little flower

“He does not come down from Heaven each day to stay in the gold ciborium.
He comes down to find another Heaven He cherishes infinitely more than the
first, the Heaven of our souls, made in His image,
living temples of the Most Blessed Trinity!”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 31
Meditations with the Little Flower


(the blooming quince, a sign Spring is nigh / Julie Cook / 2018

“If a little flower could speak,
it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it,
without hiding any of its gifts.
It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty,
or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals,
or the storm bruised its stem,
if it knew that such were not the case.”

― Thérèse de Lisieux

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

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(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Sunny days

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
C. S. Lewis

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(a fiery zinnia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Festively dazzling
Both fiery and bight
The sun’s brilliant performance
Both awes and delights

Miserably hot
And desperately dry
We look for relief
But no clouds in the sky

Radiantly beaming
She cooks and she bakes
With wicked hot rays
As she gives and she takes

Relentlessly strong
For relief we all prayed
As the sun beat down
We scrambled for shade

Delightfully relieved
As the sun finally rests
Yet the evening now yields
A myriad of tiny bloodsucking pests. . .

A Noble Treason

“….only religion can reawaken Europe and restore Christianity to its earthly mission as patron and founder of world peace.”
Novalis

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(a white rose in the garden /Julie Cook / 2013)

Merriam Webster defines treason as:
the betrayal of a trust : treachery
the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or
the sovereign’s family.

Noble is defined as:
possessing, characterized by, or arising from
superiority of mind or character of ideals or morals.

Putting the two together produces something akin to an oxymoron.
Killing, betrayal, overthrowing, injuring all coupled with high character and
superior morals.
Certainly sounds like a conflict to me–
a clashing of two vastly different thoughts of mind and/or philosophies….
and yet, each were inextricably linked and exemplified during a terribly
grave time of madness.

Yes, I’ve posted images of white roses before,…not this particular image however.
And yes, I’ve written a specific post on the White Rose revolt and Sophie Scholl…
even briefly addressing it in an additional post…and yet, here I am again.
A flummoxing situation has arisen as I find myself in a quandary.

I just finished the book today…
A Nobel Treason–The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler.

I know what you’re thinking, “Julie, how long have you been reading that book…
it’s been since May hasn’t it?”
Yes, it has been a very long read.
Not because it is a voluminous tome, not because my life is so consumed that
I can’t find the time…
simply put it has not been an easy read.
The story has been such that I have had to put the book down,
sometimes for weeks on end.

I’m not here to give a book review as that is not my purpose for this post.
My intent is, however, to continue the story of these young people,
to continue placing them, their lives,
their act of passive resistance in the forefront of our minds,
lest we forget.
Hence my quandary…
I can’t keep quiet and not share….
for the final word of the book was to “remember me”….
and remember we shall.

I know what you’re thinking, that all of this is of the past,
why do we have to revisit something so terrible?
Can’t we just let it go?
As none of us really like thinking about any of this.
A casual response might be that “I don’t know these kids, never heard of them…
who cares….?”

I have said this time and time again—
if we forget the past, if we let it go as it were,
we are bound to fall into some bad old ways.
And whereas it won’t be exactly like it was—we won’t, I don’t think,
allow for another Hitler, another Holocaust,
but there are places on this globe that may beg to differ.
There are other names for such…ethnic cleansing or genocide,
ask Bosnia-Herzegovina, ask the Kurds in Iraq,
ask the Rwandans, those in Darfour…the list goes on.

It all still continues…it’s just that it happens under different names and in
different places.
Time and distance does not make it right, does not make it go away…
But this country of mine seems more concerned and consumed with the latest Hollywood starlet’s demise, Queen O and her handbag flack in Zurich as well as
stories about some idiot politician and his bad boy behavior.
Sometimes I sadly wonder where the moral hutzpah of this nation has gone.

Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were college kids who
could no longer tolerate the cultural and dehumanizing demise of their once
culturally and academically rich historic nation.

Theirs was a literary sort of resistance as they produced leaflets for distribution denouncing The Third Reich.
No violence,
no overt opposition as they had each served their time in the Hitler Youth Program.

It was just to be the power of the written word coupled by the desire that the
World know that there were those who still remained in Germany who still
possessed a moral consciousness as well as a civility that had otherwise vanished
in the wake of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich and National Socialism.

Before it was all over, 6 of their group, all of them young college kids plus a noted professor, would be lead to a guillotine—
14 others sent to various prisons and concentration camps.
The spinoff branches, which had taken hold throughout Germany,
were also then rounded up and either executed or imprisoned.
The Gestapo was working over time to silence a mere handful of dissident youth.
Why and how could a group of young people living in the small town of Ulm cause
such alarm and fear within the upper ranks of the Gestapo and Nazi Party by their
quiet distribution of mere pamphlets…
such that the dreaded and powerful Heinrich Himmler himself took personal
command of the situation and of the ultimate sentencing.

When arrested they all took full responsibility for their actions never
capitulating never recanting.
There was a calmness in the face of certain death.

A single word comes to mind….
Brave.

Could I walk calmly to have my head chopped off?
Could I bear all responsibility, trying to deflect potential harm from my
friends and family?
Could I remain brave or would I be of the status quo afraid of the reprisals?
Could I still hold to my convictions while facing the possibility of
tortures, when those I trusted turned on me, pretended not to know me?
Could I remain brave seeing the tears and sorrow in the face of my parents
as they said good-bye one final time……

I have never been able to wrap my brain around Hitler, the Nazis,
or of the German people who fell under the spell…
how could a once proud country of northern Europeans,
whose nation, though its millennium of rich history,
which had given so much to the world in the way of literature, art and music,
be capable or such barbarism?
How could they have allowed it to grow into such a monstrous level of hate and death
while doing little or nothing to stop it….
going as far as even agreeing with it?

I find it nearly impossible understanding the unthinkable death camps and of
the horrific things a few humans would inflict on other humans,
using those deemed “less than” as lab rats for all sort of heinous acts…
As there were the ovens and the chambers…

But of course that was then and this is now….
why do I torture my mind by pondering such…

Because none of those 6 million plus individuals died in vain,
And just because it is a staggering number that is so overwhelming…
almost impossible to comprehend,
Nor should we forget the millions left dead on the various battlefields
before the war was all said and done.

We remember the women paraded to the “showers” who were stripped naked while
walking past sneering and heckling guards…

These were wives, mothers, sister, daughters….

There were the children torn from the arms of parents.

How do we now comprehend humans being so unfeeling and disconnected
from other humans?

And yet, it continues today…simply in a different guise and in different
part of the world.

But the question should be asked, are there groups of young dissidents
today such as Sophie, Hans and Christoph and if so, where then?
I don’t know.

At first these were Germans against Germans.
It seemingly starts insidiously then grows to an almost triumphant crescendo,
when the world first takes notice, with Kristallnacht,
the night of the shattering glass.
Germans killing fellow Germans because of their religion…
destroying lives, businesses, and unbeknownst, destroying themselves.

I thankfully will never know what it was like to live in a Germany destroyed by
a previous world war.
I have not lived through a great depression nor of a war fought on my own soil.
I do not personally know what those sorts of things do to people.

One of the most poignant parts of the book retells the story of the hurried up
monkey trial for Sophie, Hans and Christoph–
from the time of their arrest to the trial and of the ultimate beheading,
it was less than a week—
unheard of today as these sorts of things could take months to sort out.

Their parents had learned on a friday of their children’s arrest.
On Monday they took the train to Munich thinking they would be there for the trial.
But the trial was already in progress by the time the parents arrived.
The Scholl’s pushed their way through the crowded courtroom to where their children were sitting before the most notorious judge of the Third Reich,
Roland Freisler.
Freisler had been immediatley dispatched from Berlin to pass sentence on three of Germany’s brightest youth.

When Mrs. Scholl first sees her children in a defendant’s box and hears their words,
it is all she can bear.
She faints and is taken from the courtroom.
She attempts to re-enter,
explaining to the guard that she is the mother of the defendants—
the response from the guard was cold, not one of empathy…
“You should have done a better job raising them”

Aggghhhh the irony!!!

The fact here is that she had done a marvelous job raising her children as she and her husband instilled in their children the deepest sense of responsibility and moral conviction that would transcend time …

No, I don’t think I will ever understand this particular time of our human history. Countless historians, military experts, philosophers, analysts, etc…
greater minds than my own,
have written about, researched and written some more regarding the how and
why of it all—-yet still leaving the world no less wiser.
Was it the perfect storm of events which created such a black and horrendous
scar on our existence?

The White Rose organization wanted the World to know that there were still
decent people remaining in Germany,
defiant and not willing to bend to the will of a madman.
The young Anne Frank, hiding hundreds of miles away in Amsterdam
remarked that she still believed that people were still inherently good.
The christian Corrie ten Boom worked along side her father to aid countless
Jews trying to escape the death grip of the Nazis only to face prison herself.
Father Hugh O’Flaherty worked tirelessly in Rome, within the Vatican
and under the vise of Nazi occupation and Mussolini’s fascist regime,
working tirelessly to smuggle thousands of men, woman and children out of the
county.

I suppose the small ray of hope is that there are men and woman who remain the
still small voices in the desert of the madness of humanity..
their voices continuing to fight and cry out when all else seems lost.

There always will remain a moral compass to guide others.
There will always be risk as there are those who will work equally as hard to
silence the voice of justice and righteousness.

I can hope that when I am faced with the choice of action, of speaking out
verses remaining silent…
I will chose to act and to speak–
to speak loudly with brave conviction–
may it be so that we all choose the courageous path of the often lonely and
dangerous road of justice and moral obligation.

The Kehlsteinhaus

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Just inside the southern German border, a mere stones throw from Austria, lays the village of Oberzalberg. This is a gorgeous area of the German/ Austrian Alps. On a clear day one can indeed see that the hills are alive with the sound of music—or rather the constant rustle of wind as a crisp deep Prussian blue sky dotted with giant balls of white popcorn clouds makes one feel as if they must be just below Heaven’s gate (perhaps my German friends may not like the color description but this is from an art teacher who loves the color Prussian blue).

Perched high in the mountains, above this quaint village, exists the remnants of a once glamorous and yet ominous mountain home. The Kehlsteinhaus, or Teahouse, was the 50th birthday gift, for the Chancellor of the Third Reich, Adolph Hitler. It was presented to him from one of the top leaders of the Nazi Party, Martin Bormann.

It is often in the old black and white photographs and film footage that we see Hitler, along with his companion and future wife, Eva Braun, walking along the outside deck, overlooking the picturesque view of endless mountains, quaint Alpine villages along with a view of the city of Salzburg in the far distance. It is here that the Fürer would entertain the prominent dignitaries of the day.

Back in October, when I was fortunate to travel on the great retirement celebration trip, we were to spend 3 wonderful days in Salzburg before traveling on to Vienna. When planning the trip I discovered that I could arrange a couple of side trips, using our stay in Salzburg as our base of operations. As a huge history buff, I really wanted to take the 4.5-hour tour to the Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus.

I was both excited as well as nervous about our trip and tour to the Eagle’s Nest. This was a tremendous piece of history, notorious history—the history that I have spent a lifetime reading about and learning. Things and places like the Kehlsteinhaus seem almost bigger than life, especially because of who use to be a the “owner.” Hitler is like the elephant in the room in this area—not seen or spoken of, but whose presence remains eerily heavy in the air.


The weather was not cooperating on our chosen day of travel, as it was drizzling and chilly. We took a tour bus for about an hour or so drive from Salzburg into Germany. The drive was very pretty, especially as we began to climb up into the mountains. The higher we ascended on the journey, the fog and clouds grew heavy with visibility fading fast, as a light drizzle spit on and off.

Eventually the bus made its way to the top to the mountain where we parked in a large paved area. We disembarked only to wait before next boarding a smaller shuttle for the remainder of the journey upward. As we had a few minutes before loading on to the next shuttle, we decided to visit the small souvenir shop located at the bus parking lot. The shop was outfitted with all sorts of alpine wear and alpine souvenirs, along with a couple of books about the building of the road leading up to the “retreat” but very little information in the way of the original owner and of his time on the mountain—which made me begin to wonder.

As I was now cold from the blustery wind and drizzle, accompanied by a dip in the temperature the higher we climbed, I found myself buying some cute pairs of socks and a beautiful alpine woolen sweater. 
We eventually boarded the smaller shuttle which took us the remainder of the way up the mountain to, yet, another parking area. Disembarking the shuttle, we were led to the entrance of a long stone tunnel that bore its way 400 feet in to the mountain.

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It was dimly lit, damp and I swear I could almost hear the boots of soldiers’ goose-stepping through the same tunnel almost 70 years prior. The tunnel is just as it was. It leads all visitors to
a massive elevator that is fitted in brightly polished brass and green leather seats with mirrors covering the walls. It is said that Hitler was as vain as he was paranoid—the mirrored walls allowed him a full visual access to those with him when in the elevator. The elevator holds almost 40 people. It ascended 400 feet to the top of the mountain.

When the doors opened, we found ourselves in small unassuming “foyer” or hallway. We were told we had about an hour before having to reload the shuttle. We were confused—where was the museum, the artifacts, the history? What we found was, however, a restaurant. That was it, a restaurant. I was dumbfounded! 
The Eagle’s Nest, the Kehlsteinhaus, the Third Reich Teahouse, is now just a tourist trap of a restaurant. We glumly found a table and ordered an apple strudel and hot chocolate, as there wasn’t much to look at or do. Granted had the weather cooperated, the view from outside would have certainly occupied our time.

There was the massive marble fireplace still intact in the larger room that had once been the main conference room during Hitler’s occupation of the “retreat.” The marble fireplace had been a gift from Mussolini. Italian marble I surmised. There were a few plaques on the wall showcasing the massive building effort of the road leading up the mountain. From reading the plaques,although in German, I understood it took just one year to build. But, still, the one missing figure, which was truly the elephant in the room, was nowhere to be seen.

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We ventured outside and the fog was so thick we could barely see in front of our own faces. There was outdoor seating which would have been nice on a warmer clear day and one could make the short hike up the summit of the mountain to see the cross that has since been erected. Such beautiful irony, that a cross is now gracing the summit of this one time bastion of an evil ideology. I took the small climb up to the summit. I peered out through the fog into nothingness. I knew that had the day been clear, what I would be seeing would have certainly taken my breath—but the endless fog seemed to match my mood, as well as of the heavy history that I felt to be present– even if any and all images of such had long been removed.

Along the path, as I slowly made my way back down from the summit to the main building, I looked down to what I knew was the unmistakable edelweiss flower. The edelweiss is a small white flower, which grows in very high alpine altitudes. There are many legends and lore which surround this demure small flower—the one I like best I found on a site that addresses all sorts of folk legends:

In the country of eternal snows, lived a white lady: the Queen of Snows. She was surrounded by many small wights, who were in charge of her protection. Armed with spears of crystal, they protected their queen from the intrusion of stranger folk and those who might do her harm.
When a hunter or an imprudent mountaineer approached the beautiful lady, she was often pleased by the visit, and she would encourage him with her smiles and her eyes to join her. Fascinated by the gentle eyes of the beautiful lady, the mountaineer forgets the danger and continues to climb…and he climbs higher and higher with the hope of seeing more closely this beautiful face.
Confronted by this apparent danger, the wights take to their spears and push back the suitor until he falls into a precipice.
The white lady at the sight of that horrible spectacle began to cry; the tears then ran along the glacier and flowed to the pastures, and when arriving near the rocks, they changed into Edelweiss.

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During our trip, while visiting Switzerland, we were also told this story of the edelweiss–a young suitor, in order to show the girl of his dreams his true feelings, would have to climb very high up into the alps, risking his own safety, in order to find an edelweiss. He was to pick the elusive flower, bing it back down from the mountains and present his “love” with the flower, a true symbol of his affection.

I was sorry to have missed the stunning view, as I have heard it is breathtaking, but somehow the fog and drizzle seemed almost appropriate for where we were. 
After the war there was debate as to whether or not they should blow the “retreat” off the mountain. But the officials of the time decided to keep it, as it was such a stunning setting. And I suppose they didn’t know how to treat the place—not to make it a shrine to a dark and sinister individual but opted for the Disney approach, when in doubt, make it a tourist attraction—hawk souvenirs, food and a view. I, for one however, was disappointed. I wanted some history–and history was not to be found.

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I asked our guide if there wasn’t some sort of museum near, perhaps down in the village, which provided a more historical slant to the Kehlsteinhaus and the surrounding area. He was very vague and told me that there wasn’t much time. Again, I had a very odd feeling. We had come all of this way for what I had hoped to be a mini history lesson but instead we simply had a nice piece of strudel and hot chocolate.

Later, once we were back home, I was talking with a friend of mine from Switzerland who now makes his home in Florida. He had recently been home to Switzerland, visiting relatives, and decided to create a short holiday by driving to Austria and Germany for a few days. He too decided to visit the Kehlsteinhaus. As I retold him of our misadventure and of my disappointment with the tour and of our trip to the Eagle’s Nest, he shared a similar experience.

As he and his wife were driving, they stopped in the small village of Oberzalberg to stay for the evening. Asking at the hotel for directions as how to best visit the Kehlsteinhaus, he was met with a bit of confusion. The hotel operator told him that they did not know of what he was asking. It was as if they had never heard of the Kehlsteinhaus. How could that be he wondered. He told me that he was indeed conversing in German so there was nothing to be lost in translation.

My friend later, sitting on the balcony of his hotel room, looked up and on top of the opposite mountain, there he saw what he knew had to the Eagle’s Nest. The next day he and his wife figured out how to drive their way to the mountain retreat, purchasing tickets, leaving their car in the lower parking lot and taking the same shuttle for the journey up the mountain. And they too were met with the same sense of disappointment that they were simply visiting a restaurant. However, the weather cooperated for them, and they were at least rewarded with spectacular views.

All I can think is that it is difficult for most Germans, as well as Austrians, to sort out this part of their past. As I can only imagine it must be—how can one allow oneself to lay claim to something that was so terribly dark and tragic? How can one say that what happened 70 years ago is a part of one’s country’s history and not feel some inextricable sense of guilt or cling to some sort of vehement denial? It is the paradox of being, I suppose, German as well as Austrian. Painful to confront something so unimaginable.

And perhaps denial or ignoring is part of all of that—and perhaps that is how one generation may deal with it, the younger generations may feel so far removed that those things are not a part of or have no bearing on the past that they know.

One day I hope that I will have the opportunity of returning to the area as I would like to explore the lovely Alpine villages and perhaps catching a sunny day for some spectacular views while enjoying yet another piece of strudel.