Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 14 & 15

Monday, July 29 and Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Today we left the hotel enroute to the bunkers of Dokumentation Obersalzberg. IMG_6900 This bunker complex was started in 1943.  It was an underground Fuehrer Headquarters in case the buildings above ground were destroyed or if the Obersalzberg should be taken over by the enemy.  The subsystems were connected by long corridors or staircases.  All of the important buildings were reachable.  The bunkers contained living, work, office, storage and technical space.  When the air raid by the British occurred in April, 1945 over Obersalzberg the bunkers were filled with many workers but no Third Reich officials.

We entered the Bunkers from the office on the side of the Hotel sum Türken.  The hotel is in use again.  It was taken from the owners in 1933 when Hitler moved in next door!  After the war, the owner’s daughter got it back and restored it because it was badly damaged during the bombing raid of 1945.

As we explored the bunkers there were so many ways to go it would be easy to get lost!  Luckily, the tunnels are well marked.

One of the tunnels leads to Hitler’s Bunker but the entrance is bricked up so you are unable to get into the Berghof’s Bunker.

Underground prisoner cells

The Berghof (Hitler’s home) was blown up in 1952 by the Bavarian government.

After our exploration of the bunkers, we went to the bus parking lot to switch to a special bus that took us up to Eagle’s Nest! IMG_6943 Before getting in the smaller bus to visit Eagle’s Nest we had lunch in Obersalzberg.

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Our restaurant for lunch, Berggasthof Obersalzberg

It was cloudy and foggy during our visit to Eagle’s Nest which to us seemed appropriate.  When you talk about Eagle’s Nest it refers just to the mountaintop chalet.  We walked through a tunnel to take the elevator up to the building.

The elevator up to Eagle’s Nest is made of polished brass.

Eagle’s Nest is now a restaurant. IMG_6999 In the dining room is a marble fireplace given to Hitler as a gift from Mussolini.

Hitler rarely visited here because he lived at the Berghof.  He didn’t like the elevator and he was scared of heights.  More pictures from inside Eagle’s Nest are below.

Even though is was cloudy when we were visiting Eagle’s Nest the views were still amazing!

After spending the afternoon at Eagle’s Nest, we headed back to Munich for our group’s farewell cocktails and dinner!  It was difficult saying goodbye to such a wonderful group of people!

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Our tour director, Catelyn, and our driver, Gabe, read the book of thanks that everyone wrote a note of gratitude to each of them!

Tuesday morning began with the first bus ride to the airport!  The hotel packed a to-go breakfast for us.

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My gluten free breakfast to go!

We had a late morning flight back to the U.S. from Munich to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Columbus.  Our flights were close to on time and no issues going through customs.  It was definitely a trip to remember and share with others.

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 13

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

Today began with a tour of the Dachau Concentration Camp.  It is located about 12 1/2 miles NW of Munich.  Dachau became the model for other camps that were built.  It is now a memorial site on the grounds of the former concentration camp.  This memorial site was established in 1965.

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The original entry gate.

The gate at the main entrance had the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” which translates as “Work Makes You Free”!

Dachau was also the training center for the SS where recruits were indoctrinated into a system that encouraged the torture, humiliation and killing of prisoners.

Dachau was built in 1933 as a concentration camp for political prisoners.  The camp had 32 barracks, one reserved for clergy and one reserved for the medical experiments.  Dachau was designed to hold 6,000 prisoners but by 1944 there were over 30,000 prisoners!  In the 12 years of its existence over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned there.  After only imprisoning political prisoners, it then held criminals, homosexuals, gypsies, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It was later that Jews were added.  At Dachau some prisoners were used as slave labor to manufacture weapons and other items for Germany’s war effort.  Also some prisoners were subjected to brutal medical experiments by the Nazis!  Theodor Eicke ran the camp after Sebastian Nefzger.  When Eicke took over he enforced a rule that any prisoner deemed guilty of rule breaking would be brutally beaten.  And if you tried to escape or shared your political views you were immediately executed!  Eicke’s regulations served as a blueprint for all of the other concentration camps.

We saw the cells, barracks and gas chamber.  Dachau has rebuilt two of the barracks.  The other barracks are indicated by concrete foundations.

The perimeter defense that was in place at Dachau is shown below.  The camp was surrounded by 7 watch towers, an electrified barb-wire fence, a ditch, and a wall.

In 1942, construction began on Barrack X, a crematorium that when finished housed 4 sizable ovens used to incinerate corpses.

Just before the camp was liberated the SS ordered about 7,000 prisoners to embark on a 6 day long death march to Tegernsee, Germany to the south.

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This sculpture symbolizes the Death March.

On April 29th, 1945 the American military entered the camp where they found 1,000s of emaciated prisoners.  They also found several dozen train cars filled with rotting corpses.  It was horrific and beyond words.

There are 4 chapels on the Dachau memorial site.  One is the Catholic Church of the Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel which was the first to be built.IMG_6860The second is the Protestant Church of Reconciliation and is set into the ground.IMG_6865The third was the Jewish Memorial.IMG_6863

The fourth and the newest is the Russian Orthodox Chapel.IMG_6896

After the war and the camp had been liberated, it was used from 1945-1948 as a prison for accused war criminals and SS members. Then in 1948 Daschau was used as a refugee camp until the mid-sixties.

Our lunch was in the Dachau Visitor’s Center and when we were finished we took our bus into Munich for our afternoon walking tour of the Third Reich.  Our tour started at the Hofbrahaus.

It is a very famous pub and has been at its current location since 1607.  In 1920 the German Nationalist Party was founded in the Hofbrahaus.  Most famously Hitler delivered his 25-point program.

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The room where Hitler gave his speech at the Hofbrahaus.

He threatened to strip the Jews of their civic rights and to set up a dictatorship.  Thirteen years later these plans became a sad reality.

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Medieval clock tower in Munich.

Our walking tour continued on with our guide Kurt who also was our guide at Dachau.

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Our guide Kurt.

He was covering the history of Munich in relation to the birthplace of Nazism!

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Equestrian statue of Maximilian Churfuerst Von Bayern in Wittelsbacherplatz Square.

The square below is dedicated to those that died at the hands of the Nazis.  The eternal flame is in a block-like cage atop four T’s.

Königsplatz square was used for the Nazi party’s mass rallies. Below is the Propyläen, which is the city gate on the west side of the Königsplatz.

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Propyläen, Munich’s city gate
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A newer museum in Munich that is about the history of Nazism.

There are still signs of Nazism on some buildings.  The eagle is one of them.  We also saw some swastikas in ceiling patterns.

Below, the captions tell you about these photos from our walking tour.

The Feldherrnhalle was commissioned in 1841 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria and was modeled after the loggia in Florence, Italy.  In 1923 it was the site of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch which was a very brief battle.  When the Nazi’s were in power in Munich it was also a monument commemorating 16 Nazi party members that died because of this battle.

Just remember beer drinkers, Munich is the beer city of the world! We had dinner at the Weisses Brauhaus in the heart of Munich. Many of our group enjoyed trying the different beers!

A few more photos from our time in Munich!

It was another day of different emotions.  Spending the morning at Dachau and then the afternoon seeing Hitler’s haunts and the power the Nazi party held in Munich was entirely different set of emotions.

We returned to our hotel and several of us discussed the day and our experiences.

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 12

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

We were on the bus by 7:30 because we were heading to Munich, Germany.  Our first stop today was the Luxembourg American Cemetery located in the country of Luxembourg.

Over 5,000 are buried here and about 100 of these are unknown soldiers.  The only woman buried here is Nancy Leo, a nurse, her sister also served as a nurse during WWII.  Nancy was killed when her jeep overturned on her way to Paris to visit her sister!

Below are some pictures of the cemetery.

Also buried here is General Patton.  In the spring of 1947 his grave marker was moved from Plot EE to the front so to save the ground and those buried around him.IMG_6771

Before we left the cemetery the veterans in our group and another tour group did a wreath laying ceremony outside the memorial chapel.  Below are pictures from the chapel inside and out.

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Today’s weather is much cooler and rainy.  The first precipitation that we’ve had!  We certainly welcomed the cooler temperatures.

On to Munich we go!  Our tour director played an anti-Nazi propaganda cartoon made by Disney and was about Hitler!

Our arrival to the hotel, H4 Hotel Munich Messe, was around 6:30 PM and our dinner was at the hotel.  We were glad to have a room with air conditioning after three days of oppressive heat and no air at our hotel.

  • After dinner we had a great time at the bar with others from our group!  After riding on the bus all day it was nice to relax. The bar had these 4 projector screens that had 4 different band and/or singers playing music.  It entertained us all!IMG_7716

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 11

Friday, July 26th, 2019

We were on the bus to go spend the day in and around Bastogne.  Below are pictures from the main square in Bastogne which is also called McAuliffe Square.  This square honors General McAuliffe who commanded the 101st Airborne.  The tank on display is  an American Sherman tank and is next to a bust of McAuliffe.

We picked up our guide, Bruno, who is an active duty Belgium soldier.  IMG_4514Our first stop was the Bastogne Barracks.

We went into the Liberty Hall.  In the hall we sat and Bruno explained what was happening and where the German Line was and the US troops locations.  The Germans had surrounded Bastogne.  General McAuliffe was the acting commander of the 101st Airborne and he along with his division arrived in Bastogne on December 19th, 1944.  Gen. McAuliffe’s headquarters was here at the Bastogne Barracks.  He set up his headquarters in the 2nd Lieutenant barracks Heintz.

General McAuliffe became well known for his answer of  “NUTS” when the Germans asked him to surrender on December 22, 1944 because the Germans had the town surrounded.

The headquarters of the 101st Airborne was turned into a museum in 2010.  They have restored part of the barracks.  It is full of exhibits and a vast collection of materials/weapons etc… used in WWII.  The “NUTS” basement shows the office where the General spoke the now famous word “NUTS”!  After the Normandy invasion, the Germans made one last major offensive to conquer Antwerp.  There was a heavy attack by the Germans that pushed the Allied line back!  On December 21st the Germans had encircled Bastogne.  It was an American air raid that freed the surrounded Americans.

We saw the infamous Christmas letter and a copy of this letter was framed and given to the veterans in our group.IMG_4553

Our guide took us to their other display rooms.  We saw the Message Room, the Ops Room, Veterans Room, the Dining Room where the officers had their Christmas meal, and the “Sad Sack Grub” Room.

They also had quite a few authentic relics.  One was part of a glider.

And the highlight for some in our group was The Vehicle Restoration Center!  This is filled with military armoured vehicles.  Some weren’t in the building because they were being used for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge and D-Day.

On our way to visit the foxholes left from the 101st Airborne or Easy Company, our bus stopped so we could visit the memorial to the 506th of the 101st Airborne Division.

You can find the 101st’s foxholes from Bizory to Foy.  Easy Company fought here from December, 1944 until January, 1945, against the German forces in Foy, Belgium.  The foxholes are well-preserved and accessible.  We visited some of these.  We were in the woods and looking out toward Foy.

After returning to the city center of Bastogne, we said goodbye to our guide Bruno and walked over to our restaurant, Léo, for a delicious lunch.  IMG_4673Many tried the Airborne Beer with their food.

The restaurant also sold bottles with a label that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.IMG_4675

We had free time until we were to visit the Bastogne War Museum.  We enjoyed our time walking around town and visited the Belgian Chocolate Shop.  The chocolate we tried was delicious! IMG_4685 We also did a lot of “window shopping” and walking around the town!

The picture below and on the left shows the original photo of General Bradley, General Eisenhower and General Patton surveying the destruction of Bastogne and the picture on the right shows the same spot today!

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WWII pictures in Bastogne’s City Hall.

The Bastogne War Museum explains the events that lead up to WWII and throughout.  You follow 4 ordinary people caught in this conflict and you get their stories from their perspective and see how their stories interconnect during the war. They are fictional characters but are based on facts! It was a Belgian boy, a young Belgian woman teacher, a German WWII officer, and an American paratrooper from the 101st.  It is an interactive museum with many WWII relics.  We had two hours to visit and could have used at least an other half hour to hour.  The museum has 3 immersive shows that help explain the story of Bastogne and its inhabitants during the winter.  The four characters tell their story throughout and they each have their own version of the war.

The Mardasson Memorial sits on a hill called Mardasson.  It was dedicated in July, 1950 with 10,000 attending including General McAuliffe.  This memorial was designed to honor 76,890 American soldiers killed, wounded or missing during the Battle of the Bulge.  It is a 5-pointed star shape and is a tribute to the American soldiers by the Belgians.  We didn’t have time to explore it or go to the top and look out over the area.

Dinner was at the same restaurant where we had lunch.  Our dinner was a hamburger, frites, salad and sorbet with fresh fruit.  Our tour director felt that a hamburger would be a good choice because Belgium has really good beef.

It was another full day of learning more about the Battle of the Bulge and exploring this historic area!

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 10

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

This morning we picked up our guide in the center of the town of Bastogne.  We will be learning about the Battle of the Bulge or also known as the Ardennes Offensive.  It is called a Bulge because the Germans have a bump or bulge around the Ardennes forest in pushing through the American line!

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The view as you drive into Bastogne.

Henri, who is 85 years old and was 9 years old when the Battle of the Bulge occurred.

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Our guide Henri!

He watched the Battle from his home on the family farm until it was destroyed.  The family never rebuilt the home.

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On the hill was where Henri’s home once stood.

He moved in with his grandparents and his father was killed during the war.  He is extremely knowledgeable about the Battle of the Bulge!

Today was focused on the Northern Arc of the Battle of the Bulge.  We stopped at the 82nd Airborne memorial at Liege, Belgium.  It was surrounded by rolling fields and pastures.  This also is another area where our Dad was located.

We stopped and saw a Sherman tank used by the U.S. in Vith, Belgium.  The town of Vith was destroyed during the war and was rebuilt and redesigned after the war.

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M4A1 Sherman tank of the 7th Armored Division at Vielsalm. This tank is placed along the roadside.
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Picture of St. Vith after bombings!

We saw a monument in honor of the 106th Infantry of the Army who fought in the Ardennes forest.  This monument is in front of the St. Vith School.IMG_6607

One of the women on our tour, her father was part of the I&R (Intelligence and Reconnaissance) Platoon and fought in the Battle for Lanzerath.  Her father and his small platoon was captured by the Germans.

There also is a memorial to the 82nd Airborne in Lanzerath.

Our next stop was crossing into Germany to see the Siegfried Line which extended from Holland to Switzerland.  We walked along a cow pasture and into the woods.

Along the pasture and into the woods we could see the dragon teeth along the line.  These were placed as obstacles for tanks, trucks, etc… In the woods is a memorial to the 99th U.S. Infantry Division.  The German forts that were along the Siegfried Line were destroyed after the war.  This line was commissioned by the German government as a lead up to the war.  The line included trenches, barbed wire, the line included 22,000 bunkers and pillboxes, and forts.

We went back into Belgium to visit the twin villages where the Germans attempted to advance during the Battle of the Bulge.

A memorial to the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division is situated near the church of Krinkett.  Also a memorial to the 99th Infantry Division, which were called the “Battle Babies” because they were very green (little battle experience).

We drove around a roundabout a couple of times in Butgenbach-Bullingen to see the memorial in the center which is for the 1st Infantry Division.

Lunch was at La Faitafondue in Waimes, Belgium.  It is a fondue restaurant.  We had a delicious salad bar, Belgian Frites (french fries), and cooked our own meat (chicken, pork, and beef).  For dessert we were served homemade Belgian ice cream:  chocolate and vanilla.  This restaurant changes its decor once a year.  This year the theme was Pirates of the Caribbean.

After lunch, in Malmedy, we stopped at the Memorial of Baugnez.  The U.S. soldiers who were prisoners here were gunned down by the Nazis, December 17, 1944.

Another memorial to these soldiers is near by.

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Next to the memorial is the Hotel du Moulin.  There is a story written by John Toland, Saturday 29, April, 2006 entitled:  “The Brave Innkeeper of ‘The Battle of the Bulge'”.  This article was printed in the Coronet magazine in December, 1959.  It describes how the innkeeper helped to save the lives of some American prisoners.

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Next we saw a German Tiger II tank.  It is the most famous tank of WWII.  It had a devastating 88 millimeter gun.

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This is one of the many memorials that is around the area of the Battle of the Bulge.

Henri had us make a stop in Chenoux at the monument for the 82nd Airborne.  Dad was also in this area treating the injured.

We also saw the monument at the 82nd Airborne’s Headquarters during the Battle of the Bulge.  They used all of the homes around the square.

A Panther AUSF-G a German tank is a medium tank deployed during WWII on the Eastern and Western Front.  The one below was left by the retreating 2nd SS Panzer Division.  It was out of fuel and abandoned in a field.  The Village of Grandmenil has it as a monument to remember the events of December, 1944 that occurred here.

It was a very warm day with temperatures over 105 degrees.  Our entire group was exhausted from another emotional and busy day.  We returned to our hotel to freshen up and have dinner but it was difficult to do because of the heat and no air conditioning.  Our group made the best of it!

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 9

Wednesday, July 24th, 2009

We left this morning at 8:30 AM and are traveling to Belgium.  This was definitely a day of riding on the bus!

We stopped at 10:15 AM for a rest stop and are still in France.  On the bus, the movie The Longest Day was shown.

Around noon we stopped for lunch at a rest plaza then we were back on the road!

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My interesting Gluten free salad.

We left France and entered Belgium about 3:30 PM.  We had a couple of traffic slow downs due to construction.

Catelyn, our tour director, shared some interesting facts about Belgium.  A few that we remember were-

  • 1,100 different beers made in Belgium with an 8-10 % alcohol content
  • Belgium is known for its chocolate, Godiva is one of the makers in the country
  • There are different types of Belgian waffles
  • French fries can be traced back to Belgium.  The American soldiers during WWI thought they were in France when they called these frites French fries because they were in the French speaking area of Belgium
  • There are 3 official languages in Belgium: Flemish (Dutch), French, and German
  • You can also hear Luxembourgish spoken in the Belgian province called Luxembourg (which borders the country of Luxembourg)
  • Belgium is within the European Union so there is no border/passport control

Our first rest stop in Belgium and our first time to pay to use the toilet.  It cost 70¢.

We arrived at our hotel around 6 PM.  Our hotel is the Vayamundo Hotel and is located in the town of Houffalize, Belgium in the Ardennes forest.

We are staying here for 3 nights and our weather is to be even warmer tomorrow, a high of 105º.  Also, no air conditioning or any fans.  It was difficult to sleep.

The picture below is looking down on the town of Houffalize, Belgium.

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Houffalize has been rebuilt since all of the Allied bombing during the Battle of the Bulge.  It was important to the Allies to cut off the Germans getting supplies and fuel because the bridges here still remained.  The pictures after the bombings show that there wasn’t much left of the town.  189 civilians from Houffalize were killed during the Allied bombing!

REFLECTIONS– As we traveled and explored the Normandy area, it amazed me how the French in this area have embraced what happened here and fly not only their flags but those of the Allies that helped to liberate them.

With this year being the 75th anniversary of D-Day, new memorials and memorial gardens, banners, etc… have been added.

It was quite moving to walk on the beaches the WWII soldiers were on and all the lives that were lost during the invasion and throughout the war.

Band of Brothers Tour Day 8

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Our first stop today was Sword Beach.  The British objective here was to capture the port city of Caen.

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some of the town of Caen in the background