Almost everyone has heard of Mad King Ludwig’s outrageously elaborate and extravagant Neuschwanstein Castle. Even not knowing of it doesn’t keep a person from being somewhat familiar, since it was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Fairy-tale Castle.

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Perched atop a towering ridge, and framed by trees that seem to cradle it protectively, this snow white beauty stirs the imagination, the romantic heart, and a combination of envy and a very slight wave of revulsion at the thought of the massive riches spent to bring it into existence as a testament to the folly of one man.

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In direct contrast is the stunning natural beauty of this Alpine lake. Shades of blue, green, and white paint a still life every bit as glorious  as all the castles ever built. The spot where I took this picture was reached by a busy path taken by noisy tourists climbing by foot or horse drawn carriage. Yet along the
rocky shores…silence. Serene…majestic, indescribable beauty.

And then we have the not so beautiful. Imagine driving along through quiet countryside. Trees, mountains, lowlying clouds. Peaceful and enjoyable. Then you suddenly notice a strange, almost alien structure looming in the distance.  You draw closer, but cannot fathom what it could be. So of course you hunt it down. It turns out to be the dry, snowless bones of the ski jumps from the 1936 Winter Olympics.

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Whoa! You are duly impressed. But an ominous fist feints, at the very edge of your gut. You go looking further.

You find this:

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The fist punches. Hard.

This is the area where the ice games took place. Where Adolph Hitler presided with pride on the cusp of a war we cannot and should not ever forget.

I stood there taking this picture, the shadowy images I’d seen in historical documentaries superimposed over the scene I saw with my own eyes, barely breathing. I wondered if he had walked where I stood. Knew he had certainly been mere yards away. I felt sickened by his story and awed by history.

I went to Bavaria to see castles and mountains. I found castles and mountains…but instead of the Alpine yodeling one could reasonably expect, I also found Hitler’s echoes. 

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