Archives for posts with tag: Germany

I’ve been sidelined by a wrecked back. The kind that’s so bad it makes walking an ordeal. More than a decade ago I injured a muscle in my lower back, lifting an old style computer monitor. After the fact I found out they weigh about forty pounds. No wonder I actually felt the muscle tear. I was incapacitated for weeks, wanting tomato soup and toast daily, for some reason unknown. I had an old cane that my aunt used when she broke her leg, and used it to hobble to the bathroom. I still have the cane. Still use it, though the hobble isn’t quite as bad this time. Probably due to the absence of muscle spasms. Those things would sideline a moose. This time pasta with an excess of shredded parm loaded on is my food of choice, liberally interspersed with chocolate and ice cream, and tomato or avocado sandwiches. My palette has apparently shifted over the years.

Other than struggling to stand (and hobble) sufficiently to acquire food and make necessary trips down the short hall that seems at least a mile long these
days to the bathroom, I’m mostly only good for sitting and staring at the TV. I’ve gotten through a bunch of movies. I’ll do a roundup or something about the best of them in time.

At the moment I’ve used up a big quota of my concentration ability on writing a few hundred words of my zombie story last night. It’s an unfamiliar struggle to write, since my mom died in July, so a few hundred words is a real accomplishment right now. Yes, I am aware of the irony. I started that story in the spring, just because I wanted to try something different. Unfortunate timing, but I want to finish it before starting something else…or going back to my serial killer script. Oddly, I think zoning on the Walking Dead marathon this week shoved me back into the world of the living, breathing writer I am, since it dragged zombies right up to the front of my mind again. I should just call this the year of death.

So how did I hurt my back this time? It would be funny, if it hadn’t ruined at least two solid weeks of my life.  I try to do a Travel Tuesday pic on Twitter every week. A couple of weeks ago it was this one I titled Scenic Roadside New Mexico.

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It was in an old photo album of a lot of cross country trip pictures. Old and big and heavy. Without thinking, I grabbed it up with one hand and carried it around. There was at least one twist in there somewhere. It took a day for the pain to kick in. I’d gone to a Chinese buffet and went inside fine. When I got up to hit the buffet, I suddenly could barely walk. What the–? Took me a couple of days to figure it out.

This weird, suddenly destroyed back thing runs through the women on my mom’s side. Her sister had a terrible episode once, finally got it better, only to sneeze and cripple herself again. I’ve learned to brace wherever I am when I feel a sneeze coming on, to the point of once almost taking down a section of metal CD racks at Walmart. A weird, bad back can be a hazard to more than one’s personal…person.

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I managed last week’s Travel Tuesday, despite my own personal faux zombie apocalypse (more than once I thought of how my painful shuffling gait was like a Walker parody). This White Peacock on Oahu one didn’t involve heavy lifting.

Here’s Today’s Travel Tuesday pic, while I’m on the subject. A beautiful and dramatic hillside vineyard near the Mosel River in Germany.

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I’m hoping this forced break from normal life will reboot me back to a long term more normal life, after the disruptive, surreal, and heartbreaking years of living life through the lens of my mom’s long journey through Alzheimer’s. I miss her every day, but emerging from that period of our lives is like walking into bright sunshine, after living in a cave.

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This is the truest definition of a random image. The German landscape is peppered with ancient nameless castles, in various states of being. Some are gorgeously intact and look almost as they must have centuries before. Others are little more than time worn piles of rubble. This one is somewhere in between. What is visible of it looks like intact towers that could have stood by its rural roadside as they are, since it was built. I like to imagine it was once part of a bigger, more elaborate structure that fell away in a manner known only to the imagination. There is some small possibility that this structure was never part of a castle, or even fortification, at all. It could have been built for some purpose long lost to time. This kind of stumbled across history is one of the joys of driving around Europe. It pricks the imagination, leaving visitors to tell its stories as they will.

The idea that utopias and dystopias exist side by side in real life intrigues me. Not just an idea, but a fact of daily life on planet earth. And that pockets of dystopia dwell within utopias. The circumstances of deep poverty not only in foreign lands, but also sometimes in parts of the same communities containing incredible wealth can be difficult to grasp, if you think about it too much.

Large metropolitan areas are stunning examples of this, and not limited to our own time. Victorian London was a world of exquisite beauty that had an ugly, tragic underbelly of unfathomable squalor and tragedy. The poor existed and expired practically under the feet of oblivious upper class walking grandeur.

That in our modern world some countries are so wealthy and powerful while others have huge populations of starving people, many of whom have never encountered the technology we take for granted boggles my mind. It seems to go against all logic, yet there it is.

While the dichotomy is confounding, I think it’s a fascinating extrapolation backdrop for science fiction and fantasy writers to explore. Some countries in our own real world are constantly outdoing themselves with newer and better technology, while in others a goat may be the prized possession of an affluent family. This kind of real life contrast opens up endless possibilities for the development of fictional worlds where bucolic landscapes rub shoulders with sparkling cities that are seats of great power, where horseback is the main mode of transportation for citizens of a fairytale society with relatives in a nearby land who may travel by steam powered train, or airship, or submarine…or
dragon.

Traveling around Germany revealed stunning contrasts with life in the States. I loved finding a castle ruin with intact window openings, because I could position myself in just the right way, with wall edges blocking any sign of the modern world (sometimes literally a single roadside sign), and I only saw rolling green pasturelike landscape or wooded areas. It was so easy to imagine a knight in full armor approaching atop a galloping steed, as our real world seemed to drop away into the past. Even driving along modern streets revealed large stretches of scenery that looked as it must have literally centuries ago.

So if the world we actually live in can carry so many instances and combinations of utopia and dystopia, modern and ancient, darkness and light even in our modern age, the possibilities for fictional variations are virtually endless. Looking around us reveals much human experience for extrapolation.

I think, on a subconscious level, taking on the challenges and heartbreaks of living in such a world through fiction helps us deal, also on a subconscious level, with the situations we can’t fix in real life. There’s nothing more satisfying to read than a story where good does overcome evil, light vanquishes dark, and hope wins out over despair. If only we could rewrite the real world so that, while there will always be variations on circumstance, there will also be many more heroes to bring the light.

Though I mostly write here about writing, the arts, pop culture, and my travel experiences, there are many subjects that interest me. They range from frivolous to profound.

My web wanderings take me to both, and everything in between. I just now read a Washington Post Article about a woman whose father was the Kommandant of Auschwitz. When I started reading I expected a dry account filled with statistics. While there are some statistics, the article is anything but dry.

It is a story of one of the darkest times in human history. A time when millions of people were slaughtered and many decades later compassionate, thinking people still wrestle with questions of hows and whys that remain largely unanswerable. There are levels of human behavior that defy words like logic and ethics, and make us try to reach beyond words like atrocity for some elusive bit of understanding.

For every story of cruelty and ruthless evil, there is a counter story of courage, survival, and dignity. And then there are stories like the one in this article of people connected to horror, without having perpetrated it.

I met more than one person in Germany who told me of family members who were involved in situations they wanted nothing to do with, but were compelled by the threat of their family’s safety. The families they loved and protected became a sort of stepchild of history, as did those who protected them at the cost of their ethical core.

I toured Dachau. I stood where history’s own children walked and wept and suffered. I believe standing on such tainted soil, with the Holocaust suddenly thrust deeply into imagination and psyche so deeply that it never truly leaves, changes a person. Though generations past, the echoes are just too powerful to banish. A sliver of the horror never leaves. If a single afternoon, decades after the events occurred, left an indelible mark on me, how must it be for people who lived it in truth?

The very question breaks my heart. I feel so deeply for those who suffered and suffer still, because of experiences beyond their control. Both the children of history and history’s stepchildren.
The saying that you can’t unring a bell really extends into the unspoken thought that the ringing of the bell reverberates through history, as it unfolds over generations. All we can do after the fact is listen to the bell’s reverberations and hopefully learn from them.

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.¬†