Friday, September 25, 2015


Yesterday (Thursday) we toured the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Dachau is one of the few camps most everybody has heard of, however it wasn't an "extermination" camp that existed simply to kill people. It was a prison camp providing workers for various factories and construction all over the area. There were many sub-camps that were all part of the Dachau system. It was also the FIRST of the concentration camps and served as a model for the other camps. It opened in 1933, and back then the prisoners were actually Germans that Hitler had decided needed to be gotten rid of (his opposition to power). There had been a "terrorist" act in the German Parliament building (it burned down, no-one ever found out who did it) and due to this terrible act of crime, as Chancellor he was given the unconditional powers to arrest and hold anyone without any need of proof and no requirement for giving them a trial. His SS could knock down your door at any time of the day or night and take you away, where you'd likely never be seen again. In the early years Dachau was chock-full of political prisoners as Hitler got rid of any and all as he consolidated and increased his power.

Later as the war loomed/progressed and his conquest of Poland and other neighboring countries started to provide LOTS of new prisoners the camp grew and became the Dachau of these pictures, containing pretty much anybody who was a threat to his Nazi regime: Jews, Gypsies, intellectuals/scholars/professors, Jehovah Witnesses, priests, gays, and many more 'groups' of people he deemed a threat. Torture and beatings were daily occurrences, yet somehow the people who survived this evil place (and all the other camps) were able to physically and mentally rise above all that. I can't imagine how ANYBODY could have survived here. Food was a minimum, clothes were the bare essentials, and if you became sick and weren't able to work AND attend the twice-daily roll calls you were sent to the infirmary (which was likely a death-sentence as there was very little to no medical care for the prisoners, and your already unbelievably meager food rations were halved as you weren't working).

Our tour guide Eric outside the camp giving us the area layout. This black and white photo was taken days before the camps liberation in 1945. If you look around the top center and arcing around to the right you can see bomb craters. The Allies knew there was a camp of some sort here, but until they got here they really didn't know it's scope and purpose. Many prisoners throughout Germany were killed during allied bombings as they were slave labor at the factories keeping the German war-machine going.

 This is a blown-up portion of the above photo. The area inside A and B are the parts we toured. Inside area A is the 40 acres of the Dachau concentration camp...the 2 long rows of buildings were the infirmary and barracks buildings. Area B is the crematorium.  Above area A was an SS training camp where guards were trained for camps all over German occupied territory.

And speaking of camps and occupied territory, these next 2 shots show all the camps. Highlighted in black is the primary camp, and all the others are subsidiary camps. Dachau is just to the right of the lower center.

Most of the "extermination" camps were far to the east (such as Auschwitz).

This shot is blown up from the above picture, and you can clearly see the staggering number of camps associated with Dachau. Almost all of these were associated with factories and construction. Prisoners were moved in and out of the primary camp all the time to staff all the jobs that needed doing.

As a newly arriving prisoner, this is the view you'd see after getting off your train: 
the main entrance to Dachau.

Passing thru this iron gate takes you inside the camp to what would have been hell on earth.
The words Arbeit Macht Frei translates to "work makes you free" which was what they wanted you to believe. But it really meant work makes you dead, as does everything else here.

Walking along the edge of what was the upper row of barracks (as seen in the picture above), you can see the fence separating the prison camp from the SS training camp on the left. All of the original barracks buildings were torn down due to the sad state they were in back in the 60's. Only a few were re-constructed. You can still see all the original foundations for the barracks buildings.

Looking back the way we walked along the fence-line from the main entrance. You can clearly see the guard tower where guards sat trained to kill (and rewarded for doing so) with their machine guns. If you gathered in a group greater than 3 you could be shot without warning. If you stepped onto the grass you were obviously attempting to escape and would be killed. If they wanted to execute you they had to submit paper-work, but nobody ever questioned if a prisoner was killed trying to escape. Closer to the tower there is no ditch, but further away the dry ditch was maintained to slow you down giving the guards greater opportunity to kill you. If one of the guards didn't like you, he would take your cap and toss it onto the grass or in the ditch. You then had the choice to live without it (and freeze) or pray the guard isn't looking for a few moments as you hoped to retrieve it. Human life here had no meaning.

Here you can clearly see the dry ditch (it's about 4' deep).  Above the dry ditch in the gravel (hard to see) there are rows and coils of barbed wire on the ground extending about 8 feet or so away from the fence towards the ditch that you'd have to get thru before you ever got to the fence. Then the fence itself was electrified with 10,000 volts. Over the fence is a small river, and beyond that is the SS camp. There was no hope in this direction.

This black and white photo on the left shows the infirmary buildings, and also the human experimentation buildings. The Nazi's experimented on the prisoners here in many horrible ways. If you blow up the picture you can read the paragraph detailing what the areas were.

 Here is a reconstruction of a barracks room meant to hold 72 prisoners (that's how many 'bunks' there were). Typically there'd be over 200 men living in a room like this. The prisoners were required to maintain their barracks in a military "spotless" cleanliness. If there was a spot on the floor, somebody will get beat for it (25 lashes...remember this as I'll discuss it later). The next room had a small row of lockers which contained all your possessions (a bowl, cup, spoon, possibly an extra uniform or jacket and that's about it). During morning and evening roll call the SS would go thru the barracks inspecting it. If your coffee cup had a spot on it, you'd be beaten. Your bed (straw filled  mattress) and blanket had to be rolled/ folded and perfect. If anything was amiss you'd be beaten (25 lashes). You could be beaten for not standing just-right at roll call (feet together, hands at your side, head down NOT looking at the SS guards). You could be beaten for ANYTHING whatsoever. And keep in mind these people were not in prime physical condition. They were withered starving brutalized yet somehow still alive corpses, and somehow beyond my ability to fathom, they still had hope.

This is a picture of one of the barracks rooms after liberation (if you blow up the picture you can see an Allied soldiers helmet as he walks thru the barracks). The barracks were all horrifically overcrowded and if work details, starvation, beatings and cold didn't kill you, disease likely would.

I didn't include a few shots that I took, specifically the crematoriums and  oven, as it's just too grim to look at. Originally there were only 2 ovens at Dachu, but as the war progressed they weren't nearly enough to keep up with the dead so an entire new building was created that had 6 large ovens that could each hold 3 bodies at a time. Nor did I take pictures of the "extermination chamber" (gas room) where it is thought they didn't actually use here at Dachu (but no one can say with a certainty that they didn't).

Another thing Eric the tour guide brought up (that none of us thought to ask) was "where were all the women"? Dachu was strictly for men. Most of the Concentration camps were for men, and the vast majority of women (pretty much all those with children, and also the elderly) were sent straight to the extermination camps as they 'weren't needed'.

This photo (which is really quite disturbing) I chose to show you because of it's importance. It was designed and built by a survivor, and it represents the electrified fence around the camp, and what happens to humans when they come into contact with 10,000 volts (if you made it that far and weren't shot). Apparently it was a daily occurrence for people to commit suicide by running to the fence to end their suffering.

I also didn't take any pictures of where prisoners were tortured. There was a kind of table where they'd make you bend over on top of, where they'd beat you with "25 strikes" from a vicious cane made from bull-hide. Later on the Nazi's decided to have two SS men beat you with their canes at the same time, so the 50 hits were still considered only 25. When you arrived here, to have any chance at survival you'd first have to speak German. As they beat you for ANY infraction you would have to count out loud (in German) the number of the hits. If you messed up or didn't know the numbers in German they'd keep going and likely beat you to death right there. There was also some wooden beams up high that they would bind your hands behind your back and then hoist you up into the air by them, which would ultimately result in both your shoulders becoming dislocated as your body weight forces your arms around behind you and finally above your head. After they'd finally let you down (if you can imagine the sheer pain of that torture) you'd be sent on your way, but if you couldn't attend roll call and work the next day you'd be beaten or sent to the infirmary. 

I leave you from this very sad place with a picture of the "remains" of the unknown prisoner (much like our "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery). There is a law in Germany that any location that has been a cemetery (officially holding human remains) shall remain so in perpetuity. The remains of one of the untold thousands of prisoners who perished here are in this rectangular container, and by that means this place shall always be untouchable ground. Behind that on the wall written in the 5 most common languages of the prisoners held here is the inscription which is the purpose of maintaining this memorial camp (so that future generations won't forget what happened here). There's nothing more I can add to this picture.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


We are alive and well here in Munich. We're staying at the Munich East Marriot, and HERE is a picture of Jeannie with my newest BESTEST FRIEND in the entire world: a SUPER DUPER HOOPER SNOOPER COFFEE MACHINE!!!!

You put your cup under the awesome spout, hit a button and FRESH GROUND coffee, espresso, or CAPPUCCINO comes streaming out! Stir it up, hit it again and MORE comes streaming out in a little brown stream of GOODNESS!! Here Jeannie is showing how an American does a DOUBLE DOUBLE cappaccunio! (I had the same fact, as of my typing, I've had about 8 of these little liquid morsels of DELICIOUSNESS).

And with that, we need breakfast, MORE coffee and then to go find us a power converter so I can charge/plug in US based devices. Have a wonderful Monday and I will update pics and story as the days go by. And btw: dinner last night was a wicked tasty plate of pork cutlets and a two weisse beers that were flat out incredible!!! Asta la vista BABY!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


It's the day after our FIRST EVER day/night in Oktoberfest, and to sum it all up in a nutshell, OH MY GOD! (and btw, note that the "Munich" post is AFTER this post, even though the Oktoberfest is posted AFTER). Sometimes there's funky things going on with blogspot.

Here's a bunch of pictures from MY very first Oktoberfest! I would have NEVER believed I could drink 5 or 6 liters of beer and NOT be plowed under and dead...but I did...we ALL did! Now I'm not saying that we were all walking a perfectly straight line when we left finally sometime last night, but we made it back to the train station, and to our hotel, AND even stopped on the way back for a late night Doner kabab (kind of a German Gyro that looks like a burrito). And so...on with the pictures!

 Jeannie and I at the Hofbrau beer wagon.

 Here I am (in my stylish yet strikingly debonair checkered shirt and green hat) in front of the Paulaner festival hall (which was the first hall we visited).

 We took a ride on the GIANT Ferris wheel almost right away. 
Here are some aerial shots of the festival grounds. This first shot is looking right down the main walkway between the giant festival halls. It's a Monday afternoon, so it's not even remotely crowded.

 A closer look at the festival halls on the left. 
That's Paulaner closest to us where we had our FIRST EVER Oktoberfest beers. Then there's Schottenamel (they drink Spaten in this one...there are only 5 or 6 breweries that make beer for Oktoberfest), Hacker, then Hofbrau (the 2nd house we visited...according to John, this house is NOT for beginners!), and I can't even read the names of the last (first) two on this side. Also keep in mind looking at the crowd and trying to figure out how many people are there, that the big halls can EACH hold 18,000 people!

 And here's more grand halls on the right side...You have Lowenbrau, Pschorr, Augustiner and I can't even spell nor pronounce the next two. There are a total (I believe) of 14 grand halls, and then there are also minor halls that hold a much smaller group of people. Most of the grand halls have been run by the same people/families for decades or longer. And to GET a grand hall most of the people submitted applications for MANY MANY years before ever being granted one....and that's only after running a smaller hall, proving you have what it takes. Then the applications go before a board and they vote. So along with that, the board can revoke your hall any year and give it to someone else. It's quite an honor to run a hall at Oktoberfest.

 Jeannie with our newest friend, we'll just call him " Boo-Boo" (he tried many times to give us his real name, which was similar to "Yogi"...and finally we decided to call him BooBoo...which he liked). 
He's a super nice young man from Munich (22 years old). Also notice how Peggy and I both photo-bombed!

Here's John's first half chicken. This is what it looks like before you've demolished it. The skin is crispy crunchy and OH so delicious! I read that they go thru several million chickens in the 2 weeks here.

 I don't think I'll ever forget MY first Oktoberfest half-chicken. I swear they put crack or heroin (or both) in it, as you've NEVER tasted anything SO fantastically awesome in your entire life!

And here we are with 4 liters of Paulaner goodness! That's the band behind us on the right...pretty great spot!

 Jeannie and Peggy with the golden liquid of life!

 Peggy and I cutting a rug, which is not only allowed but expected 
(I think it's German law that you MUST dance at some point).

And me with my newest friend (whom I'll likely never see again) Boo Boo.

Here we are now in the Hofbrau hall (NOT for beginners).
After surviving the afternoon in Paulaner we are no longer rookies.

Here you see a shot looking at the crowd off to the right in Hofbrau. It was very hard to walk anywhere, and according to John, it's not EVEN crowded! He says a Friday or Saturday night are something to behold!
Later that night, we are now sitting outside of the Augustiner hall with our final beers of the night. The plants on the table are a story unto themselves and quite the conversation piece (everybody wanted to talk to us about them). After this hall we made our way back to our hotel, thus ending my first Oktoberfest day EVER! You might think that this photo MIGHT be just a teensy bit blurry...but I believe the camera tells the story true, and was seeing us as we were seeing the world.

And one final thought: we spent HOURS in two different festival halls, and there was not ONE fight, scuffle or even words shouted out in anger. There were EASILY over 10,000 people in Hofbrau, and when you go anywhere (such as back and forth to the bathroom every hour or LESS), you're slamming into people making a hole in the crowd. I know there is a German beer law stating that beer can contain ONLY water, grain and hops. But I believe there MUST be a fourth ingredient: John calls it "happy juice". It's the only explanation for how SO MANY people from all over the world can jam together with six ba-zillion litres of beer with no fights. Looking back it seems hardly believable. Or maybe it's just the chickens!

It was simply the BEST!


Well....we made it! We're here in Beantown (uhm, WHY do they call it "Beantown"? I guess I could do an internet search but I'm just too lazy right now).

Got to the hotel, unloaded our stuff and went out in search of dinner. We went HERE:

Yep....this is the "original" Cheers...the one that was the inspiration for the TV series (the sign on the street and the stairs down look the same to me, but that's about it). The OTHER Cheers in Boston is a replica of the TV show set. Anyway....we had beers and a meal (Jeannie had a Oriental Chicken salad, and I had the fish and chips). Total bill: $ FIFTY DOLLARS!!! (the beer was Sam Adams btw). OK...THAT was a bit pricey...and the food wasn't even very good. Quite honestly, I'd recommend you DO NOT eat there...get your picture, have a beer ($7 EACH) if you MUST, then go about anywhere else (we walked past more than a few Pubs that all looked promising on our way there). Oh and learn. One more tidbit: they have a gift-shop....I really planned on getting a Cheers T-shirt. Yeah....they're $30 EACH. Didn't happen. We'd already been robbed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

That's about it for today (Wednesday)...I'll simply make updates to this post as the next few days here progress. We fly to Munich on Saturday evening and will open a new post then. Have a great day at work! (Bwa-ha-ha-ha...insert my best internet evil-laugh here). I LOVE VACATION!

UPDATE: Saturday 9/19
Wow...these last 2 days have FLOWN by!  We are having a leisurely morning in the room (and I'm doing laundry so we fly with all clean clothes for our start in Munich). The concierege lounge here in the Marriott is closed on weekends (rats!) we've now used up all the coffee in the room, plus an extra I scored from housekeeping. Jeannie is getting ready, laundry is in the dryer, and I'm STARVED! I already scarfed down my half of a little Boston Creme Pie (from the Omni/Parker Hotel...which invented Boston Creme Pie btw)...ahh...DELICIOUS with my 1st cup of coffee! We have a late checkout for 6pm (had to pay a bit extra, but we don't get pushed to the curb at 1pm that way). We can shower and change into travel clothes, take a cab to the airport right around 6pm, and we fly around 8:50pm tonight....the lovely redeye!

ANYWAY....we did the entire Freedom Trail over the last 2's a few miles of walking, and our weather was AWESOME! Mid 80's....on the verge of hot, but MUCH better than cold IMO.

 During our tour of the first part of the Freedom Trail...this is our guide Tom, 
and we are at the tomb of Paul Revere.

 The original government building, this was also the site of the infamous Boston Massacre.

 Having some "chowda". MMMMMMM! Ya gotta have chowda here in Boston!

 Paul Revere's house. We toured inside...he had 16 kids with 2 wives! 

 Inside the Old North Church. Instead of Pews, there are "Box Pews" 
which were bought or rented by the parishioners. The climb to the steeple is up behind the pipe organs (which was done in total darkness the night of April 18th, 1775 by Mr. Seward, who put up 2 lanterns signifying the British Army was on the move by water instead of land, setting Paul Revere (and 31 others) off on the famous ride to warn the colonists in Lexington and Concord.

 The outside view of the Old North Church. That is THE steeple where the lanterns were hung (for about a minute only) sending the warning to the waiting riders.

Now we are across the Charles River (roughly where Paul Revere and the other riders took off from) at Drydock Number 1, and this is the oldest Comissioned US Navy Ship, the USS Constitution, ie Old Ironsides herself. As you can see, she is NOT open for tours at this time, darn it! Just my luck!

 Up on top of Breeds Hill, the site of the famous "Battle of Bunker Hill", June 17th, 1775. This is the monument to the brave souls who fought and died here after standing up to the British "regulars" (army) . Over 400 colonists were killed or injured, and over 1100 British shared the same fate. The British officially won the day and took the hill, but it was at GREAT cost as they lost almost half of their forces doing it, and the colonial Militia lost about a third. This was the first major skirmish of the Revolutionary war. That's me standing at the top of the stairs just to the right of the statue. We climbed to the top of the monument inside, via 284 circular stairs! There's a little room at the top with a small window on each side with awesome views!

 Looking back across the Charles River, by my head you can see the Old North Church sticking up through the trees (likely the trees weren't there back then).

 Here we are looking north over the Charles River at the Bunker Hill monument and Charles Town.

Our Friday evening dinner, at the Island Creek Oyster and Raw Bar. The seafood was FANTASTIC!!! However I totally forgot to take pictures of that. Jeannie had the Halibut, and I had Tautog (I'd never heard of it before, but trust me, it was DELICIOUS!) After dinner we wandered around and ended up having a few beers at Henesseys Irish Pub (voted the BEST Irish Pub in Boston 6 years in a row). Jeannie had Samuel Adams, but I had a wonderful DogFishHead Brown Ale!

And FINALLY! Saturday morning as we began our last day of wandering, there was a local Crit race right smack in the downtown! We watched a few laps as we moseyed along the fencing, and you can see the old Government building just behind the riders! The laps must have been pretty short as they came by every few minutes really flying! All in all we had a GREAT TIME here in Boston, and are already looking forward to coming back again one-day! As for now, we are packing up and getting ready to head to the airport for our redeye to Munich. 

This has been your mobile reporter, signing off from Boston!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Oktoberfest, here we come!

Yes....Jeannie and I are headed to Munich for Oktoberfest (among other things). We leave at O-dark-thirty Wednesday morning. We Fly from LAX to Boston and then will spend Thursday and Friday there, which we did to break-up the fight so we didn't have to fly all the way to Germany from Los Angeles in one long swoop (not even sure how long that would be in the air...15 hours or so I'd guess) coach. I'm hoping we get upgraded to at least Economy Plus on the overseas leg as we are flying United, and I'm Premier Gold frequent flyer w/ them. But you never know...IF we don't get upgraded it will be a long horrible flight. I think we're with Delta on the LAX to Boston flight...I have no miles with them so we will suffer in coach...but that's only about 5 hours and we'll survive.

We're both getting pretty excited about this's been a LONG time coming. Jeannie's twin brother John is coming with Peggy, and he will be our tour-guide as he's done Oktoberfest many times. Me, I don't speak any German other than Ya and Nein. I know Jeannie has a folder of stuff for us to do throughout, so we won't be just sitting around for me, for the most part I'm just going along as a tourist, doing whatever she wants to do.

In Boston I want to tour the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides)...that's about the only thing I have on MY to-do list. And I think Jeannie said she wants to walk the entire "Freedom Trail", and also we'll go have a beer in the original Cheers bar. If we had more time we'd get up to Salem for a day...but I doubt that will happen this trip.

Take care and stay cool! And for everybody EXCEPT California...stay dry. We do nothing but stay dry here sadly. They can start working on the water-pipeline from everywhere that's NOT California to here any time now...seems everybody but us has more water than they know what to do with.

OK. That's about it for now...I'll be posting updates as we go (I hope) as I'm bringing my laptop. I hope to have lots of pictures and stories.

Later gaters!