This weekend has been a welcome reprieve. No meetings. No PT. Nothing scheduled. The guidance has been to use this long Independence Day weekend to rest and recharge before we jump back into more training in the coming weeks.
My plans for the weekend were originally to go on an MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) trip but I found out it required a tourist passport and my official passport was not able to be used. Thankfully, one of my fellow Chaplains here invited me to tag along with him to the airport in Munich. His wife was flying in and he wanted an extra set of eyes to help navigate since driving through Germany is a bit different than driving through America (mostly due to signage and the language barrier). While at the airport, I made a quick stop at a restaurant and ordered a Bavarian breakfast. Well, I suppose it wasn’t a real Bavarian breakfast because I got water instead of beer which would have been the same price as the water. Ahh, the joys of being Southern Baptist in Germany.
After picking up his wife at the airport we made a trip out to the Dachau Concentration Camp which is not far from Munich. We ended up spending several hours there walking through the camp and the museum. Dachau is one of those places that most of us “know” in an intellectual way. We’ve read about it in history books. Maybe we watched “Schindler’s List” or a holocaust documentary. But to actually walk the grounds, stand in the buildings, and touch the walls and floors of the “shower” and crematorium makes the history feel much closer and much darker. In my mind when the intellectual history of reading and studying something come together with the “tactile” history of visiting the site, that combines to create a truly powerful experience.
Leaving there made me want to understand more about what could drive a man and a culture to such abhorrent acts. For me this means reading a book about Hitler. Not exactly light fare but after seeing Dachau it feels like a necessary step to better grasp the roots of the great evil perpetrated in that camp.
On the trip back from Dachau we stopped at a rastplatz off the autobahn. Think of it as an exit off an American freeway with food and fuel. The building where we ate had a Burger King on one side and a German coffee chain called Coffee Fellows on the other. I had my first minor mishap here due to my inability to speak German. I decided to get my food from Coffee Fellows even though it wouldn’t have the familiarity of ordering something from Burger King. I ordered a panini and a coffee and the lady taking my order pointed to the sign and, I assume, explained to me in German that I could get a combo! So, being a good American, I did. I ordered a combo with a coffee, sparkling apple drink, and a panini.
She brought me the apple drink and the panini and I sat down. Then she put out the coffee and I grabbed that and returned to my seat to enjoy my meal. Well, imagine my surprise when she begins to scold me (in German)! All I can do is stand there sheepishly and try to figure out why she keeping pointing at my coffee and then the picture on the sign. Apparently the combo came with coffee or a soft drink and not both. Unfortunately for me it was unclear from the picture. So I ended up taking the coffee from the order of the family behind me. Thankfully, the gentlemen who the coffee belonged to was very understanding and spoke English. So after apologizing profusely I paid for the coffee (which I wanted anyway) and went back to finish my lunch. And being in a European country like Germany which is known for delicious pastries I had to finish my lunch with a doughnut. Yes, it was amazing.
As I’m sure every single person on this RAF rotation can attest, being away from family and home is tough. Most of these folks have been here two months longer than I have. But outings like this offer the chance to see a bit of Germany, experience some history, make some minor mistakes ordering food, and ultimately enjoy food from a chain that doesn’t exist in America help ease some of the homesickness and provide some fun stories to share with the family back home.