Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ooh La La! Paris! July 16, 2009

Paris! I love Paris!!

Richard & Janet took me up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for some spectacular views of the city! The Arc is located at the western end of the famous Champs-Elysees and is a monument to all those who fought for France, particularly in the Napoleonic wars. France's "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" is located under the arch.

Here is the view looking down the center of the Arc... (that's the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier below)

And several views of Paris from the Arch....

This is not a postcard - just another picture from the Arch....

Night is falling at the top of the arch.... time to go!

But not before one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower at dusk....

Tomorrow we leave for home. Thank You Richard, Janet, Marc & Keith for letting me tag along on a fabulous adventure!!

Versailles - Paris - July 16, 2009

Ahhhh..... This is the life. A day at Versailles, Louis XIV's spectacular chateau located in the suburbs of Paris (although it was outside of the city at the time it was built).

The gardens go on for as far as the eye can see!

And that's the palace behind me

There is art everywhere inside the palace - and naturally, it's amazing!

Here I am at the famous "hall of mirrors"

And here in the courtyard....

Louis the XIV made all of his nobles move out to Versailles so that he could keep control over them and prevent them from getting regional power that would threaten his own. He set up an elaborate system of court etiquette that everyone had to follow. It was all about power, which is too bad because it probably ruined a spectacular place to live....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lucerne - July 14, 2009

Good Morning.... We had a nice ride on the train to Zurich, and then on to Lucerne.... Janet is so pleasant to sit next to. We had a great conversation all the way....

Hello from Lucerne Switzerland! Isn't it pretty here?

Here I am in front of the Lucerne Lion - it's a tribute to fallen Swiss Guards who died during the French Revolution trying to protect King Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette at the Tuileries Palace (not knowing they had already left)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lest We Forget.... Dachau Concentration Camp, July 12, 2009

If we forget history... It will be repeated.

Note: Much of the information here comes from the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. I highly recommend it.

Dachau Concentration Camp was the first established by Hitler, shortly after his appointment as Reich Chancellor in 1933. It served as a model for all later concentration camps and a training ground for SS men.

In the twelve years of its existence, over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned there and in the numerous subsidiary camps. 41,500 were murdered. On April 29, 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.

The main entrance and exit to the camp for prisoners was the Jourhaus. Prisoners passed through an iron rod gate with the inscription "Work Makes You Free"

The motto reflected the Nazi propaganda meant to trivialize the concentration camp for outsiders as a "labor and re-education" camp.

The building now houses a model of the camp:

Prisoners were stripped (literally) of all their belongings and issued prison clothes and numbers. They were referred to only as their numbers, stripping them of all individuality. They were then sent off to the prison baths, which were also used as a punishment chamber. Hooks can be seen on the pillars that divide the room. These were used for pole hangings - to punish prisoners.

Prisoners built the barracks where they also lived. There were 34 barrack buildings, housing more than 30,000 people by the time the camp was liberated. The camp was originally built to hold 6,000, but was overfilled from the onset.

Prisoners slept in rows of bunk beds.

Behind me, you can see the foundations of the barracks buildings (the ones we toured had been reconstructed). They were not that big. It's mind-boggling to think they housed more than 30,000 people.

And finally, the crematorium - the original building still stands. This area served as an execution site as well as the crematorium.

As my friend comments, I am smiling because the Nazis lost. Light triumphed over darkness. Evil will never win.

Visitors to the camp will see a memorial that was designed by one of the survivors of the camp. On the memorial is inscribed:

"May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because of their fight against National Socialism unite the living in their defense of peace and freedom and in reverence of human dignity."

We live in a world that wants to re-write history, forget the past, pretend that humans are basically good. If we forget, if we buy in to the sanitized version of our past, we will repeat it. We must not let that happen. We need to teach our children, and our children's children what happened here and why.

Munich - July 11, 2009

On to Munich - Marc got to have his first beer!

Unfortunately.... he hated it... Or maybe that's a good thing :-)

The city of Munich is really beautiful. I love all the old architecture.

We somehow managed to visit the city during their gay pride parade - so we got a bit more of a view of the city than we intended to - oops! We still managed to get around and see a lot though...

Here I am making friends in front of a museum....

And we got to visit a spectacular church - aren't those stained glass windows gorgeous?

Then we headed up to Linderhof Castle. This was up in Bavaria and was built by King Ludwig II. Ludwig had darn good taste!

Isn't this view amazing!!! The scenery and the fountains were stunning....

They say this could be my summer home (note big grin!) - what do you think, is it big enough for Mel & me?

Next we headed over to Neuschwanstein Castle. This was also built by Ludwig II, but was not completed before he died. The castle was designed by a set designer, not an architect, so that explains the "fantasy nature" of the building. You can't take pictures of the inside, but the outside is pretty cool. In fact, it was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland!

I love visiting the castles - especially the gardens. I think I need to think about marrying well so I can have one! Where are all the Single Rich Gnomads with Castles hanging out these days?