Nuremberg and the Nazis

I didn’t know that history could be so… heavy.

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Nuremberg and, after briefly settling into my hostel, hit the city.  As the sun began to set, I wandered around the old town, soaking in ancient churches, marketplaces, and the beautiful castle.

Then I did my research.

I knew that Nuremberg was an important city for the Nazis, but not much beyond that.  Before going to bed last night, I found some old photos that were uncanny.  They depicted Hitler, flanked by crowds of swastika-waving supporters, parading through the streets.  What bothered me wasn’t necessarily the pomp–I’ve studied history and have seen such photos before.  What bothered me was that the churches, marketplaces, and even the castle gleaming in the background of the photos were the same ones I had been admiring only a few hours before.

I dedicated my day to seeing Nazi-related sites.  My main stop was the Documentation Centre, a museum dedicated to the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.  I spent hours in the museum, going from room to room.  The entire exhibit was in German, but thanks to an audio guide, I was able to follow along in English.  I encountered the Third Reich in a way I never have before.  In American schools, they don’t explain all the steps that lead to Hitler’s rise in power.

Until today, Nazi Germany was just lines in a textbook or scenes in a movie.  It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I understand now.  I understand the political tactics Hitler took on his route to dictatorship–well, not all of them, but enough to appreciate his cunning.  I understand the fear-mongering.  I understand the purpose of the rallies–to whip up the people into an emotional fervor that keeps them from rationally realizing they’re being manipulated.  I understand the indoctrination of young people.  I understand the appeal of a unified country with a single, shared identity.  I understand the dehumanization of entire classes of people.

I understand… and I feel the weight upon my shoulders.  So many times as I walked through the exhibit, I wanted to break down weeping.  For the second time in my life, I feel like I encountered pure evil.

Pure evil is intelligent. It tells lies, it manipulates, it preys on fears, takes advantage of ignorance, and silences any voices other than its own.  The most dangerous thing about evil is that it disguises itself as truth.

And, God, the consequences.

The museum didn’t shy away from the Holocaust.  It hit it straight on, explaining in detail the different concentration camps, what they were used for, who went there, and how many people lost their lives to starvation, forced labor, biological experiments, and the gas chambers.  Millions of human lives exterminated, slaughtered, killed like animals.  I don’t know if I will ever forget the photos of the malnourished naked corpses piled in the dirt and grime.

Of all the Nazi’s actions, what disturbs me most is probably dehumanization.  I believe that people are made in the image of God, therefore the simple act of being human deserves dignity and respect.  Our humanity is what links us together–we differ in language, culture, and appearance, but at the end of the day, we are all human.  To deprive a person of their dignity is disgusting.  To strip away their humanity is disturbing.  But to slaughter millions of people… horrifying.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials took place after World War II ended.  For some reason, it was closed today.  But I did spend a few hours wandering around the grounds where the Nazis had their rallies.  The once-grand structures have fallen into decay–a remnant of history that Germany doesn’t care to preserve.  As I stood on the balcony where Hitler delivered some of his greatest speeches, I could imagine the scene: Banners waving, people cheering, thousands of soldiers in perfect regiments raising their arms.

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The platform from which Adolf Hitler gave some of his most stirring speeches at the annual Nazi Party Rallies.

I’ve loved my time in Nuremberg.  It’s a beautiful city.  I’ve loved wandering its historic streets and meditating in its grand churches.  What more, I’ve entered into–no–I’ve been sucked into history here.  I’ve encountered the past in a way that is so much deeper than storing away facts intellectually.  My emotions and deeper being have been touched.  It’s not often that I’m moved in this way and to experience it here has been incredible.

I’m so glad I came here.  Tomorrow, my adventures in Germany continue as I head south to the town of Konstanz near the Swiss border.  I’ve got an early bus and need to pull away from the blog so I can pack my bags…

Traveling Solo: Thoughts From the Road

I’m about two weeks into my European adventure… and boy, is it going fast.  It feels like yesterday that I was preparing to leave L’Abri and now I’ve been to Scotland, Holland, and Germany.  There are so many posts I want to write, but every time I sit down, I’m too exhausted to find the words.

(On a side note, if you want more frequent updates, I post photos regularly on Instagram.  My username is ameliab648.  I keep my account private, so send a request.)

Maybe some day, I’ll tell you about the two days I spent in Utrecht with my Dutch friends, Jorijn and Petra.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about wandering the beautiful town of Heidelberg, Germany.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about all the footage I’m taking on my phone for videography projects.

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Heidelberg, Germany
Today, though, I’ll tell you that traveling alone is hard, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.  After months surrounded by people all the time, it is sometimes comforting to be alone. Sometimes, though, it’s not.  It’s lonely and, at points, I long for someone to share my adventures with.  Often times, I’ll go a full day without having a single conversation.  When I come to stretches of my journey where I’m staying with people, I find it hard to stop talking.  All the words that have been building rush out.

So far, I have only had one emotional meltdown and that was because I forgot to take care of my basic needs.  When you haven’t eaten or slept for a long time, your body tends to shut down.  In order to pay for all the museums and castles (and ensure that I’ll still have money when I get home) I’m keeping myself on a tight budget, so most of my meals have been supermarket food–sandwiches, yogurt, bananas, salad, nuts.  It’s healthy food and keeps me going.  I do like to splurge once in every country to try an authentic meal.

I’ve learned that half the battle is the hostel.  When living on the road, it’s important to feel secure in the place you sleep.  No matter where I am, I see my bed as a safe place, a refuge from the chaos of the world.  My bed is my temporary home. In it, I can relax, breathe, and have peace.  There are other things, though, that make or break a hostel: cleanliness, locker space in the rooms, plugs by every bed, good wifi, and a self service kitchen.  It’s important to know that my laptop and phone will have a place to charge, that my belongings will be secure when I am gone, and that I can cook a hot meal for myself.

As I journey from place to place on busses, trains, and airplanes, I usually pass the time with a book.   I’m reading That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, the final novel in his Space Trilogy.  It’s a pretty heavy book, so I’m taking my time with it. Being in the Scottish Highlands put me in the mood for Susanna Kearsley, who writes historical romances.  I’ve finished The Winter Sea and am close to the end of The Firebird.

Another important part of any adventure is the soundtrack!  Music helps me stay sane as I wait out long bus rides and navigate strange cities.  Since its release on Friday, I’ve been listening non-stop to The Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra. Here’s the title track:

I wish I could write more, but I’m off to catch my bus to Nuremberg… Until next time!

Adventures in Amsterdam

The second chapter of my European adventure is well under way!

I arrived in Amsterdam on Monday night, which was an adventure in and of itself.  My flight from Scotland was delayed, which was okay, it just meant I got to my hostel later than expected.  Getting from the airport to they city’s center was an easy train ride, followed by a half-hour walk through the dark streets.  I got to my hostel at 11 PM and promptly went to sleep.

Two full days proved to be all I needed to check all the boxes in my “To See” list.

Yesterday was spent in art museums.  My first stop was the Rijksmuseum, which is the Dutch national museum.  I spent a few hours wandering the galleries, soaking in the country’s history through paintings.  There were a few of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings in the collection, which were amazing to see in person.

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Stereotypical tourist shot featuring the “I amsterdam” sign, tulips, and the Rijksmuseum.

I lingered for a LONG time in the Van Gogh Museum, which might just be one of my new favorites.  I feel like I appreciated the collection more than anything I’ve seen in quite a while.  Going from room to room reading about Van Gogh’s life and viewing his art, I actually felt like I was getting to know him.  It was more than just empty information.  I feel like I encountered a flesh and blood man.  The collection was impressive–there were at least a hundred of his works on display.  (To think that, in the States, just having one is a big deal!)

This morning, I got up early… but not early enough to beat the crowds at the Anne Frank House.  I arrived right at opening, but the line was already stretching down the street and around the corner.  Half-expecting this would be the case, I brought my Kindle and read a book during the two-hour wait.  The museum was definitely worth it.  To walk through the Secret Annex (entering through the original concealed door), to see Anne’s handwriting in person, to watch videos of her father reflecting on the experience… it was incredible.  I was deeply moved.  At the end, they had a book with all the names of the Dutch Jews who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis… the book was the size of a Bible.  Over 10,000 names.  That really hit me–I can’t even wrap my mind around those kind of numbers.

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Dutch tulips!

My second stop today was the Rembrandt House.  Although not as moving as my first stop, I thoroughly enjoyed touring the rooms and studio of one of my favorite painters.  Like Van Gogh, I learned a LOT about the artist that I didn’t know before.  At the end, there was an hour-long video (produced by the BBC) about his later career.  I watched the whole thing… partially because my legs were tired from walking all day, but mostly because it was fascinating.  They examined several of his paintings in-depth, which gave profound insight into the painter’s methods.

Aside from grand museums, it’s been enjoyable just walking around Amsterdam.  It’s a great city, filled with beautiful buildings and picturesque canals.  The city definitely has its dark corners and dodgy bits, but I was able to avoid them.

Also, bikes!  There are bikes everywhere!  I have to continually remind myself to watch out for them, lest I get run over.

One of my favorite bits has been meeting locals.  I had a long discussion with a man in a cafe this afternoon–he told me all about Dutch art, history, and even pointed me to some lesser-known museums (which I will have to visit if I’m ever back).

So… that’s Amsterdam!

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Canals in the Jordaan neighborhood.

 

 

Edinburgh: City of Light and Dark

I’ve spent the past couple of days exploring Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.  Now, this isn’t my first visit.  I was here a few years ago while studying abroad… but a weekend just wasn’t enough.  The historic city stole my heart and I knew I had to come back.

I spent two full days in the city and was easily able to see all I wanted, and then some.  I Now, I decided to avoid paying for things I’ve already done, which means I didn’t go into Edinburgh Castle or take an underground tour.  I learned about the turbulent, divided history during my bus tour, so I skipped doing a walking tour.  Sightseeing in Edinburgh is easy and my hostel is well positioned on the Royal Mile, which means everything was a short walk away.

During these two days, I did all sorts of things.  I climbed Arthur’s Sat, the volcanic mountain in the middle of the city.  I toured Holyrood Palace on a whim and was swept away into Scottish history.  I spent hours in the National Museum of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery.  This morning, I attended church in the historic St. Giles Cathedral.  I went for evening strolls up to the castle in the rain.  I walked up Calton Hill and visited all the monuments.  I lingered in coffee shops, cafes, and pubs.

Some of my favorite time, though, was spent lingering in quiet places–sketching the city on Arthur’s Peak, reading poetry in the Princes Street Gardens, wandering solo through narrow streets.

I feel as though I’ve drunk my fill of the city, but I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

It’s time to move out of English speaking waters.  Next stop: Amsterdam!

Over the Sea to Skye

Scotland, you have stolen my heart once again.  My past three days have been spent exploring the Highlands and Island of Skye.

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Being a single explorer with a desire to explore the vast wilderness of Scotland, I decided that the best way to taste my fill of nature was by taking a bus tour.  The thing about but tours is that they’re expensive, but they provide all kinds of facts I never would have known on my own.  Instead of fretting over catching busses and figuring out train times, I sat back, relaxed, and absorbed thrilling tales of faeries and Jacobite rebellions.

Two of the days were spent traveling across the Highlands, with one full day on Skye.  We spent the night in the adorable coastal town of Portree.  Although known for its rain, the first two days of the trip were sunny and gorgeous.  The visibility on the island was incredible!  At points, we could see all the way to the outer Hebrides–a rare feat.

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I saw a lot during my trip… attempting to go into everything would suck up time that I don’t have.  So, here are some photos from the Isle of Skye.  I’ll post more from the Highlands later.

In the meantime, I’m in Edinburgh for a few days and look forward to exploring the capital of Scotland.

European April

Once again, I find myself beginning a journey.

Leaving L’Abri yesterday morning nearly broke my heart.  I don’t feel up to writing about it at the moment… partially because it’s still so raw.  Also, I stepped straight into another adventure and haven’t had time to process everything.

So how about we talk about my travel plans?  You see, for the month of April, Keep Your Feet is becoming a travel blog as I make my way across Europe.

I’ve been waiting my whole life for this trip.  Yes, I travelled as much as I could during my semester abroad two and a half years ago.  This is different, though.  I have no school holding me back.  In fact, I have nothing holding me back!  It’s just me, my backpack, and a small carry-on with wheels for the next month.

My itinerary is PACKED.  I’m spending approximately a week in Scotland, Holland, Germany, Austria, and four days in the Czech-Republic.  When I head back to America on April 29, I’m going to be two things: broke and exhausted.  It’s going to be worth it.

Technically, my journey began last night.  I’m currently located in the village of Portree on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands.  Last night, I caught a bus from London to Edinburgh… which almost was a terrible idea.  The bus was supposed to get to Edinburgh at 6:30 AM.  Due to a series of delays, it actually got there at 8:40 AM–ten minutes AFTER my bus tour was scheduled to leave.  Thankfully, I’ve been to Edinburgh before, knew my way around, and was able to catch my tour.

Although I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from leaving L’Abri, I’m already having a marvelous time.  After spending three months surrounded by people, it’s nice to be independent again.  It’s also nice to have Internet!  The Highlands are absolutely stunning.  I’ve recognized several stops from my last time through, but there have been many unexpected surprises–such as a photo-op at Eilean Castle.  I get to tour it on Friday, so this is just a sneak peak!

  
Stay tuned for more #EuropeanApril

Divinity School, Oxford

We have come, last and best,

From the wide zone through dizzying circles hurled,

To that still centre where the spinning world
Sleeps on its axis, to the heart of rest.
Dorothy Sayers

Some friends and I spent the day in Oxford and I finally fulfilled my dream of touring the Bodlein Library. Maybe I’ll write more about my day sometime soon, but until then, enjoy this photo I took of the absolutely stunning Divinity School.

 

Lakes District Video

Over the past few months, I’ve been growing a great deal artistically.  Being around creative people rubs off on you in amazing ways.  I’ve loved having the freedom to explore new mediums in addition to the ones I tend to favor.  I’ve spent time sketching, painting, and even singing.  It’s brought me so much life!

When my friends and I went to the Lakes District last week, I decided to tackle a new medium: videography.  Throughout the trip, I examined the world with an artistic eye and captured footage of things I found beautiful with my iPhone.  On the six hour Megabus trip home, I put the skills I picked up in my Visual Journalism class to good use.

This is the result.  I hope you enjoy!

Atop Loughrigg

I recently took a trip to the Lakes District in Northern England with some friends.  I’m hoping to write about our adventures soon, but in the meantime, here is a dramatic shot of me atop one of the mountains we climbed and a quote by T.S. Eliot, whom I have been reading lately.

“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow”

T.S. Eliot

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Atop a mountain in the Lakes District.