Traveling is learning. For me, I aim to soak in not only the main sights, but also the sounds, the architecture, the local cuisine, the language, the history and well to learn something about the country I visited that I didn’t know or had forgotten before I left home.
On my recent trip to Germany and Austria, I came home with not only new factoids, but an experience that reinforced and expanded upon the history lessons of my elementary years. What did I learn?
- Germany has both a Prime Minister and President. We actually saw the President in Munich(didn’t know exactly who he was at the time, but when everyone lined up on the streets, including myself and began waving to a man in a car with a flag on it, we assumed it must be some VIP.) I Googled “Germany President” the next day and and learned that the “old grey-haired guy” we saw was indeed the President. He is elected by the people, but is more a head of state figure rather than a political one.
- The term “von” is one of nobility. Once upon a time the Von Trapps were nobility, but when nobility died in Austria, so did their “von” title. The folks in Austria just refer to them as “The Trapps.”
- “Mad” Ludwig’s castle, Neuschwanstein, was a tribute to Richard Wagner and an inspiration to Walt Disney. Ludwig ordered it to be torn down upon his death, but instead a week after his death it was opened to the public.
- Bavaria is the only region in Germany where you can walk in the streets with a beer. Yeah to Bavaria.
- Dachau is actually a little town, not just the site of the original concentration camp. After the camp’s liberation, Dachau residents were ordered to visit the camp to see the horrific atrocities which were occurring just a few miles from town center.
- There was a complex caste system in the concentration camps based on your occupation, race, and sexuality just to name a few.
- Christopher Plummer’s voice was dubbed by Bill Lee in The Sound of Music. (Can’t believe I didn’t know this one!)
- German words I picked up: Danke (Thanks), Kasse (Cash) , Kaffe (Coffee). It seems their K is our C.
- Edleweiss is a flower in the Austrian mountains.
- A Chevy in Germany has the status symbol of a Mercedes in the States.