I conclude this account, as I closed the trip itself (click on link towards the end of this entry to join me for that moment at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial ), on a very personal note. Yes, I came to this part of the world as a writer following the footsteps of an historical individual—a mystic, a Grail hunter and a member of Himmler’s SS—quite focused on refashioning him into the protagonist in my novel in progress, The Perfect. And in this I succeeded well enough, although the bulk of the book, the proof, remains to be written. Read more
Category Archives: Travel Europe 2011
On Monday evening I came up from the subway and stood in the Postdammer Platz. I paused to absorb my first look at the heart of Berlin. To my right, in the darkening city, gleamed a festival of commercial skyscrapers, the gaudy epitome of western capitalism; to my left, only stocky gray buildings staring lifelessly, monuments to the drab austerity of the East Berlin’s communist past. Beneath my feet was a line in brick, where, until November 1989, the infamous Berlin Wall separated the two competing ideologies, each with the intent to overwhelm the other. Read more
The massive monument on Ettersburg hillside, completed under the German Democratic Republic (former East Germany) in 1958 and more a socialistic propaganda shrine than a memorial to the victims of the Buchenwald concentration camp, is visible from the city of Weimar, the so-called cultural capital of Germany, several miles to the south, proving that, during the Nazi years, the folks of that city could see and smell the incessant column of smoke that rose from the crematoriums consuming the tens of thousands of bodies of those who died from disease, starvation, physical exhaustion and outright murder. Read more
In a startling, if sensational, statement in the Introduction to his 1973 book, The Spear of Destiny, author Trevor Ravenscroft states that Sir Winston Churchill “was insistent that
the occultism of the Nazi Party should not under any circumstances be revealed to the general public.” He explains further: “The failure of the Nuremberg trials to identify the nature of the evil at work behind the outer facade of National Socialism convinced him [Dr. Walter Johannes Stein, Ravenscroft’s source] that another three decades must pass before a large enough readership would be present to comprehend the initiation rites and black-magic practices of the inner core of Nazi leadership.”
Bear with me as I detour briefly from the travelogue to a personal reflection I had on leaving the serenity of Dornach for the mysterious and somewhat melancholic region of southwestern Germany where I was now headed. After all, every worthwhile journey, actual or virtual, pits our inner world against a further aspect of the outer world, and we come away changed by the experience.
Why Dornach, a destination barely connected to the novel in progress, for three of the sixteen days of the trip? Not to sound flippant, but I did it because I could. In scheduling a lengthy journey, I’ve learned to build in some flexibility; attention overload can sometimes strike when attention is needed most. With Internet booking services, I only have to make hotel reservations a few days down the road. Besides, I’d just gained a day by scratching Lake Constance. Read more
Heading out of Munich Friday morning on highways matching Long Island’s for congestion, the weather turned nasty and stayed that way for two days, making what should have been a glorious trip through the Alps quite a tiring go behind the wheel. And this was a stretch where I’d planned on vigorous hiking to hone in on a critical places related to my story.
Bypassing some of the most picturesque places in southern Germany (the castle Neuschwanstein, Oberammergau, the Chiemsee, even Hitler’s hideaway in Berchtesgaden), I headed south for the Austrian border city of Kufstein, in the mountainous vicinity of which my protagonist met a mysterious and violent death in a snowstorm in 1939.
That Dachau, site of one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps, was the first item on my trip agenda shows, I hope, how intensely focused on my mission I was. After all, it was in autumn in Munich, and for most visitots that meant Oktoberfest with beer and oompah bands in abundance. After flying to the Bavarian capital on Tuesday night, during which I slept 2-3 hours at most, arriving early Wednesday morning, picking up a car at the airport, blearing my way through rush hour traffic, and locating the hotel more in the heart of an unfamiliar city, I made my usual painful attempt to fall in with the local time, no matter what.
My favorite quote, one embossed on the coffee cup I use every day, is from Henry David Thoreau: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
Today, I sit in my apartment, yes, in New York City (thus the Saturday Night Live line). In a couple of days, I take off on the second leg of my European research tour for The Perfect. I am living the life I have imagined.
A bit over a year ago I completed the first half of a research tour planned so as to follow the footsteps of the protagonist in my current novel in progress, The Perfect. That portion took me through the castles, fortifications, caves and Pyrenean mountain passes of the Languedoc region of France, the Catalan province in northern Spain, and along the Mediterrean coast to Provence, winding up in Avignon, for a brief time the site of the Holy See. I had plans to push northward; but on August 27 I recieved the news that my 95-year-old mother had passed away, so I took a train to Paris and flew home to be with the family for Mom’s memorial service. Read more