This winter my dad, a Colonel in the army, had to take a business trip to Germany, so we turned it into a family vacation. We have a close family friend that lives in Kaiserslautern, and he offered to drive us around. The first sight seeing trip we took was to Trier to visit the Black Gate, the only standing Roman gate after Emperor Napoleon marched through Germany.
The most emotional experience was when we drove to a nearby ex-concentration camp. Hinzert, a Nazi camp was extremely hard to find, at first it didn’t even register on the GPS. We drove forty minutes and then almost past it because the sign that announced it was so small. There was a museum with information on the camp, and a chapel with pictures and flowers in the memory of those that died. The two most moving, and heartbreaking features were the housing and the graves. The barracks and other buildings had been torn down and burned to hide evidence. The only thing that was left was the field where they used to be. The second was the 217 ceremonial gravestones, the small stone crosses that couldn’t begin to compensate for the hundreds of others that were lost. It was good to know that those times are past, and we can move forward.
On our third day in Germany we went to visit one of the most famous castles in Germany, and no it was not Neuschwantstein, it was Heidelberg. The hike up to the castle is beautiful, but really long and it has a 43 percent gradient slope. We walked a round through multiple rooms and balconies, and you can just picture balls and family gatherings being held there; we even saw the famous giant wine barrel. It is twenty-seven feet long and twenty-four feet high, it can hold over 55,000 gallons of wine. When we descended from the castle we crossed the bridge over the River Neckar, on the west end of the bridge there is a sculpture of a brass monkey. This monkey, one has always been in Heidelberg since the 15th century, is said to have magical powers. He holds a mirror in one hand and holds out the fingers of the other, to his right sit two mice. The legend says that if you touch the mirror then you will someday return to Heidelberg, touching his fingers ensures wealth, and touching the mice ensures fertility. My brother even stuck his head in the head of the monkey to take a silly photo.
The most frightening but memorable thing about the trip was our last day in Cologne. We decided last minute to see the Cologne cathedral, and it was as spectacular as everyone said. It had a very old style of gothic to it, with creepy statues and hooked spires. We bought tickets and climbed the 533 steps to the top, which was the scary part! My worst fear is of heights, and the only thing that was keeping me from falling off the church was a metal chain link cage. The only thing that scared me more was climbing up and down the stairs. They were the original stone stairs that have been in use since the church was built, which means they were all worn down with almost 200 years of use! It was the most memorable trip my family and I have taken, I just hope that we could go back to visit in a few years!
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