Sorry, the story is longer than I wanted it to be.

We took this vacation a couple of years ago.

One Week in Berchtesgaden

              We arrived at the Munich Airport at about 11 A.M. Friday morning picked up our rental car and started toward Berchtesgaden. The weather was beautiful and so was the scenery. We stopped at the Autobahn restaurant for a bite to eat and were surprised by the selection of food. The place was spotless clean and so were the umbrella-sheltered tables outside and the areas around them. The picture-postcard view enhanced the experience. After all, this was good old Germany, we felt at home.

              After a couple more hours of driving, we found ourselves in front of the "Ferienhaus Waldheim" (home in the forest) our home for the next week. And what a beautiful chalet it was, Geraniums spilling over the flower boxes hanging on carved balconies, surrounding the three story building. The front presented itself with an arched entry way decked out with painted tiles. The side of the house was painted, and the garage doors were held up by heavy, decorative wrought iron hinges.

              But all this did not compare with the spectacular view we had of the "Watzman" a granite mountain, its peaks covered with snow, reaching into the endless blue sky. Towering pine trees to the left of us, meadows full of wild flowers below, the call of a Cuckoo in the distance, a couple of cows grazing, and we could hear the dull sound of the bells, strapped around their necks.

       I felt a lump in my throat and had to swallow a couple of times. Our apartment in the third story consisted of two good-sized bedrooms, a full kitchen, a sitting room with a corner bench, a bathroom and a long balcony with table and chairs. All of it was very tastefully furnished in a Bavarian style. The table was covered with a linen table cloth and a vase with daises and grasses was placed in the center.

        In the afternoon my husband, Walter, and I went grocery shopping. We expected our son and his young wife to arrive the next day. It was the first trip to Europe for Barbara and they had decided to go to the Lake country in Northern Italy, but the first night they were going to stay with us. We looked forward to having them and hoped for the weather to remain steady.

All went well; our son found us, my husband could not believe it. He still thinks of his son, who is 34 years old and 6foot 4 inches tall, as his little boy, who needs dad to give him direction

Yet, we had another surprise coming. Walter had E-mailed his brother about our visit to Berchtesgaden. In the afternoon, while the young couple slept, Walter went down stairs. He almost suffered a heart attack, for his brother, with his wife were sitting on a log in front of the house. They too had decided to spend a week in Berchtesgaden, so all of us could hike together ect..

        This was a pleasant surprise also for our son who had not seen his uncle for years.

We all got somewhat dressed up, and Walter, exited and happy about the circumstances, invited everyone to dinner in a restaurant, overlooking the town of Berchtesgaden.

We ate inside, for a thunder storm interrupted the diners outside.All of us had a great time, including Barbara, whom we translated for. It was great to be alive.

         The next morning, and every morning after that, we found a small sack hanging on the door knob outside the door, embroidered with the words "Our daily bread" containing a variety of fresh rolls. This was such a nice surprise. After breakfast all of us went up the Jenner Mountain, another peak in the Alpine mountain chain. We did not hike but took the gondola, two people to a gondola. Again, the weather could not have been better. The trip up took about a half an hour. The views were grand. Dad was taking movies of everything, including Ray and Barbara who were in the next gondola following us. We saw the hikers on the trails bellow us, the Enzian seemed within reach, and in the distance appeared the Koenigssee. (Kings Lake)      What a glorious sight.

After getting off the gondola, all of us hiked to the cross at the top of the mountain. There were still snow patches everywhere, creating little waterfalls. We awed and owed and talked and laughed and finally went down again. We showed Barbara and Ray the village of Berchtesgaden, the churches, the painted houses with their overhanging roofs the quaint stores and not to forget the bakeries with their elaborate wrought iron, gelded signs. Our son treated us to a Banana split. We went home, wrapped some food for the young couple and send them on their way.

Walter and I sat on the balcony tried to read, but could not keep our eyes off the Watzman.

In the evening we met Werner and Fia for dinner in town. The next day, we were going to hike the Almbach Clam, but Walter had hid his toe on the suitcase. It was black and blue, which took care of the hike for us that day. Instead, we took a tour to the Eagle's Nest, Hitlers retreat. One could only get there by bus. The road up there was built in 13 months, which seemed quite an accomplishment considering the rugged terrain. One must admit, he had good taste, for the view from the mountain top was again spectacular. The place was very crowded and we decided to come down after an hour or so. The solid brass elevator, which holds 48 people at a time, and was build in 1938, took us down in a minute to the platform, where we would catch the bus to bring us into town.

              At dinner, Werner and Fia told us all about the hike they had taken and insisted that we too must go the Almbach Clam.

The next day Walter's toe felt better, and we decided to go on this highly recommended hike. We started out at 9:45 a.m. It looked like rain and we took a jacked. We paid our admission at the Kugelmuehle, which was a water powered mill wheel smoothening boulders the size of 4 to 8 inches and turning them into round, decorative balls.

              We started our climb beside the creek. Soon the creek turned into a wild river. The gorge became narrower and so did the trail. The water came down with great force pounding the rocks on all sides creating a deafening noise as it was making its way down the mountain. Waterfalls everywhere; rare flowers growing on the edge; pine trees along with beach wood, oak, maple and birch standing side by side; some of them, their roots exposed, yet, all of them reaching for the sky. Cliffs hanging over the trail making us stoop in passing; narrow bridges criss-crossing the ravine and the white water bellow us while we were climbing up, holding on to the rope placed along the side. Finally, we came to the spot where Werner had told us to turn right. We had to pass through a small tunnel, and than the hike would become easier, or so we hoped. We left the river behind and now had a chance to chat with some of the hikers we had seen on the way up. Well, we learned that the trail was getting steeper. Steps, at times created naturally by roots or rocks, sometimes cut into the mountain side by men, all of them going up. We were huffing and puffing and realized, we were not in as good a shape as we had always believed. Every now and then we rested, while other hikers were passing us by, at times it was the other way around, we were passing them, while they rested. We were sweating, water running down our back. After about 3 hours of agony and the experience of natural wonder, we made it to the top.

What did we see; a friendly looking chapel next to a friendly looking restaurant. We entered the restaurant first. Walter having his beer, and I had a tall glass of cold buttermilk. Some of the hikers had already arrived, others came straggling in, but all of them made it.

              Walter and I went inside the chapel to say "thanks" and admire the artwork and flowers gracing the altar. The chapel was called "Ettenberg". We had another hour to go down to the parking lot.

              We were tired, sweaty but so happy for having had the experience of the Almbach Clam.

At dinnertime, we made spaghetti and a salad, Werner and Fia knew how we felt. We had a good laugh and spend a nice evening together looking at the Watzman.

              The next day was Corpus Christy day, a holiday in Bavaria. A celebration of the mass takes place out doors, with a procession through the town, to follow.

              We made it a point of going to church early to see the village people arrive in their native Bavarian attire. We were not disappointed; people arrived from all directions, young couples with children, old people being supported by their cane or by a younger person, natives and tourists alike, all of them in their Sunday best. The Alter was placed in front of the church in the market square, decorated with all kinds of flowers. Banners were flying from the steeples; the members of the brass band, all in their native costumes were getting their instruments ready; flag carriers of the different crafts and guilds, some dressed as miners, with plumed hats, some as carpenters, wearing leather aprons, some as masons, carrying their tools with them, all dressed up, bringing their very old, well preserved flags near the alter.

              Six young ladies, wearing exceptional festive dresses, braids wrapped around their heads, carried a statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders. The statue was at least three feet tall, the base was decorated with Lilac, Phonies, Daises and other flowers. The choir was getting ready, and at 8:15 Mass started with gun salutes from the mountain top, the choir started to sing, accompanied by the brass band, the church bells rang and people bowed their heads in prayer.     This was the second time I felt a lump in my throat.

After mass, the procession started. There must have been a thousand people taking part, all very orderly in groups, old and young, nuns and priests, young men and young women, different clubs atc., and, of course, the priest carrying the blessed sacrament through the streets of Berchtesgaden.

              I joint the procession while my husband, standing on scaffoldings, took pictures. We walked for about an hour, singing, praying and admiring the little altars people had placed in their door way. Returning to the main alter in the market square in front of the church, we again were greeted by gun salute, the church bells were ringing, the brass band played and every one sang with full voices: "Holy God we praise they name." The celebration was over. We went home to our apartment, paid our bill received a bottle of wine from the host, said good bye and drove north to visit relatives. I left with a feeling of gratitude, grateful for the country of my birth, grateful for the culture it has given me and the strength it still provides. God blessed America, but God also loves Germany. I will do anything to pass this wealth on to my children.

Maria Brand

What else is new?  The Turner Movement, German American Studies, The evolution of a Discipline, Letter from Toronto, 1986, twenty years later still valid. Speech by Congressman Caroll Reece of Tennessee regarding the expulsion of the German people from Eastern Europe, May 16, 1957. Moses Schallenberger,18, spent winter of 1844 at Donner Lake in the Sierra, Schallenberger Margaret, daughter of Moses, Music Scene in the USA, 1883, Seubert Alphons, A German American who made a difference, Kindergebete, What Grandma said about being idle. Der Mai ist gekommen, translated, Die linden Luefte sind erwacht, Hab oft im Kreise der Lieben. This is plenty for the month of May. I hope the weather is nice where ever you are.

Enjoy, all the best to all of you.

Sincerely - Maria