Things have been much more relaxing lately after leaving the business of Florence and Rome behind us. We spend a few relaxing days on the Amalfi coast of Italy. Highlights from there included swimming in the Mediterranean, touring the ruins of Pompeii (an ancient Roman city preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE) and riding around on the back of a friend´s scooter for awhile at sunset. After leaving the coast we headed Northwest for Assisi, home of St. Francis and the slow pace continued from there to Venice. We were given a free day to wander through the city and although I didn´t ride on the gondolas (a definite tourist trap at 80 Euros a ride) we did see the canals from the water taxi and had our last taste of gelato before leaving Italy and entering Austria. We spend the last couple days camping on the shore of one of the cleanest lakes in Europe, just outside Salzburg. Our campsite had views of the Austrian mountains (though we learned the Von Trapp family didn´t actually hike through the mountains – they pretended to go for a mountain hike and then hid on a train to Switzerland). I spent most of the day feeding leftover bread to the ducks, which were so tame they would eat from your hand and kayaking on the lake. We´ve been brushing up on German and getting ready for the big football match between Austria and Germany tomorrow night.
We also visited Hitler´s Eagle´s Nest, a secret location in the mountains on the border of Austria and Germany where he dug a bunker and it is believed he and Eva died there, two weeks before the end of the war. It was very difficult to wander through the place listening to information on the development of the Nazi´s power and the effect it had on the people. 50 million people are believed to have died in WWII and 28 million of those were civilians. As I´m sure everyone knows, millions of Jews were targeted and exterminated, but so were gypsies, elderly people, disabled people, soviets, and those with (or perceived to have) hereditary diseases, as well as any who showed opposition or resistance. Being there was odd in that I have always wondered how such an atrocity could occur and the information presented to us gave me both an understanding of how Hitler rose to such power through the manipulation of the masses and yet I left feeling more overwhelmed at how this could have happened. In a way I both understand more and less at the same time. The evil was more systematic then I ever thought possible. I am both anxiously anticipating our visit to the Dachau concentration camp next week and I hope these thoughts can become clearer as our class discusses the impact of WWII on Western Europe.