Impressions from Germany

By Philip A. Shart
This item appears on page 32 of the December 2018 issue.

Combining spectacular scenery with historic sites, "Classic Germany" is a 15-day tour offered by Odysseys Unlimited (Newton, MA; 888/370-6765,

For the tour (including single supplement), insurance and airfare (Miami-Frankfurt and Berlin-Miami), the cost came to $7,016. I left Miami on July 12, 2017, and returned July 26.

Our tour took in the Rhine, the Black Forest and the Bavarian Alps. In my mind is a collage of sights.

I remember standing in the Römer berg in Frankfurt looking down at cobblestones and a large bronze plaque marking the place where books had been burned, books by Jewish authors and those who didn't agree with Hitler's government.

And standing on the deck of a Rhine River ship looking up at high cliffs topped with ruined castles. It was cold and windy, even though it was July.

We went walking through castle ruins in Heidelberg and along winding streets.

In Triberg was the Schwarzwaldmuseum, with a collection of cuckoo clocks depicting life in this region over the centuries.

En route to Munich, we stopped at Neuschwanstein Castle, Ludwig II's 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace. Walt Disney got the idea for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland from this palace, with its fanciful turrets and towers, gables and balconies.

The castle sits on top of a hill and is an arduous climb. Take my advice: ride the horse-drawn carriage, which takes you halfway up the hill. (There is still a long walk after the carriage drops you off.)

In Munich, we visited the nearly 900-year-old Marienplatz, home of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Built in 1908, it displays animated marionettes reenacting two 16th-century events: the Schäfflertanz (Coopers' dance) and the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renate of Lorraine.

At Dachau's concentration camp, the inscription on the gate reads "ARBEIT MACHT FREI." No matter what you've read or seen, nothing can prepare you for the emotions you'll experience while touring Dachau.

We saw dormitory barracks with containers three levels high (for beds), cells where prisoners had to stand for several days at a time as punishment and rooms where beatings took place.

Then you come to the room where prisoners were told to remove their clothing before they took "a shower." In the next room was the gas chamber. I couldn't help but feel the terror prisoners must have experienced when they entered that room, the doors were shut and the lights went out.

The next room was the crematorium. I looked at the ovens with their doors open and thought of the painting "The Scream." The ovens seemed to be screaming about the horrors that took place there.

We stood in Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg, where Hitler held a rally in 1933. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws institutionalized racial discrimination.

In Berlin, we saw the remains of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. After passing through the Brandenburg Gate, we stopped at the Holocaust Memorial, with its hundreds of different-sized black-marble stone blocks. It looked like a cemetery.

One of our last stops, in Potsdam, was Sanssouci, former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. The Rococo-style palace has beautiful gardens.

The weather during the tour was perfect — upper 60s to low 70s. It rained only on our day of departure.

This was my fifth trip with Odysseys Unlimited. I find that you get your money's worth with them. They take no fewer than 12 and no more than 24 in a group. Our group had 13, but we still had a large, regular-sized bus.

This was a VERY active tour, with much walking uphill and over cobblestones, climbing of stairs and standing for long periods of time. You really need to be very physically fit.

History came alive on this tour!

Tamarac, FL