“The hills are alive”

August 17th, 2012


…with the sound of music! And dear and birds and the hum of excitement! Mi, a name I call myself while going Fa, a long long way to…ride a train. Ti, a drink with jam (or nutella) and bread and that will bring us back to go, go, go, go. Which is what I have been doing!

My parents arrived in Salzburg and got to see my room and meet some of my friends.  It felt sort of like they were visiting me at my place at WOU, except a little more jet lagged. I felt special being the one that knew how the bus worked, where to go, what kind of bottled drinks to buy and other things that helped me realize how much I had learned…. “I have confidence, and confidence I have!”

The next day, Gabi and I skipped dance classes for the day and went on the Sound of Music/Hallstat tour with my parents. I was so excited that she was able to come along and we got to spend the day together learning more about the Sound of Music movie and history of the people/story it was based on than we ever needed to know.
For example,

A replica in Hellbrunn of the gazebo used for the Hollywood film. It was built originally for the movie then became a huge tourist attraction and the locals got annoyed. So they moved it. It was still annoying so they tore it down. Then they realized they had killed something people from all over came to see. So they build another one and put it next to an already popular palace out of the way of the locals 🙂

I enjoyed my last night in Salzburg celebrating my friend Helena’s birthday (she was 19 gooooing on 20!) and packing up the last few things. I learned about how each country in the EU has one of each type of coin and you can tell by the picture on the back just like the states on the quarters at home! It was weird to wake up on Thursday and have a normal breakfast but then have to say goodbye, as sad as it was, I was tired and distracted so it didn’t really sink in right then that I wasn’t coming back.

Next on the agenda was something I had been oddly looking forward to. After having studied WWII and the Holocaust two or three times and being a psychology major, I was fascinated by the concentration camp at Dachau. Even more interesting is the knowledge that this was one of the camps my grandpa’s division came to liberate. Thought they were too late and the camp was already liberated, he has shared memories of his arrival. When we first arrived it seemed welcoming, there was good weather and a friendly woman renting the audio guides to us. As the day progressed, I felt my mood drain like the miserable chill brought on by Dementors near by. The clouds didn’t literally roll in but a midwinter depression settled around me heavier and heavier. The tour began on the SS side of camp and was informational; it wasn’t till we passed through the gate…

“Work sets you free”

…that I felt the kick in the gut and couldn’t smile for pictures.  We observed the wide open roll car area where many had dropped, and walked through the prison till after mere moments I longed for air and sun and had to leave, an option many never had.

Hall way in the prison

The tour didn’t lighten even outside again, for then we went into the bunkers to see the perfectly build beds (or else) and the perfectly horrid living conditions. It was lunch time now, and the thought of eating a granola bar I had cheerily packed seemed absolutely immoral.  Lost in thought I continued to the end where I read about all the precautions set up to prevent escape and how some deliberately violated the system to end their misery.  A few steps further I lost my breath. The crematorium, gas chamber and grave sites lay in front of me. I know this is an unexpected downer as lunch time reading material and I wouldn’t even be sharing, but it hit me so hard I wanted to record my feelings and it seemed relevant to include such a significant learning experience. I’ll spare you the grim pictures. Going inside a building that had seen and caused so much suffering, spooked me to say the least. I was haunted by the sight of the ovens and words on the plaque explaining how prisoners were tricked into the gas chambers.

The ovens and an instant stomach ache.

We were short on time and had to rush on to our next destination. As anxious as I was to get out of that place forever I had to spend a moment at:

“Grave of many thousands unknown”
One of several grave sites. There were also places labeled where ashes were buried.

“Never Again”

Shaking off the past few hours we moved on to our cute little Hostel in Fussen. We spent two nights here and toured the crazy King Ludwig’s places of residence.

King Ludwig’s summer castle. We toured the second and third floor I believe.

Another castle that Kind Ludwig was having built but was never completed because he died mysteriously and the family cancelled all orders.
This is the castle that Disney based the Disney castle on! You can recognize it from the front. This picture is taken from a suspension bridge over a waterfall!

I learned a bit more Bavarian history, visited with some swans in a beautiful lake and giggled at tourists from all over the world. We walked a lot, gawked a lot and clicked our cameras a lot. But not without relaxing by the river and dipping my toes…okay, wading into my upper calf and freezing my toes off.

We had fantastic weather but this water was pretty cold!

This was the neat path clinging to the side of the rock and hovering over the beauty below.

Now I sit on a train riding through the countryside of Switzerland eating gummy bears from Germany and missing my little sister. It’s weird to be “vacationing” without her. I don’t have my usual companion’s company in rolling my eyes at whatever ordeal is currently flagging us as tourists or someone to fight over the last piece of chocolate with. So Kaylee, if you are reading this, imaging me making a joke here or side comment there that usually just the two of us snicker about and picture it going right past our parents as I lose half the joy of the moment realizing I’m laughing alone. Big sisters out there, hug your little sister for me.

There is quite a difference in lifestyle and attitude when one’s main objective is to travel and sight see. Until now, I think I had been taking on the roll of trying to learn to live as a local and absorb the culture around me; shopping at the local mall, eating at the same restaurant for a second or third time and having an actual closet to unload in. Now, I wrestle my suitcase every night, seek a new wifi password and see as much as I possibly can in the few short hours I have in a town.  Sleep? Pfff I can sleep when I get home. Expect to get the dish that I think I’m ordering? No adventure in that, I’ll save that for The States. Breakfast on the Shilthorn like James Bond? Sign me up. The hills are alive with the sound of Her Majesty’s Secret Service! Headed into the glorious Swiss Alps for a few days, if only I had a tent!

“Schwans” on the lake at the bottom of the hill below Hohenschwangau castle (the summer home). Swans were a motif in these castles in statues, murals, door handles and many other places. My practical souvenir from this location was a little sparkling swan on a necklace!


2 thoughts on ““The hills are alive”

  1. Visiting the actual location where a horrendous event occurred brings that event alive in a way that reading about an event can’t. To see where masses of people were murdered can have a physical impact on the observer,and it sounds like that is what you experienced at Dachua.

    Those experiences make one want to approach life with a more grateful, joyful, beautiful, and loving attitude, and you are definitely doing that–living your experience abroad to it’s fullest extent and recognizing that beauty continues to exist even when the most terrible things occur. Michele

  2. Emily,
    I am so glad that you are continually having life changing experiences. You are doing a great job of making the most of every moment a pushing yourself! Thank you for sharing your amazing adventures with us!


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