary but a great memory!  And it's true... the elephant really did work for peanuts!  Next we headed out to Bosworth Field for the famous jousting content.  It was really a cool thing to see, complete with Queen Elizabeth welcoming her loyal subjects (aka: spectators) to the event.  There was a lot of playing to the crowd and showing off by the contest participants, which was enjoyed by all.  The two knights charged one another at speed with protruding lances quickly closing the gap.  The two came barbarically together with one contestant getting violently knocked off his armored mount to the dusty ground in defeat.  The tournament winner was quick to accept the praise of the crowd and collect the flirtatious attention of the Queen as his prize.

Garden Glen Live Theater
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The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire was born in 1980 in the back parking lot of the Mount Hope Estate Winery where a jousting contest was held for fun.  As the word got out, the number of spectators started to grow and the following year they moved the event to the estate's grounds and it began to expand over the years.  Today the grounds encompass over 35 fenced-in acres that attracts an estimated 250,000 visitors a year.  Live theater has grown to become the main attraction of the faire with a dozen stages within the complex in constant use on any given weekend.  Shopping is the only thing that upstages the stage at the Renaissance Faire with 105 merchants in attendance at last count.  The faire runs every weekend from September through the end of October with several themed weekends including the Celtic Fling, Pirate Invasion, and Oktoberfest.  The general setting of the faire is the Shire of Mount Hope in the16th century during the reign Queen Elizabeth I of the Tudor Dynasty.  The works of Shakespeare are being performed at the Globe Theater, ale is disposed at the Swashbuckler Pub, and craftsman hawk their wares from brightly colored tents in every direction.

Queen Elizabeth I
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Now a decade later, it was Katelyn's turn to step back in time to experience Elizabethan England in all its glory and splendor.  God Save the Queen!  The previous two weekends were rainy but it was a beautiful fall day and the crowds filled the streets of the Shire of Mount Hope.  Katelyn was into it and arrived dressed up as a pirate!  She had recycled some old Halloween costume items and accented her outfit with a blue bandana on her head and the sword Tyler had purchased a decade earlier.  Katelyn and I walked through the gate and joined a small crowd watching a group of musicians on a gazebo stage who were playing an upbeat Irish dance tune.  We descended down Queen's Market Way and visited the shops along the way.  We were joined by many adults in various high-quality costumes of the Renaissance Era, who were looking to add to their historical outfit ensemble.  There were fancy gowns, various hats, ornate jewelry, replica swords, and countless decorative collectibles.  Apparently you are only limited by the size of your imagination and disposable income.  Shiver me Timbers Katelyn!    

Garden Sculpture Shop
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We both enjoyed investigating the endless available items for sale.  During the course of the day, I purchased some replica pirate knob coins to display in my classroom and Katelyn settled on a nice necklace to compliment her costume.  My favorite shops of all were a few that were connected together that resembled something right out of an enchanted forest.  The shop was consumed by greenery, vines, and colorful plants that seemed to suggest the space was constructed by Mother Nature herself.  It was really cool!  We were suddenly absorbed in a royal procession of Queen Elizabeth I and her court who we soon discovered were on their way to play a game of Human Chess.  It was an entertaining display of fun that was attended by several hundred spectators.  Katelyn and I left before checkmate to explore Avalon Hill where we found the old elephant still giving rides to kids of all ages.  Katelyn wasn't up for a ride herself but we had fun watching others take the short journey into a life long memory.      

Bosworth Jousting Field
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Katelyn and I continued to explore the shire... frequenting most of the shops, watching craftsmen create their art, and listening to minstrels play their historic tunes.  There were 300 characters in full authentic dress roaming the grounds and 90 live theater shows throughout the day.  However, we missed the jousting contest but enjoyed checking out the hawks and falcons behind netted cages at the falconry den nearby.  We listened to a short presentation from the falcon trainer and watched him take his birds of prey through a short exercise.  Most of the foods were traditional fare from the time period but not much to Katelyn's liking.  Turkey legs, reminiscent of King Henry VIII, were popular hand held treats washed down with the traditional ale... if you were of legal age.  We settled on some fish and chips, split a funnel cake with powdered sugar for desert, followed by a root-beer chaser.  Pennsylvania Dutch fare meets the 16th Century... You gotta love it!  Katelyn and I sure did! 

Katelyn at the Castle Gate
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We were getting tired from all the walking and it was getting a little late.  Ironically, we ran into Tyler who just happened to be attending the faire with a friend the same day.  We took one quick loop around our favorite areas and took in the festive atmosphere and beautiful fall colors one last time.  It was a great day and we plan on coming back again to visit the shire... And God Save the Queen!

A Pair of Jesters
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Please Check My Additional Photos of the Faire at...
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 36 / Departure

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
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Goodbye Dinner / Departure

 König-Karlmann-Gymnasium
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We were in the final hours of our three week GAPP student exchange visit with König-Karlmann-Gymnasium in Altötting located in the state of Bavaria, Germany.  In the concluding event known as the Goodbye Dinner, we were serving up burgers and accompanying summer picnic style salads to our German guests to thank them for all their support and efforts to make our experience a tremendous success.  Following the consumption of the best cheeseburgers ever, prepared with abundant love by yours truly, it was time for the remainder of the program to commence.  Each of our students had been working throughout our stay on a short speech of thanks they would deliver in front of the all the families participating in the exchange.  Of course, the tricky part for them is it would be delivered in the German language.  One of the goals of the exchange is for students to take the opportunity to make use of and improve their foreign language skills within a real world setting.  One by one our students took center stage and were handed the microphone to take the spotlight and read their speeches, thanking their host families for all their hospitality and a public farewell to their German brothers and sisters.  Some tears were shed as some of the bonds formed during our stay became very strong and often develop into long term friendships that can last a lifetime.  Many of the German students would travel to the United States the following summer to mirror the experience by staying with the families of their American partners in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  The Goodbye Dinner serves as an informal closing ceremony to the exchange causing the final realization that we were homeward bound. 

Taylor Delivers her "Danke" Speech
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The final person to take the microphone was Andreas "Andy" Galneder, the German teacher in charge of the GAPP exchange at KKG.  The theme of thanks and appreciation resounded again to the host families but also to the teachers who had worked so hard to bring the entire 21 day experience to life.  Andy's American counterpart, Wendy "The Frau" Andrews, deserved much acclaim for her hard work and tireless efforts throughout the trip.  Andy paid special tribute to her in his remarks and she in turn expressed her gratitude to all present.  Danke, Danke, Danke.... Our kids did very well with their speeches and now it was time for the final act.  It is tradition to end the Goodbye dinner with a cultural dance.  In our case that translated to a hillbilly themed line dance to the song "Cotton Eye Joe".  It was about as far away from Dancing with the Stars as our hometown of Lititz was from Altötting!  However, it was a fun way to end an evening that had been a little sad.  Our kids dressed up in flannel, jeans, and straw hats to put on their best rendition of backwoods redneck hillbilly at a hoedown barn dance.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my bib overalls, pouch of chewing tobacco, and courage at home.  Despite the kids best efforts to have me join them in their display of  Appalachian culture at its best, I pulled the old high school football injury card and remained a spectator on the sidelines.  First our kids performed the choreographed line dance, which they had been practicing in secret, for the crowd.  It was hilarious, a rhythmic display that would make any country bumpkin proud!   Following the conclusion of act one, they restarted the song again, this time with their German partners joining in the dance to abundant laughs and cheers.

WHS + KKG = Country Line Dance
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Our final evening had come to a close and now all that was left to do was return to my home away from home in Tüßling one last time to finish packing.  But before I would climb the two flights of stairs to my attic flat for the last time, Andy and I shared a final toast of what he dubbed as "real" beer.  Prost!  We toasted one another and reflected on some the fond memories we shared during my visit, promising to stay in touch.  During my stay, I made many new friends with whom I continue to correspond and whom I look forward to seeing again one day.  Of all the great places I had the privilege of visiting and experiencing during our trip, it was all the friendly people I met along the way whom I would remember and cherish most in my memories.  One more final "real" beer and it was time to turn in for my last night in Germany.  I was really going to miss my little apartment with the beautiful view of the Bavarian countryside.  I opened up the windows, including my overhead skylight hatch to let the cool night air fill the room.  I stood within the skylight space, as I had almost every night and looked out over the sleepy village of Tüßling with the outline of the hilltop church visible in the moonlight.  Within minutes the familiar red passenger train thundered by on its way toward Altötting.  I was really going to miss seeing it but my thoughts were also carried 4,200 miles west to Lititz, Pennsylvania.  I had really missed my wife Susan and our two children Katelyn and Tyler during the trip, especially over the last week.  Finally, it was time to get my bags in order, double check my to-do list, and lastly, try to get some sleep.

Sunrise View from my Window
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After a restless night, I prepared for my final foreign morning routine, starting with the challenging bathroom space I had conquered with 21 days of practice.  After falling out of the bathtub on my first morning, I had learned to compensate for the sharp slanting roof by learning to shower on my knees.  Now it was a piece of cake / strudel and I wondered if it would be a difficult transition to taking a shower from an fully upright standing position again.  Our flight from Munich to Frankfurt was very early and as a result, we would not all be sitting down around the familiar breakfast table this morning.  However, both Leo and Amalie had gotten up extra early just to say goodbye.  They were curled up together on a bench in the kitchen with sippy cups fully inserted and at work but took a break for a quick kiss goodbye.  Angela, always concerned for my well being and comfort, had packed me a bag filled with breakfast treats I could eat on the way.  It was hard to say goodbye.  I really appreciated all the Galneder family had done to make my stay in Bavaria so great.  Even Andy's parents Anton and Martha had appeared in their first floor doorway to say Auf Wiedersehen.  I put on my favorite souvenir, the awesome white German styled hat I had purchased at the Bavarian Sea and we loaded up the car with my luggage.  Andy drove me to meet the tour bus at KKG and we made the familiar trip toward Altötting along the tree lined streets for the final time.  Our friendly bus driver Fitztum, with the unmistakable handlebar mustache, was already loading baggage as a crowd massed around the bus.  One of the hardest parts of the exchange was now in progress.

Quiet Munich Airport
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Goodbyes abounded among final pictures, hugs and a few tears.  It was going to be tough to corral all the kids aboard the bus, especially several students who weren't ready to go home and likely would have stayed the entire summer if it was an option.  Although some of our students got on and then back off the bus several times, when Fitztum began rolling out of the KKG parking lot we counted 17 heads and it was a wrap!  The bus ride was quiet as everyone took the opportunity to take in the beautiful Bavarian countryside one last time.  Within and hour, large planes came into view in the sky at equal intervals in a landing pattern that became lower in altitude as we proceeded toward Munich.  We soon arrived and unloaded our baggage quick to get moving not knowing how long the lines would be at our gate.  However, the terminal surprisingly appeared deserted and quiet allowing us to be processed through quickly.  With the exception of me.  The rules had changed and what qualified as a carry-on bag in Philadelphia was now considered a suitcase that would require an additional $75 fee to stow aboard the plane.  Overweight... the story of my life!  Of course the computer went down in the process of my transaction causing me to have to go find a kiosk where a ten step process ensued.  Thankfully, I was able to get everything accomplished without delaying the whole group.  We found our gate and counted 17 heads once again, twice just to make sure.  However, it turned out we were going nowhere fast.  Our incoming plane was late to Munich, which would delay our departure, but for how long?  The clock was critical, as we needed to rendezvous with our connecting flight with a small window of time to complete the whole process.

Long Flight Over the Atlantic
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As the small window of time till our connecting flight began to close, our plane finally arrived but still needed to be refueled, our luggage loaded, and the complex flight check completed.  Tick, tick, tick... The airline was calling Frankfurt to see if the plane would wait, Wendy was working with the airline staff to see what our options were, and I was trying to keep track of our flock who were now bored and wandering about.  Eventually, we got the green light and all boarded the plane as quickly as possible as everyone had connecting flights to catch, some sooner than others.  However, our stress was far from over as it was still unclear if we would make it in time.  It would be very close.  Once on the ground, we would need to do everything possible to make it as there was no Plan B.  We finally landed in Frankfurt and were told our connecting flight was still there but for how long?  We rushed off the plane and went in search of our gate but the Frankfurt Airport is one of the largest in all of Europe and almost a city within itself.  As it turns out, the plane bound for Philadelphia was on the other side of the airport, almost as far away from our current location as was physically possible.  We would have to make a run for it and that is exactly what we did with carry-on bags in tow.  The route included several twists and turns through the airport maze with Wendy taking the lead and me at the rear to catch any stragglers.  Within minutes, our group was strung out in a long line and quickly lost sight of one another.  It was incredibly stressful!  Did everyone make all the correct turns while they dodged passengers coming and going from all directions?  Soon I could see only one student in front of me and none behind.  When I finally arrived at our gate on the other side of Munich, a Lufthansa clerk was waving me through like I was rounding third for home.  I stopped to tell her I wasn't sure if all our party had made it but she frantically continued signaling for me to go through, promising to account for everyone.  Good Grief!

Almost Home at Long Last
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I passed through the gate, which led down two flights of stairs and then corkscrewed three different directions until I was finally on the jetway bridge and entered the plane.  Had we all made it?  If we were one short, what would we do?  I found my seat with Wendy who had been tracking the kids as they arrived on the plane.  Although separated during our mad dash through the terminal and seated sporadically throughout the plane, we had fifteen and two more suddenly tumbled through the doorway to complete our set!  Thank You!  Wow!  Within seconds, the plane began to pull away from the terminal and all was well.  Somehow we made it without losing anyone.  Wendy and I settled into our seats and could relax until we reached the other side of the Atlantic in the City of Brotherly Love.  Watching the little plane icon not move across the screen was a relaxing activity in contrast to the exhausting ordeal we had just been through.  Wendy and I had plenty of time to discuss details about the exchange during the long return flight back home and digested all we had experienced.  We arrived in Philadelphia around 4pm and got in one of the longest lines I have ever seen to go through customs.  The room inside the terminal was two football fields in size and had hundreds if not thousands of people being slowly funneled through a complex, never ending maze of lined belt stanchions.  After about an hour we made it through; being coached by multiple rude airport workers whom had arrived at work this morning already out of patience.  We were home!  We went and got our luggage off the bag carrousel that was longer than the Pennsylvania Turnpike and went in search of our bus... which was nowhere to be found.  Wendy was once again on the phone, this time with our driver who was trying to talk us to his location without success.  We were trudging our luggage from one point to another in search of our bus, seeing much more of the Philadelphia Airport than we intended.  And, to make matters worse, one of the wheels on my large suitcase blew out and no longer rolled.  We decided to camp out at one spot until the bus location could be confirmed.  After at least 25 phone calls to the bus driver, bus company, and travel agency, we finally found our bus and boarded, hoping the air conditioning was working.  We had arrived home in the middle of a horrific heat wave that was still going strong since the very day we departed!

German and Swiss Chocolate for All!
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The bus ride home was excruciatingly long, especially for me for some reason.  I was becoming more cranky by the mile as the bus driver seemed to be taking his sweet time through the scenic back roads toward Lancaster.  Come on man!  Did this guy realize we had been traveling for at least 14 hours straight?  Go! Go! Go!  After what seemed like another 14 hours the Warwick High School finally came into view... Was it a mirage?  I was so tired I couldn't tell.  I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of family members cheering with balloons and welcome home signs!  Hey, some people missed us!  Always the showman, I tumbled off the bus the second it stopped and kissed the sidewalk to laughs and applause.  It felt so good to be reunited with my family who had all come out to welcome me home!   I was beat and looking forward to sleeping in my old familiar bed and a good night's rest!  I was finally home!  Our three dogs were a welcome sight and I was greeted with a group Fred Flintstone meets Dino like reception!  However, I doubt our cats ever noticed I was even gone.  I brought home a lot of chocolate and other German treats for my family, some of which have become favorites.  My kids especially liked Knoppers, which we later ordered through a vender on Amazon prior to Christmas as a surprise stocking stuffer.  Unfortunately, I realized upon my return that I had left my cherished German hat in Andy's car the morning we departed from KKG.  However, it deserved to stay in Bavaria and is being well taken care of by Angela Galneder's father Mr. Shadhauser, who promised to keep it safe for me.  He even sent me pictures of him wearing it at Christmas time to put my mind at ease.  Much of my remaining summer was devoted to writing these blog episodes.  I never intended for the project to entail writing 36 postings but it became a journal more than a blog, a way for me to remember all that I had experienced in what was the one great adventure of my life to date.  It was a labor of love!

Welcome Home Dad / The Grass Needs Cut!
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I thought of my grandfather Stephen Emich, who died when I was just an infant, many times during the trip, because he was born within 500 miles of my location.  He emigrated to America at age ten in 1921 on the heels of World War I with his older brother Adam who was only fourteen.  Almost a year has past now since my Bavarian adventure, yet it is constantly in my thoughts each and every day, remembered in reflective thought, this blog, and my cherished pictures.  I'd like to take the opportunity to thank the two redheads in my life who made my trip possible... First my wife Susan, who was willing to part with me for what was the longest span of time we have ever been apart since our marriage.  This summer we will be celebrating 24 years of marriage... Susan,  I love you very much!  Additionally, I would like to thank my colleague Wendy Andrews for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime on the other side of the world.  One of the best outcomes of the trip was the growth of my friendship with Wendy (AKA: The Frau) who taught me the benefits of eating ice cream at least once a day.  We really made a great team during the exchange and I hope to join her again in future trips.  Danke, Frau!  Also, our kids were great and we created a lot of memories together.  In this 290th paragraph of my An American in Germany series, I am finally signing off from Bavaria, at least for now...

Wendy and I on Top of the World
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 35 / Last Full Day



GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
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KKG / The Last Full Day

Altötting Kapellplatz / Church Square
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We were suddenly in our final full day in the state of Bavaria in southeastern Germany as part of the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) between our students from Warwick High School in Lititz, Pennsylvania and their hosts from König-Karlmann-Gymnasium located in Altötting, Bavaria.  For three full weeks our students had experienced the German culture by living with host families from our partner school, who gave them the experience of the local history, traditional foods, public education, points of interest, recreational activities, and everything in between associated with the lifestyle of living in Germany.  The departure date was about to appear on our calendar of events with the rising sun the following day.  As a result, it was time to seriously think about tying up any loose ends, packing our suitcases, and carrying out the the final event of the exchange.  The Goodbye Dinner serves as an important culminating group gathering of our Warwick students, their KKG partners, and their hosting parents.  It is a time to show our humble gratitude and provide a small token of thanks for all the hospitality and friendship given to us by our German brothers, sisters, and their accommodating families.  Wendy had worked feverishly behind the scenes during our 21 day stay to bring all the details together for this final evening at KKG.  Orders had been placed, arrangements had been made, and now all had to come together to make it happen in a few short hours.  We left school with our Warwick students in tow, planning to divide and conquer the list that Wendy had made and checked twice to make everything extra special nice! 

Final Ice Cream Class Meeting
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In order to set our course, we first met at Wendy's favorite ice-cream cafe where all our kids were treated (bribed) with a complimentary cone of ice.  Not wanting to break from what was tried and true, I ordered my usual flavor fix of snicky for at least the 12th time.  It was delicious and thus, habit forming!  With the kids now content and thoroughly "sugared" up, Wendy handed out the assignments to several small groups of students who went off in search of previously ordered Goodbye Dinner party supplies, located throughout downtown Altötting.  One group went off to pick up several dozen flowers, another to buy 100 pre-ordered rolls at the local bakery, and I was leading the group to the butcher shop to buy the 20 pounds of ground round hamburger we would need for tonight's dinner.  We were planning on putting on an American style picnic for our German friends with good ole American fare of cheeseburgers and accompanying fixins as the main course!  I was glad to have my bilingual teenage companions along to help handle the verbal transaction with the metzger.  I don't know how common an item like ground beef was as a regular purchase because I believe it had to be special ordered in advance.  We were given two huge plastic sacks full of fresh hamburger and made our way back towards the center of Altötting.  Along the way we found a small shop I had not noticed before that exclusively sold Bavarian themed souvenirs.  This was the store I had been hoping to find since first arriving in Bavaria.  A tourist trap off the main drag that sold high quality items at reasonable prices.  It was the perfect place to dispose of any remaining Euros in our possession.  I had been looking for the traditional Bayren flag of the state of Bavaria to add to my classroom flag collection and finally found it on my last day in Altötting.  Go Figure!  The kids stocked up on items for various acquaintances back home and then we were off to meet up with the rest of the group at the designated rendezvous point on the square.

Butcher Shop / Metzger of Altötting
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We walked back to KKG and found the kitchen, where we stockpiled the combined lot of our party foraging expedition.  We all went into action, each taking on a chosen task.  A few went to work slicing up the lettuce, tomato, and onion fixins, while other attended to beverage storage detail or table setting duties.  My task turned out to be quite a challenge, transforming two enormous mounds of ground beef into 100 uniform hamburger patties for the grill.  Although an experienced customer, I have never worked in the fast food industry, and was at the mercy of my backyard barbecue experience for my family of four.  I would have to find a way to effectively multiply my production by 25 times my normal patty patting pace.  I needed to have a minimum of 100 total burgers, one for each guest attending the dinner.  It was rough going at first, causing me to start over with a new game plan of attack!  I divided the mountain of ground beef into ten smaller hills of similar size and density.  Next, the hills were shaped into a rectangular brick and then divided evenly into ten uniform squares by use of a knife, and finally rolled and patted into a circular patty.  It took some time but I ended up with 100 hamburger patties of a similar size and shape, ready for grilling.  They were stacked on trays between layers of wax paper and placed in the industrial sized refrigerator unit for safe storage.  It was now time for our students to meet up with their German partners, who were just getting out of classes for the day.  They soon began to make their way to their home away from home for final preparations for the night's activities.  While Wendy and I would provide the main course, our students and accompanying German families would bring additional food items to compliment our transplanted American style picnic.  Many would make a variety of traditional salad creations to properly compliment the filet mignon of the American palate, the quintessential American cheeseburger.   

Wendy and her Steed
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Wendy had to get home to attend to additional details concerning the Goodbye Dinner and offered to drive me back to Tüßling to the Galneder residence where I had been staying.  Wendy was driving a vehicle borrowed from her host family and was more than a little nervous driving solo on occasion for the first time ever in Germany.  With false confidence we prepared to test our assimilation level to the foreign rules of the road with Wendy at the wheel and me riding shotgun acting as her severely flawed GPS.  Our first challenge was to actually find our way out of the center of Altötting... Piece of cake or strudel or whatever?  I had driven this route almost everyday since first first arriving in the country three weeks earlier.  How hard could it possibly be... really?   Wendy eased the car out of its parking space with white knuckles firmly welded onto the steering wheel.  Immediately, I faced my first directional decision to turn right or left as we were about to exit the school parking lot... left it would be, which was, of course... wrong.  However, throwing caution to the wind we forged onward as my internal GPS skills attempted to reroute our planned course.  We turned right, left, zigged, and zagged only to come to the conclusion we were lost.  However, we bravely pushed on and rolled up a slight hill, suddenly finding ourselves on the edge of the sacred Kapellplatz church square.  More than just a little alarmed, Wendy instantly rolled down her window and asked the nearest pedestrian if we were allowed to have a car here...  The woman turned toward our car and took one look and said VERBOTEN!  She wouldn't have looked more shocked if we would have been wearing pink Easter Bunny costumes.  It was time to do a quick 180 before we were attacked by a mob of local yokels donning hay forks and torches, got arrested by the police, or had to answer to Pope Benedict XVI himself!

Picturesque View of Tüßling
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Can you say... Epic Fail?  We made a quick about face, wondering if we had been caught on any video surveillance cameras, and decided it was best to quickly distance ourselves from the church square.  An old term suddenly came to mind from a previous trip I took to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a friend of mine a few years ago.  After doing something no permanent resident would ever do, like driving through a one-way mile long tunnel the wrong way for instance, my friend called us a couple of tourons... Tourist + Moron = Touron!  Wendy was mortified and it was definitely a bone head move to be sure, but what a great story!  I reassured her that her only mistake was taking directions from me!  Eventually, we (Wendy) figured it out and we were soon heading out of town toward Tüßling.  Wendy dropped me off safe and sound and before she departed, I jokingly asked her if she wanted me to explain the best way to travel to get to her final destination of Garching Alz.  I thought it was funny but... hey, we laugh about it now!  The house was quiet and I had a few hours to go before the Goodbye Dinner was scheduled to begin back at the school.  One of my favorite activities over the past few weeks was riding bike through the beautiful Bavarian countryside.  It was a gorgeous day and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to take one last bike ride around the village I called home for the past 21 days.  After changing into comfortable cloths suitable for biking, I borrowed Andy's mountain style bike and headed out onto the road toward the center of town.  Aside from walking, riding bike was the best way to slow down and really take in the scenery.  You can see things on a bike you could never experience in a fast moving car.

 Rustic Barn Wrapped in Color
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During my stay, I had traveled in a car to the village of Tüßling by way of two different roads that led to the small quaint town.  On the less direct route, we passed a rustic old barn numerous times that had caught my photographer's eye and Wendy and I had just passed it once again.  The clock was ticking and if I wanted to get the picture, it was now or never.  Due to the very recent failure of my internal GPS skills, I should have been concerned with getting lost.  However, the steeple of the hilltop church was easily visible for miles in every direction and provided a beacon to guide me home.  It proved to be a sentimental journey as all my senses absorbed the scenic beauty that is Southwestern Germany one last time.  All alone on a bike, in the quiet solitude of the late afternoon sun, I reflected on all I had seen, experienced, and tasted during my stay.  One final time, I was humbled by the thought... I can't believe I am here.  I left the edge of Tüßling in my wake and began to cross the expanse of rural wheat filled fields before me toward the tiny village of Teising.  Looking back at Tüßling, the sun reflected off the level red roof tiles of the collection of homes spread throughout the valley with the hilltop church looking over the landscape protectively.  I was really going to miss this place.  I soon entered into the outskirts of Teising and found the familiar dark wooden barn with the window box overflowing with color that I  passed by so many times before.  The sunlight was perfect for the shot and was now captured on my camera.  Mission accomplished!  With time to spare, I took the liberty to explore some of the neatly maintained side streets of the village to see some new sights on my final adventure.  

Uniform Side Streets of Teising
  ---------------------------------------------
As in most residential areas, which would be labeled as suburbs back in the states, each home was contained within a visible physical border.  Although the homes were relatively close to one another, each was very private, accomplished through a combined effort of plantings and fencing.  Some homes were almost completely shrouded from view, only visible by way of the opening from the driveway.  Each property resembled a hidden oasis serving as a protective refuge from the stresses of the outside world.  However, despite their best efforts to block my view, I did get quite a few great pictures of some beautiful traditional homes.  It was now time to take the return trip back toward the center of Tüßling.  I took the liberty to revisit the colorful town square, the small fairgrounds where I spent my first evening at the town festival, and the beautifully renovated palace grounds where I attended the annual flower show known as Gartenque.  I also took the time to pass by the Shadhauser residence where I had enjoyed traditional Bavarian goulash, prepared in a kettle over an open fire.  Eventually, I turned down the familiar street and the last house on the right at the end of the lane came into view.  I had returned to my starting point, 16 Kreuzweg, Tüßling.  Now, I had some time to finalize packing a few things in my suitcases to prepare for our early departure the next morning.  I had been getting my belongings organized for days and wanted to be at the point where I could simply zip everything up for a quick exit.  It was finally time for the big event.  Wendy dropped by to pick me up to prepare the meal for our 100 guests expected at the Goodbye Dinner.  I asked her if she planned to cut through the coveted church square of Altötting this time or go around it.  Ha!

The Hausmeister and Grillmeister
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The Warwick crew reassembled to put the finishing touches on the KKG cafeteria, where the dinner was scheduled to begin in about an hour.  My task was mammoth, grilling 100 cheeseburgers to perfection for tonight's distinguished guests! Fortunately, I was assisted at the grill by the friendly hausmeister of KKG known as Georg Mauer, who was originally from Romania.  In Germany, the head custodian of a school often actually lives at the school in an apartment right on campus where he can be available day and night if needed.  He and his wife resided in a flat within the school building located on the first floor in close proximity to the teacher's lounge.  In fact, we could look out over their well maintained backyard gardens every morning through the large windows that ran the length of the lounge.  Herr Mauer had a fun filled, exuberant personality and was always there at the school entrance each morning to give a cheerful greeting.  He knew about as many English words as I did in German, so we made an interesting team at the grill.  I had assumed I was going to be grilling the burgers on a gas fired grill similar to my backyard version back home but it turned out to be a large flat restaurant styled one in the cafeteria kitchen.  This was all new to me and I found it hard to prevent the burgers from sticking to the cooking surface until Herr Mauer came to the rescue with a large bottle of rich olive oil.  East met West and the American style burgers had a Romanian- German-Bavarian flavor that would probably be more agreeable to our globally diverse guests.  We worked well as a team, communicating through a complex dialogue of simple German and American words helped along by a lot of pointing and sign language gestures created on the fly.  Within minutes we settled into an efficient fast food assembly line of cheeseburger production.  The finished product was transferred to a warming tray and Wendy appeared to take over the bun assembly and serving responsibilities.  Ronald McDonald would have been proud.  The guests began to arrive and it was time to say goodbye.  Tune in next time for my final installment of the An American in Germany series.
   
Beef... It's What's for Dinner!
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Please stay tuned for the final installment of our adventure!

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 34 / Munich-3



GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
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Tour of Munich - München / Part # 3

Relaxing in the Hofgarten
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The city of Munich is the only place I have ever visited that goes by two different names on any given map.  Although Paris, London, Berlin, and the like are pronounced the same in any language, Munich is locally known by the traditional name of München.  Why?  Well, the best answer I could find has to do with outsiders changing the city's name because it was too complicated to pronounce in their own language, so they changed it to make it easy.  Munich is the English version of München and since many can't easily pronounce the sounds associated with certain letter combinations, they changed the city's name to sound like they thought it should have sounded all along!  Map makers jumped on the band wagon and the rest is history.  This is also common when the original people who founded a specific place-name are overthrown and pushed out of the geographic area permanently... To the victor belongs the spoils, including the preference of name spelling and/or pronunciation!  In fact, the state of Bavaria is also known locally as Bayren and the whole of Germany is also known as Deutschland!  Confused?  Good!  It's a German-Deutsch thing and you just wouldn't understand!  Ok, lets move on...  Now that we had just passed by the illegal Michael Jackson memorial on the Promenadeplatz, I thought my visit to Munich, München, or Whatchamacallit was complete.  However, Andy assured me there was so much more to see of the capital city of Bavaria, Bayren, or Whatchamacallit.  Lead the way my friend!  Let's go Andy, Andreas, or...

Munich Shopping Square
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Although all the stores selling non-food related products were all closed because it was Sunday, the streets were still crowded with people walking about, enjoying the beautiful sunny day.  It seemed as if all of Munich were out and about, enjoying all the city had to offer before the last remaining hours of the weekend slipped away and the pending work week began anew.  Like the rest of Germany, most of the store fronts we passed were all uniform in style and construction.  It looked as if they were all part of the same parent company.  Many were even all dressed up with the same matching bright red flowers, neatly arranged in long parallel lines.  The effect was a neat and orderly flow, seamless from one street to the next.  I was enjoying window shopping, especially when passing shops specializing in the traditional cuckoo clocks of the Black Forest.  My grandparents once had a German cuckoo clock hanging on the wall of their den.  When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the hour when the small bird would burst through the door to utter his call.  Yea, I was easily entertained.  Anyway, you can buy them on the cheap via Ebay but I'll bet the "real" thing is real expensive, especially the traditional hand carved variety.  I considered purchasing a cuckoo clock but... since the stores were closed, it would be a difficult item to pack for the trip home, I was now running low on funds, such a clock would quickly annoy my wife, and said wife would probably make me take it down within six hours... So, I decided to find another way to keep myself entertained for the immediate time being.  Maybe an item to consider at a later time for the Man Cave I have planned but will never actually have... I'm sure my wife agrees!

 Führerbau / School of Music - Performing Arts
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We left the main shopping plaza and continued to navigate our way through the organized maze of the urban landscape of Munich.  We headed back toward the beautiful gardens we previously passed by, the predetermined location where we planned to meet Andy's younger brother Thomas for some refreshment.  Along the way we entered the Königsplatz, the cultural center of Munich's art galleries and museums.  During the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich, the square became the center of several large political rallies and became home to several Nazi Era buildings including their national headquarters known as the Brown House.  There were also two Roman styled temples known as the Ehrentempel, erected in 1935 to honor the memory of the 16 Nazis who were killed in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch when Hitler first attempted but failed to overthrow the government in 1923.  The temples were both destroyed by American troops in accordance of the policy of Denazification during the immediate aftermath of the war.  The foundation of the previous temples remained in place and filled with rainwater, eventually supporting some rare plant forms.  The spontaneous creation of the ecological sanctuary prevented any future development on the site and the temple foundation remains to the present day, continuing as a natural housing of green space for the city.  Close by, stand two identical structures known as the Führerbau, that previously housed former Nazi administration offices.  The twin buildings, which once contained the private offices of Adolf Hitler and his closest associates was also the location where the Munich Agreement was negotiated between Germany and England.  British Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain met with Hitler here and later pledged in the fall of 1938, there would be "Peace in Our Time."  However, the pact was short lived and the world would never be the same again.  Today the buildings have been re-purposed to house a music school known as the University of Music and Performing Arts of Munich.  The former buildings are an excellent example of structures that stand as reminders to the city's dark past but now serve the community in a positive light. 

Hofgarten / Temple of Diana
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I was surprised to see some shadows of the Nazi Regime still intact and even preserved, yet it serves as a powerful reminder of a time period we should never forget.  The former building that once housed the Nazi Party Headquarters known as the Brown House, was destroyed by the Allies and sat as a vacant empty space of rubble and weeds for the past half century.  However, the site has finally found a new purpose as an instrument of education, with the ongoing construction of the Nazi Documentation Center, which is scheduled to be completed by 2014.  The center will inform visitors of the causes and crimes associated with the National Socialism Movement in Munich.  A complete reversal of the building site's previous purpose.  We walked back toward the Hofgarten and once again entered the interior pathway leading directly to the small central dome topped Temple of Diana where a musician played classical music on a cello to entertain casual passersby.  Perhaps he was a student of the school of music we had just passed within the Königsplatz, publicly practicing the notes of his composition.  The classical music genera was certainly a fitting compliment to the Roman styled temple and surrounding ornate gardens.  Again, the day was warm and sunny, attracting many visitors who crowded the pathways.  We followed along with the flow of the growing crowd and passed into a massive public city park known as the Englischer Garten.  The park's German name easily translates to English Garden, which describes the informal landscaping style once popular in Great Britain.  The 910 acre park, first created in 1789, is among the largest urban parks in the world, even larger than New York City's Central Park.  It appeared as if most of the city's population was now filling up the park, as I had never seen so many people in a public space before without any real purpose, other than to relax and enjoy the sunshine. 

Englischer Garten / City Park of Munich
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The large open space seemed to resemble a beach more than a park and with the nearest beach over 300 miles away in Italy along the Adriatic Sea, it was a nice local alternative.  There was a small river that ran through one area where kids of all ages were swimming and soaking within the cool water.  There was even a section of the waterway where effects from a pump created large rolling rapids that has become a favorite spot for skilled surfers to showcase their skills... Hang 10, whatever that means?   A sea of sunbathers were stretched out on blankets and beach towels soaking up the warm rays of the sun.  A few annoying seagulls, 200 tons of sand, and boardwalk were all that was needed to have the park closely resemble the Jersey Shore... maybe... sort of... not really.  Anyway, since all the stores downtown were closed, it was really a great setting to meet up with friends and family on a Sunday afternoon.  And, that was our key purpose as we went in search of Andy's brother Thomas within the expansive park.  As we left the lawn covered open spaces, the pathways were shaded by trees giving the impression you were submerged within the canopy of deep woods.  We occasionally crossed over bridges that spanned small creeks that snaked their way through the shaded pathways.  What a great place to take a break from the city, which was only a short distance away, yet seemed nonexistent from the sanctuary of the English Garten.  We soon arrived into another open space crowned by a large, five story pagoda styled tower made of dark stained wood known as the Tea House.  First constructed as a pavilion for performing brass bands in 1789, it was destroyed by fire during the war but rebuilt in 1950 according to the original architectural plans, which survived the war.  The tower is surrounded by an enormous tree covered biergarten that seats up to 7,000 people.  I was blown away by the expanse of the never ending tables that flowed outward from the tower in all directions.  There were several self-serve beer and traditional food kiosks located throughout the biergarten to keep all the patrons well fed and hydrated.  We searched for a open table and found some space to share with another family near the edge of seating area.
  
Chinese Tower / Biergarten
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There was a large play area nearby and Leo and Amalie were happy to escape the confines of the stroller for some well deserved active play!  With his cell phone, Andy talked his brother Thomas toward our location in the crowded biergarten and he soon joined us at our table with his young daughter.  Like many others, he had arrived on a bicycle with child seat firmly attached to the rear, an easy and economic way to navigate the vast city and accompanying parks.  Thomas and his wife lived and worked in Munich and like Andy, was looking forward to buying or building a house.  However, the cost of living is so high in the Bavarian capital, he and his wife were looking into neighboring communities, where the cost of living was more within their means.  We left our seats and went to check out the food and beer kiosks, first deciding to seek liquid refreshment.  Original Hofbräu was on tap, served in the large traditional liter sized glass steins that were present on every table in the garden.  It was Oktoberfest in July and we all toasted the Americana's safe travel home to the States in a few short days!  Next, we were back in line, checking out the food selections and this was my kind of dining!  Stainless steel bins were full of steaming bratwurst, sausage, chicken, noodles, sauerkraut, and fried sliced potatoes.  Fried, Sliced, Potatoes!  Wow, that's something I haven't seen since I arrived in Germany. I ordered a hybrid transatlantic combination of German bratwurst and almost American fried potatoes.  They were equally delicious!

Super Bretzel in the Biergarten
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There were maidens walking about the crowded garden in traditional dress carrying baskets filled with my favorite pretzels in super-sized form.  They were also for sale in the kiosk and I had my eye on them and was now happy to buy a bretzel as a perfect compliment to the Original Hofbräu remaining in my stein.  With Andy, Angela, Thomas, and their kids all gathered around the table, I was suddenly really missing my family.  It was happening more and more and I realized at that moment, I was indeed... ready to go home.  Leo and Amalie were starting to run out of gas and were now back lounging in the comfort of the stroller.  Within minutes, Leo was sound asleep but Amalie is a much tougher nut to crack!  We parted ways with Thomas and his daughter, who quickly disappeared from view on their bike as we began navigating our way back toward the city's edge.  Despite the late afternoon hour, the park's open spaces were still crowded with people as far as the eye could see... seemingly unwilling to submit the end of their weekend to the approaching and inevitable work week!  We exited the peaceful greenery of the park back into the city from a different location and were now quite a distance away from our ride home.  Andy and Angela decided the best way to get back to the car was to take the tube (AKA: subway) back toward the city's center of the Marienplatz.  We could even see a few more sites along the way to the station.   

Englischer Garten / Sun and River Bathers
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We stopped by to quickly check out King Ludwig's Church known as Ludwigskirche which is easily recognizable from the street by the tall twin sharp angled white bell towers, which flank the church's main entrance.  The interior is famous for having the second largest alter fresco mural in the world that stretches 62 feet high and 38 feet wide.  The Neo-Romanesque styled church was beautiful and inspired the design of countless future religious structures around the world.  However, to be perfectly honest, I was getting worn out by this point and all the churches I had seen over the last three weeks were all starting to run together and look the same.  I was in agreement with Leo at this point and was ready for a nap.  Is there room in the stroller for one more really big but tired kid?  Was I getting cranky?  We arrived at the subway station and descended the stairs to the rail platform and waited for our train to arrive.  Like the rest of the city, the subway was neat and spotless.  In fact, I had never seen an urban space so clean, well maintained, and orderly.  I hadn't seen a single piece a liter the entire day and I was beyond impressed.  It was obvious that the people of the city took pride in the appearance of their capital and pitched in to keep it picture perfect.  Maybe the people value their city so much because it was once completely lost to war and was painstakingly rebuilt over the past half century.  Looking back on the film footage of the allied aerial bombing raid damage, the obvious question is where and how do you begin to rebuild?  Where do you even start such a mammoth task?  The past and present residents of Munich know.  They have succeeded in their mission and the end result is beautiful.    

 Munich Subway / Train Platform
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The trains were silently flying by in both directions causing an underground wind gust in their wake.  Our train arrived, came to a smooth stop, and we were soon gliding along as if on air covering distance at speed.  Within a few minutes we had arrived to our destination and were soon walking the city streets above in search of the familiar Galneder Opel minivan.  We turned a corner and we came upon the van as a beam of sunlight descended from the clouds above illuminating the family car!  Within minutes we were snug in our seats and my final Bavarian adventure had come to an end.  A big thank you to Andy, Angela, Leo, and Amalie for another spectacular day I will never forget.

Hey Leo... Wake Up!
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Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!
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Sunday, May 12, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 33 / Munich-2



GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
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Tour of Munich - München / Part # 2

Aerial View of Munich Bomb Damage
(Photo Credit / The Library of Congress)
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We were in the middle of our tour through the capital city of Munich, enjoying lunch at the beautiful inner central courtyard biergarten of the Hofbräuhaus.  After finishing our meal of Bavarian white sausage, we and walked through the interior seating areas that were now quickly filling with customers.  The festive scene was complimented by the robust sound from the traditional om-pah band who were playing the old folk songs from Bavaria's Alpine past.  Before leaving the historic former brewery, we checked out the extensive gift shop where you could buy just about anything and everything adorned with the HB logo.  We stepped out into the bright sunshine and looked over the beautiful building one last time.  The brewery was practically destroyed during an allied bombing raid in 1944, like most buildings in Munich by the end of WWII.  The brewery was rebuilt in the traditional style and reopened for business in 1958, just in time to celebrate the 800th birthday of the city of Munich.  After returning back to the states I researched the aftermath of WWII in Germany, looking at news articles and watching military film footage of the aerial bomb damage inflicted by the allies.  The film footage showed nothing but rows upon rows of brick and mortar skeletons of former buildings what were once part of vibrant cities.  It resembled the apocalypse and the German people, most of whom were civilians, suffered in the decade that followed.  Many called it deserved justice for the atrocities caused by the Nazi Regime during the war on other countries.  Subsequently, millions of the German people likely died in the aftermath of surrender and subsequent peace.  

Adolph Hitler / Odeonsplatz Speech 
(Photo Credit / The Library of Congress)
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"In the aftermath of the destruction of World War II, many Europeans became disillusioned with the entire concept of government and faced the future with glum pessimism.  Political movements had brought about the greatest level of human suffering in the history of the world.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who were once prevalent in the Middle Ages made an appearance once again in the modern age, taking the form of Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death..."  (Paraphrased words and points of author Margaret MacMillan - Rebuilding the World after the Second World War / The Guardian / Sept. 2009) 

Setting up for Odeonsplatz Concert
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Andy stepped back into the role of tour guide, pointing out city landmarks and locations of historical significance.  Munich is where the Nazi Party was first created and began to gain momentum.  The city was once called the capital of the movement, the birthplace of the Nazi Party, and the spiritual center of the Nazi Pantheon.  We entered the large city square known as the Odeonsplatz that contained a large Italian styled outdoor concert pavilion known as the Field Marshall's Hall, which was built to honor Bavaria's greatest generals. The hall contains three large arches, which are flanked by a pair of large Bayern Lions that straddle a center staircase.  Adolf Hitler gave several speeches from this stage and it was also the location where gunfire erupted between police and Nazi supporters in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch.  Thankfully, the Odeonsplatz was being prepared for a much more positive event this evening.  A sea of black folding chairs had been assembled for a free public concert scheduled for later that night.  We stopped in at a local coffee house so Angela could get some brew of a different sort and the kids were rewarded for good behavior with a fresh baked pastry.  I suddenly realized I was running low on Coca-Cola Light and took the opportunity to top off.  Again, it was nice to be in a major city where commercialism was not obviously overwhelming.  Mom and Pop style family owned small businesses seemed to be more the norm.  It was strange to be standing within an urban coffee shop that wasn't a Starbucks where you could look out the front window and see another Starbucks across the street!        

Theatinerkirche / The White Church
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The other key building within the Odeonsplatz is the bright yellow high-baroque styled church known as Theatinerkirche, which Andy said is also known as the White Church.  I thought he was being playfully sarcastic since the mustard yellow exterior was unlike any other color scheme in the city.  However, upon entering the church's vast interior, the nickname was obvious as the entire space was bathed in bright angelic white.  The main central dome is 233 feet high and is complimented by two matching tall slender bell towers on either side.  Most of the interior sanctuary is made of white plaster and reminded me of my children's unfinished art creations still awaiting the glazing and firing steps.  It's simplistic color scheme yet ornate angles and carvings made it one of the most beautiful churches I had the opportunity to visit.  We moved back out onto the Odeonsplatz and traveled a short distance before we entered a lush, manicured, rectangular park known as the Hofgarten or Court Park.  The eight acre public park was first created in 1617 and is divided by symmetrical sharp lined pathways, flowerbeds, and shrubs.  The Hofgarten is bordered on the east side by the large State Chancellery Building that is a unique mix of traditional and modern design.  The building replaces a similar structure that served as a huge barracks for the German Army which was destroyed during WWII.  The classic style of the central dome of the building's center was contrasted by arched wings covered by a tinted green glass skin that spanned the length of the neighboring garden in both directions.  Directly in front of the building's entrance stairway sat a relic left from the previous barrack building.  A large raised rectangular platform, bordered by neatly trimmed uniform hedges, sat conspicuously empty.  The platform that had previously supported a large Nazi era symbol, now sat purposely empty, sending an obvious and powerful message.  

Munich State Chancellery Building 
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Many parts of the city were full of grand buildings that housed universities, government offices, libraries, art galleries, and all the things that made Munich one the cultural centers of Germany.  As the capital city of Bavaria, it lacked the small town charm of many of the villages and smaller cities I had previously visited but was still beautiful, expressing its own individual personality.  It reminded me of Washington D.C. back home, with its complex labyrinth of streets, open green spaces, monuments, churches, restaurants, hotels, etc... I noticed both capitals were equally limited in height, void of skyscrapers, tall office buildings, and anything over ten stories high.  In Munich, church steeples mostly reigned supreme, looking down over neighboring structures and the streets below.  As we walked through the shopping district, I realized I had not seen a shopping mall during any of my travels and wondered if they existed at all in Europe.  The streets were filled with large department stores traditionally accented with beautiful flower boxes overflowing with bright red annuals.  Since it was Sunday, all businesses were closed, with the exception of those serving food and/or drink.  It was like stepping back in time, as it reminded me of the days when I was just a wee laddie and my mother used to take me into Lancaster City to go shopping.  Days before the mall were filled with trips to downtown city department stores to purchase clothing, shoes, books, and just about everything you now purchase at the nearest shopping mall.  It was refreshing to see a economically vibrant downtown once again and even more enlightening to see most shops were closed in respect to the Sabbath.  It was a nostalgic observation that filled my mind with fond memories of my childhood.  In many ways the mall shopping concept has killed many Main Streets across America but in Bavaria, every town I visited during my travels was alive and well with abundant commerce and accompanying customers.
Shopping Bavarian Style Baby!
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We continued navigating our way through the main shopping district of Munich, window shopping along the way, and enjoying the beautiful warm sunny afternoon.  Leo and Amalie were great companions as always, absorbing the vibrant sights and sounds in seated comfort from their stroller.  We next visited the famous Cathedral of our Lady locally known as Frauenkirche.  The red brick church is known for its twin spires that rise 325 feet high above the city and the elaborate interior tomb of Emperor Ludwig IV just inside the cathedral's entrance.  As you might have guessed, the beautiful building was heavily damaged during WWII when it suffered a partial roof collapse.  Allied bombers were not in the habit of intentionally targeting historic churches during bombing raids.  However, the allies often attacked under the cover of night to make it difficult for German ground artillery to see the planes but the tactic made it equally challenging for the planes to zero in on their precise targets.  The Frauenkirche was slowly rebuilt in several distinct phases with the first completed in 1953.  However, the final restoration work on the damaged cathedral was not finished until 1994, a full 50 years after it first fell victim to allied forces during the war.  After Andy and I took a quick ten minute interior tour, we turned the corner to catch up with Angela and the kids who were cooling off in a large public play fountain.  It was really cool in more ways than one!  Water sprouted from multiple sources around the large concave shaped rocky formation.  The water was never deeper than a few inches and the entire fountain was shrouded from the sun by large shade trees that framed the refreshing space.  The water tricked from above, mimicking mountain springs and collected in a central shallow pool containing more subtle fountains.  The kids were having a blast, including me!

Frauenkirche Children's Fountain
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We left the pleasant comfort of the children's fountain to continue our tour of the city.  As we made our way through the twists and turns of the wide streets, I absorbed the palate of the colorful buildings, each visually expressing their individual personalities in assorted shades of bright paint.  The number of buildings within Munich was so vast yet complimented by many open spaces, giving the impression the limits of the old city were boundless.  We passed by several universities flush with students on the move, taking a break from their studies to ride a bike to explore the streets, parks, and gardens of Munich.  At one point we passed by a police station where the street directly outside the entrance steps was lined with several matching police cruisers.  The surprising characteristic was they were all well maintained, high end, BMW wagons.  They were the only sign of law enforcement I think we encountered during my entire 21 day visit and extensive travels.  It must be an attractive incentive to join the police force if you get to tour around every day in a luxury, high performance vehicle.  Sign me up!  I also noticed most of the taxi cabs were high end Mercedes, an equally attractive ride choice.  Not something you see back in the states very often.  How high were the taxes in Munich anyway?  Andy's brother Thomas lives and works in Munich and can attest to the high cost of living within the capital city of Bavaria.  However, I was about to find out for myself...

Police / Polizei Bavarian Style
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We planned on meeting up with Andy's brother later in the day... but first, it was time for a little refreshment.  We found a large biergarten mostly empty of customers, close to a manicured park and located a shaded table near a large sandbox play area... perfect!  My host family had been so nice to me during my entire stay and they would often refuse to let me pay for anything.  After some light haggling, they agreed to let me pick up the tab for this little pit stop snack.  We ordered two small bottles of Coca-Cola Light and three even smaller ice-cream sundaes.  My sundae scored in the low-average range on the Frau Andrews Official Ice-Cream Satisfaction Scale but did meet the minimum requirement to satisfy my daily ice-cream requirement according to Bavarian Law.  However, I was shocked by the bill!  Munich really is an expensive destination with my bill over 25 Euros or $32.70 American.  I'm really glad I didn't try to spring for dinner!  Sometimes it pays to be cheap!  We continued on our way and walked through the Promenadeplatz, a former salt trade market of the ancient city.  Today the long rectangular plaza is filled with monuments to several prominent citizens of Munich including the gifted composer Orlando di Lasso.  Once music director to royalty and knighted by Emperor Maximilian II of Bavaria, his image was preserved within a life-size statue in a place of honor on the Promenadeplatz.  I was shocked as we walked past the Lasso Monument to find the base of the statue completely covered in fresh flowers, lit candles, and colorful pictures.  I first thought they were gifts to the gifted composer but upon closer inspection, they were honoring a different musical personality.

Orlando di Lasso / King of Pop
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The base of the Orlando di Lasso monument had been converted into a spontaneous memorial to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, shortly after his death in 2009.  The makeshift memorial, started by random fans of the fallen superstar, was set up around the statue because it resides close to the Bayerischer Hof hotel where Jackson stayed several times while visiting Munich.  The elaborate colorful memorial is maintained daily by a phantom group of dedicated fans who are collectively known as the Memorial Fairies.  Even though the memorial has existed for several years, it is not an official monument and has only been tolerated by city officials to date.  The Jackson fan group fears the city will eventually intervene and have the memorial removed and are in the process of gathering signatures of support to try and avert a government takeover of the sacred site.  I will admit that I owned a copy of Jackson's Thriller album when he was at the peak of his popularity in America but that was a cassette tape way back in the early 80's!  I had heard that he was always more popular abroad than he was at home in the states and now I was looking at the proof.  Because I'm Bad, I'm, Bad, you know it...  Tune it next time for our final segment on the capital city of Munich where we will visit the ultimate city park and biergarten.

 Father of Modern Munich / Montgelas
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Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!

 -
PLEASE SEE MY ADDITIONAL PHOTOS 
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