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Thursday June 16, 2005

        Well, this is getting to be a very aggravating habit - I awoke at 6:30 AM and could not get back to sleep.  I felt I was tired but couldn't sleep.  Now I have had about two hours of sleep in the last 48 hours.  At some point I am going to just collapse.  Since we have used up our paid three nights here at the Kempinsky, we have to head south to Austria.  Since check out time is noon, I might as well get my run in here.  Marcia tells me she is committed to going to Dachau and I am too exhausted to go through the emotions of seeing that now.  I will see it in 2007 when we tour Germany.  Her father was there in WWII and she feels a need to see it.  So we see who won as usual.  Below is her story of her trip there by herself.

MARCIA'S STORY

Dachauer Strasse: The Road to Dachau

            It should have been easy to drive to Dachau, a suburb of Munich, and find the concentration camp.  Directions from the bellman at the hotel got me as far as Dachauer Strasse, and the GPS got me to the town.  But I wasn’t able to find the camp listed under “Historical Sites” on the GPS, and I was unsure how locals might react to questions about its location.  I need not have worried, though.  The waiter in the Biergarten, a jolly woman in the taxi rank at the train station, the cashier in a gas station were all pleasant and helpful.  The taxi driver even drew me a map on a Post-It note.

[Photo – sign at entry]

            The camp at Dachau is now a memorial to the millions who suffered and died in the Holocaust.  It is also a major tourist site, with thousands of visitors from all over the world.  Busses full of students and seniors fill the parking lot.  I took the short walk to the gate, in part along the original route all prisoners took from the trains, and passed through the gate with its wrought-iron motto:  “Arbeit Macht Frei” – loosely translated: “Work makes you free.”

 

                            [Photo – Building]                                                                [Photo - Gate]

            Dachau was the first concentration camp, and served as a model for all the others.  It was originally a small collection of buildings used for political prisoners, starting in 1933, when Hitler came to power.  It was later expanded to house 6,000 prisoners in 36 barracks.  By late 1944, it held thousands more.  Most of the buildings are gone now, leaving only foundations.  Two barracks were reconstructed.  The administrative area houses an excellent museum, and the prison, which was used for interrogations, torture and “special punishments” is still there.  Of course, the whole site was a prison, and the outer walls and guard towers remain.

            As the definition of “political prisoner” expanded, and other categories were added, such as handicapped people, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and undesirable ethnics (Jew, Gypsies and more), the camp system grew into a vast complex.  Many people were exterminated immediately, while millions more were used as slave labor (“death by work”).  A huge number of prisoners passed through Dachau to other camps.

            What can I say about Dachau that hasn’t already been said?  I won’t try to be your tour guide.  There are loads of resources if you’re interested in learning more about what happened there and why.

 

            Some of you are probably wondering why I went there.  In the last several years we have been to Munich five or six times, and I never had the courage before this.  As someone recently said to me: “You’re not Jewish.  Why do you want to go to Dachau?”  Of course I’m not Jewish, just a human being.  For many years I have had some interest in the Holocaust as an example of pure evil on an epic scale.  It involved millions of people, world leaders and ordinary citizens, victims and perpetrators, in a way that continues to affect the world.  This trip, though, was personal.

            My father, Wesley Wasgatt, was a doctor who served in the US Army during WWII.  He headed a medical company under Patton, and followed him across Europe after D-Day, setting up field hospitals.  Until recently this was the extent of my knowledge about Dad’s war experiences.  He was not inclined to reminisce about the past, and rarely mentioned the war.  Dad passed away 25 years ago, so I cannot ask him anything now.  Three or four years ago, I was visiting my mother in Maine.  She brought out some old photo albums I had never seen.  Mostly they held family pictures dating back to my parents’ childhoods.  One brown leather album with black pages was filled with photos Dad had taken in Europe in 1944-45.  There were pictures of men in Jeeps, tents pitched in a field, a distant view of Bob Hope entertaining the troops, with typed labels pasted under them.  About halfway through, I came upon a photo of a brick structure that looked like an oven.  But it didn’t seem right.  It was too large.  Maybe it was a commercial oven, such as a bakery might use.  There was no label.

            Curiosity became revulsion as I turned the page and learned that Dad had been to Dachau, some time after the liberation.

            This oven was one of several in a crematorium, where bodies of victims of the Holocaust were burned.

[Photo – oven]

            The next day, in a box on the floor of Dad’s closet, I found a poster he had made of his photos of Dachau, which he used when he gave a talk at the local Kiwanis Club after he returned home to Maine.  I also found his account of being ordered, on V-E Day, to take his unit into Austria to treat the survivors of a concentration camp in Gunskirchen.

            I’m still putting this story together.  I don’t know why Dad went to Dachau, whether he treated survivors there or not.  I don’t know what it was like for him, a small-town physician who treated whooping cough and delivered babies, to come upon thousands of starving, lice-ridden Hungarian Jews, sick to death with typhus and cholera.  At this point, all I can do is imagine it, and continue to search for answers.

Back to KJH:

        I decided to leave the computer in the room and ran to Marienplatz and this time took a right past the cathedral [photo left] and through the shopping district. 

         

          

        I passed the Saturn computer store so I circled back and went in to buy a PC card that will allow connecting any digital media chips from SD cards to Memory sticks.  It was really a kick hearing a fresh Limbaugh show while her in Europe - I can catch up on the latest news back home.  All the previous trips I had no idea what was happening at home - maybe that's a good thing.   I was able to transfer the Rush shows to the iPod but in the process somehow all the 20 albums of music I had on it were wiped out on both the computer and the iPod.  No way to fix it until I get home.  Good thing I have backups with some music on the PoGo player.  I got back to the hotel and Marcia was gone.  I changed and showered and packed the rest of my bags and called the porter to bring our 7 bags to storage.  The concierge was nice enough to help me book a room in downtown Innsbruck.  Now I could walk to the SF Coffee Co to get some work done.

        Things started out pretty well after purchasing the €2.90 internet card.  I got the website upload started, got to GoDaddy to purchase a domain name and got on AOL for email.  Then GoDaddy wouldn't accept my account # and password so I had to have them send it to me by email.  I went through the 15 minute process of purchasing and just at the point where I clicked the "Finish Transaction" the page disappeared, the website upload stopped and AOL said "Good-bye."  Nothing I or the staff could do to get it back on even though the computer was hooked to the internet.  The gal even gave me the code for a full day pass.  Finally she gave me my money back and I left there feeling I had accomplished absolutely nothing.  When I got back to the hotel Marcia was waiting in the lobby and had been there for an hour.  The trunk was packed and all our bags fit.  It was 4:30 so we set the GPS and left Munich and Germany and crossed into the mountains of Austria (Österreich) on a beautiful sunny day.  The scenery was incredible.

          

        While Marcia drove the 115 miles, I used the cell phone to make a reservation at Hotel Sirmione on Lago di Garda in Italy for tomorrow night.  This time we lucked out and got a room.  They still had me in their computer.

        We arrived in Innsbruck at 7:20 PM and checked in to the Hotel Goldener Adler (a Best Western) [Herzogfriedrichstrasse 6, +43-512-57-1111].

                                        From East                                                            From West

          

            Our room was a little cramped with little head room being on the top floor.  The view out the porthole window above the bed is breathtaking.  It shows the huge Tyrolean mountains that surround this little town.

     

            We left the hotel and walked around the plaza and found this new little cafe called Mariete Schindler which is named after the strawberry invented in eastern Austria that is great but doesn't survive shipping, so very few have heard of it.  The inventor named the berry after his wife.  We bought a jar of the jam as a gift for Dima and Tania.  Below are two photos done at the same time with the same camera at different settings.  Which is the better photo.  Click the "Write To Me" button at the bottom of the page if you have an opinion: A or B?

A B

            I have been anticipating eating the greatest Hungarian Goulash at the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) but after the plate arrived with dried out black beef covered with an over-fried egg along with what looked like a large grey matzo ball, I knew I was in trouble.

       

         

        I got in an argument with the waitress about what is true goulash and she is trying to convince me that this crap is "Tyrolean" goulash.  We compromised; I ordered the goulash soup which was better but nothing like what we have had in the past.  She tells me the cook is the same for the past 15 years and I can't believe it.  Zipfer bier is in my opinion Austria's best.  Marcia had a salad and Wiener schnitzel which was good.  We shared an apple strudel which was great.

        The hero in our hotel is the famous Andreas Hofer who saved Tirol from Bavaria and Napoleon.  He was born November 22, 1767 and executed by a Bavarian firing squad at Napoleon's request on February 20, 1810.  He was a Tyrolean innkeeper and patriot.  His efforts kept a large part of Austria free from becoming a part of Germany.  To the right is an Austrian stamp in his honor.  There are plaques about him inside and out because he used to stay here.   Interesting light fixture on the hallway.

            

Statue of Andreas Hofer near Bergisel in Innsbruck        Here is a stock photo of his statue in Innsbruck.

As we walked through the evening streets we found the real Goldene Dachle or golden roof (stock daytime photo, center) which was the original home of Friedrich IV built from 1420 to 1460.

Das Goldene Dachl

        Right across from the restaurant is this beautiful baroque building (below, left) called the Helblinghaus after Sebastian Helbling who had a cafè here.  It was built in the 15th Century and all the rococo was added 1730 (aerial stock photo below).

  Click Picture to enlarge      

        We walked back to the hotel and I had an espresso and Marcia had that fine Austrian wine.  We actually got back to the room and to bed at midnight.

KJH                                                                                        Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #5 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD

KHofferMD@AOL.comRETURN TO INDEX

Innsbruck, Austria

Sent 6-16-05

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