Dachau

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I am a history geek. Invite me over for pizza, beer and a two hour documentary of anything history and I’m there.

I think it all started when I was a boy. Every Sunday night a one hour documentary called World at War was on. It was made in the early 1970’s and I remember being drawn to its honesty. I came from a time of sugar coating but this particular documentary was raw.

One night an entire episode was devoted to Dachau. I remember how it shook my young mind. It scared me. It angered me, but above all I felt helpless.

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I knew when we visited Dachau it would be unlike any town I had seen on our tour. But still, I could not help but wonder, would the emotions I had when I was a boy be there that day?

Writers connect with their characters and create a world that is real. But Dachau wasn’t my world or my creation. Would our visit be nothing more than empty buildings? 

I’m your typical tourist. I’m the one holding the camera in one hand and a video camera in the next. But something was different when we exited the bus that day. There would be no video.

It didn’t feel right.

We arrived at a gate that I recognized from the documentary. We traveled down a long hallway. To our left and our right was where they were forced to live. 

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I kept thinking who these people might have been. Were they shop owners, shoe makers or farmers? Whatever they were they were now being held prisoner by their former neighbors.

I entered these tiny places they called home, curious to the stories they might tell. But did I want to hear their stories, I asked. Can’t I go back to being a tourist?

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Is it that simple to forget?

I touched the walls they leaned on and placed my shoes on the floors they walked. I wondered if I waited long enough would I feel their echoes? 

I’m not sure if the kids in our group fully understood the history but that’s understandable. Some things take a while to sink in.

When we left Dachau I felt empty, alone but most of all frustrated. It was a bad story with a bad ending. The only hope I see is a reminder that history tends to repeat itself and this is one repeat we cannot allow.

Maybe that’s why the camps of Dachau still exist. Maybe that’s why their echoes can still be heard.

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Weddings, a video and no Friday Blog

 

Hey everyone!

I’m flooding your Thursday inbox instead of the usual Friday. I am on the road today, headed north to the state of Washington. One of my best friends is getting on Saturday and since she lives in the valley I was born and raised in I knew it would be impossible to pass up.

She is the type of person who gives and gives. You probably know a person or two just like that. It will be nice to see all of us give our blessings to her for a change.

Saturday will be a special day.

I am also enclosing a video. Renee April has a site called One Chapter Wonder. She will take a new author and read a chapter of their upcoming book.

Yes, I’m promoting my book on my blog but I’m also promoting April.

Her book is coming out later in the year and soon, I hope, I will be interviewing her. She is fun, talented and clever. If you enjoy listening to my first chapter, I thank you, but most of all I’d like you to get to know April. She’s pretty cool.

Have yourself a rewarding week and weekend. I’m off to visit friends and relatives and oh yes……A wedding.

Behave yourself!!!!

 

The Woman in the Sandwich Shop

First off: I wish I had taken a picture of this little place, instead you’ll have to do with a picture I found on line. After some serious searching I’m pretty sure I found the place where the story occurred. I apologize for the stock photo. This would have been a fun moment. 

 

We just wanted a damn drink

It was a hot day in Paris. The afternoon turning to evening. We had spent a full day in the city exploring all the fun stuff the city had to offer. We were full blown tourists. Our eyes wide open, our curiosity craving to be fed and our real life thirst at an all-time high.

We were a few miles from the hotel and our energy was rock bottom. We were tired and hungry. A nice cold whatever sounded like a perfect treat. We passed busy restaurants and local watering holes but our aim was a little store full of little goodies.

Yes, we were on a budget.

At first we feared we were on the wrong side of town. Maybe the only place to quench our thirst was a fancy restaurant but just as we were about to give up a tiny store came into view.

Paris Sandwich Shop 1

 

Bread, Bread. Lots of Bread

From the look of the busy crowd it appeared to be a popular place in the neighborhood. Sandwiches, cold drinks and bread lined every corner of the little store.

Did I say bread? Yes, the French love their bread.

The place was crowded and the aisles were narrow. My wife and daughter did the shopping while I parked in the corner and out of the way.

I sat myself near a wall by the register where a long line of shoppers patiently waited their turn.

A few feet away I watched a woman struggle with her purchase. Her handbag was too small, her bread to wide, but somehow she found humor in her struggles.

 

The City was her child

She looked at me and laughed. Her smile was followed by a paragraph or two in French that I wished I understood. She appeared to be the type I would have enjoyed talking to.

Without hesitation her French switched to perfect English. It was so perfect she sounded like a local from my home town.

“You’re an English speaker,” She said.

“How did you know,” I asked.

As she fitted her large bread into her small handbag she gave me the happiest smile you ever saw and replied, “I overheard your conversation when you came in. You’re American.”

Her appearance was full of curiosity and confidence. I had a feeling she had seen her share of tourists in her town.

I complimented her talent of being able to speak other languages. She repaid my compliment by telling me the wonderful experiences she had when she visited the states.

She was curious what I thought of Paris and when I told her that her city was beautiful she smiled as though I had complimented her child.

We said our goodbyes as she turned and made her way home. Soon my thirst was quenched as we said goodnight to a full day in Paris and the friendly neighborhood we had passed through. 

My Wild Ride to the Neuschwanstein Castle

It’s sort of popular

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To start with I had no idea just how popular this castle was. There are so many stories behind the scenes. I once heard that Disney used it as inspiration for some of their pictures.

The King who created it was a character all of his own and the employees who run the castle today are extremely dedicated with mountains of stories to tell.

I could go on and on with its history, the love affair that it still holds and the lives this beautiful castle has touched for centuries upon centuries.

But I’m not going to talk about that.

I have no doubt there are historians who could do a far better job than me in describing what this castle is all about but none of them could describe the wild experience I had just getting to the damn thing.

 

Allow me to explain

To get to the castle one must walk or ride a really steep hill. For those with a weak heart, or in my case a weak knee, other alternatives are a must.

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A mini bus is available and from what I heard it’s the easiest way to get there. I’m not actually sure one could call it a bus but the mini part is pretty accurate.

Sadly the mini-thingy was not equipped for wheelchairs so our tour guide jumped into action with a much better plan. I like to call it the horse and Carriage Journey.

 

Horses, Carriages and Elbows

We were handed a one way ticket to the top. Our tour guide wished us well, returned to the group and carried on to the top of the hill. Keep in mind they were on a schedule and the last thing I wanted was to hold anyone back.

A small problem immediately surfaced: Would I be able to climb into this carriage-thingy upon its arrival? My worry was followed by another concern: Would the aggressive tourists surrounding us push us out of the way?

We immediately learned there would be no orderly line. In other words when the carriage arrived the weak was left behind. Glancing at my bad knee and my current predicament my future looked bleak.

 

Strange Happenings

Castle Horse

When the carriage arrived I saw something that day I thought I would never see. My law abiding, anti-line cutting wife jetted to the front of the line. Tickets in hand, elbows swinging and a look that would have scared Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bad boy in Terminator one.

In seconds, yes I timed her, I was pulled to the front of the line, tossed into the front seat, while the wheelchair was quickly folded and neatly placed in the back. I have no doubt the horses were impressed.

One the other hand the aggressive tourists were a little peeved.

 

Horses and Celebrations

Our journey took us half way with the remainder on foot. Thankfully members of our group were waiting and took turns pushing me the rest of the way.

When we made our way to the top a mini-celebration was in order. The Castle was no long as important as the journey but we were here and now it was time to explore.

Our journey down was far easier. By then we were veterans. A little beat up. A little dirty, but above all fearless for conquering the impossible. 

If you are ever in the area I advise you to visit The Neuschwanstein Castle. Your experience will create a wonderful memory but I have a feeling you won’t have one like mine.    

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The Boy in the Square

Stories in the Making

One of the things I enjoy is people watching. I’m pretty sure most writers agree that a story can be found whenever we sit and watch.

It takes a little practice and a cautious style. The moment people realize you are watching the magic is gone.

So there I was hanging out in the Vienna square. Our tour guide gave us a couple of hours to explore and we were taking every advantage we could.

It was nearing the noon hour on a busy summer day. The sky was blue, the wind was warm and people of all ages were passing by.

 

Vienna Town Square

 

And there he was

He was a teenage boy. Maybe 16, maybe older. One thing was certain: He wasn’t a tourist.

He had the look of a local. He also had another look: He was on his phone with someone special.

The excitement in his eyes and the honesty in his smile caught my eye. I could hear his conversation but I couldn’t understand his words. But our language barrier didn’t matter. I recognized that tone. I too use to be a teenage boy.

 

The Suspense is Terrible. I Hope it Lasts.

To my luck he didn’t walk away when his conversation ended. I watched in anticipation as he took a deep breath and attempted to straighten his hair.

He wore a colorful button down shirt. I wanted to advise him to unbutton the top two. Three if he was daring. It was all I could do to sit still.

Without warning a familiar voice caught his attention. I followed his eyes to the end of the square. His hand quickly moved away from his hair. His shoulders stiffened, his fingers clenched.

 

And there she was

Something in his eyes told me it was too soon. He was supposed to have more time. He wasn’t ready.

His smile broadened, his dimples ran deep. I watched as they met halfway. She made the first move by placing her arms around his neck. His hands lay still. A moment of confusion, I guessed, but I knew in time he’d figure it out.

She kissed him on the cheek and spoke a few words. I had a feeling this was one of the greatest moments of his life.

 I watched as they slowly disappeared into the crowd. Were they friends? Were they more? Or was this simply a great day?

I smiled and continued on my way. Not everything requires an answer, I said.