Vélodrome d’hiver

The Vélodrome d’hiver was an indoor bicycle track and stadium not too far from the Eiffel Tower.  On July 16 and 17, 1942 the French police, under German orders, round up over 13,000 Jews, 4,000 being children, and located them in this large stadium under terrible circumstances.  The Jews were given barely any water or food, the sanitation conditions were almost non existent and it was extremely crowded.  The Jews were held there for about a week and then deported to concentration camps throughout Europe.  The majority never survived.

I have read many books and histories about this particular historical event.  Our friend, Benjamin, loaned me a french movie, La rafle du Vel’ d’hiv, 16 et 17 juillet 1942, that was difficult for me to watch.  It took me three days to get through the whole film.  It is one of the most accurately portrayed film of these events.

When Aaron and I were in Paris we had a morning to ourselves and I wanted to find the small memorial in the location where the Vélodrome used to stand.  I am so glad we found the monument and plaque.  I felt like it was sacred ground and it stirred more emotions in me in regards to this period of history.  I was happy to see that a future memorial garden is currently under construction.

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Bäckerei, Hummel, Cuckoo Clocks and meandering Streets of Salzburg

The morning we woke up in Salzburg, we set out for the day on foot.  We left our hotel, Hotel Via Roma, and started for historical city center.  We were wandering around the quaint neighborhoods and came upon this bakery.  We were all hungry for breakfast and this is just what we love to do in a new place:  find a local bakery or delicacy specific to that area!

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Any time our family enters a small European establishment, we have heads turn and we never can go unnoticed!  This is exactly what happened as we walked into this bakery.  It was typical of European bakeries:  small, quaint and familiar.  There were about four other customers inside so we all felt a little cramped, but, nonetheless we proceeded to decide what might be good to try.  Everything and everyone speaks german in Salzburg so we did not understand what everything was.  A nice man in front of us overheard us speaking english and trying to make out what each item was.  He kindly turned and asked, in english, if we needed some assistance!  We happily accepted.  He then told us we were lucky because this particular bakery was the most famous and well known to all the locals. It is “the” bakery to frequent.  Jackpot!  I love when this happens during a new experience! This man then explained what each item was and we were able to make some choices. The ladies behind the counter were so friendly!  They even let me take a photo of them “on the job”.

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We all enjoyed some of their local delicacies.  They are also known for their pretzel rolls. They were good, but a little heavy for the morning!  It is always fun trying new things!  A lot of their pastries were filled with fruit or a custard.  They were heavier than most of the pastries here in France.  We enjoyed our “breakfast” so much we returned the next morning!  The outside of the bakery was so picturesque, yet simple, with the darling gold pretzel hanging from the wire hook.

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We proceeded to meander up and down the beautiful side streets of Salzburg and we came upon the largest retailer of Hummel figurines and collectables.  It was amazing!  My Mom has a small collection of Hummel figurines so it was a little walk down memory lane as I explained to my children about their Grandma’s collection and other memories associated with Hummel.  I wish I could have taken a picture on the inside!  It was incredible!  My Mom would have been in heaven!  I wish I could have afforded to get one for nostalgic reasons, but the price tags were a little too overwhelming!

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Right after we left the Hummel boutique we turned a corner and came upon an awesome little retailer of Swiss Army knives and Cuckoo Clocks.  The first was, of course, for the male members of the family.  They had a cool collection to choose from and the three older boys were able to enjoy a new knife for scouts/emergencies.  While the boys were looking at the knives, I could not keep my eyes off the cuckoo clocks.  Again, another childhood memory.  This time of my Grandma Wittwer.  She had a cuckoo clock that she got from Europe many years ago and I remember it so well.  I had no idea how many emotions would be felt on this day in Salzburg.  I hadn’t even seen one Sound of Music site yet, but my childhood memories were coming to the surface!  It was exciting and special for me personally!

Below are a few pictures I took of our walk from the hotel to the city center in Salzburg. We saw beautiful rooftops, Abbeys, Cathedrals and quaint little roads!  We all loved it, especially me!  I am grateful we did not stay in the city center.  We were only a 10-15 minute walk to city center and it was worth every step!  (Plus, it didn’t break the bank being a little further from city center!) :)

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Duvets

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I learned some information about Duvets on our trip to Germany that I found interesting.  I love duvets.  I prefer a good down duvet over a comforter or quilt any day of the week and at any time of the year.  In the States, one buys the size of duvet according to the size bed one has.  France is the same way.  But, Germany has a different way of doing duvets. They use twin size duvets for any size of bed.  If one has a king size bed (which is usually two twins put together), the twin duvet gets folded in half and lays across the width as the above picture shows.  There is usually space between the pillow and duvet.  It is meant to look like an oversized pillow laying on top of the bed.  Sometimes, there is only the fitted sheet and one only uses the duvet.  Since I use duvets on all our beds in the States, I never buy flat sheets anymore.  They have become a nuisance!  My kids do not sleep with a flat sheet either.  In fact, they get frustrated here in France because a few of the beds only have comforters and/or sheets and the sheets always get ripped off and thrown on the floor!  Haha!

When we stayed at the Sneddons, I was helping Jenny make up the beds and she explained this to me, after I had noticed the guest bedroom having two duvets folded the width of the bed.  I found it interesting because I use duvets.  I had never seen this done before.  So, when two people sleep in the same bed, they do not share the same duvet.

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These pictures were taken at our hotel in Salzburg, Austria after having seen this in Germany at the Sneddons.  I chuckled as I entered the hotel room and was happy that I knew the German custom of duvets.  There are a few other European countries that use this twin size style on their beds.  It worked perfect for the kids, because there was no debate the following morning as to who pulled off who’s covers!  I love learning little tidbits of information like this!

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Dachau Concentration Camp

My interest in the Holocaust was sparked in 8th grade on Long Island New York.  I was in a history class in which we had a special guest speaker.  An elderly woman who survived the concentration camps!  I remember seeing her number tattooed on her arm and hearing her horrific recollections of her life during that dark period of time.  While I was in the Cold Spring Harbor High School library listening to her, I remember looking around at my Jewish friends and thinking how could one person lead nations and people to hate a race in a short amount of time.  My heart was then drawn to this subject of the Holocaust. I have read a lot on this subject and each time I do I am saddened, horrified, dumbfounded and compelled to read and study more.  I don’t know why this part of history pulls at me so hard.  Maybe I am trying to understand history to be able to recognize it repeating itself, or, just trying to understand cultures and lives that were so quickly destroyed on every side of the battle.

My desire to visit a concentration camp became reality when we were in Germany.  It was one of the things on my “places to visit” list while we are in Europe.  We visited the Dachau concentration camp.  It was incredibly cold and grey!  Our whole family visited the exhibits and then Aaron took Tristan, Jack and Sophie back to a gift shop/cafeteria, while AJ, Austin and I watched a short film, toured the barracks and the crematorium.  It was a humbling, sad and sobering experience.  The boys were a little uncomfortable during the film, but I wanted them to witness what took place on the grounds we were visiting.  It was and continues to be hallow ground.

Dachau was the first concentration camp to be built and used as a prototype for other camps.  I could spend post after post sharing the stories and information I learned and know about Dachau, but I do not want to.  I only wish to share all the photos I took and I know they do not effect all five senses, but I hope it causes a stirring of the heart.  It did for me this day as I was able to touch, feel and listen to this historical site.

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Not many years ago the original railroad tracks were excavated.  We were able to walk on them and visualize those prisoners getting off the cattle cars and seeing their new reality that awaited them.  It was right along this path to the entrance of the camp.

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This is one of the rooms where dead bodies were stored to go into the crematorium.  It was right next to the room with the chimneys.

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Starnberg, Germany

After the Temple trip we headed to Munich, Germany area.  My dear friend, Kathleen Sneddon, has a son, Michael, and his family that live in Munich.  We have met them on previous occasions in Utah and met up with their son, Nathan, at a Stake Conference here in France back in November.  Michael, Jenny and children were so kind in opening up their home to all 7 of us.  They have a lovely home in Starnberg, about 30 minutes outside of Munich.  Each of the kids got along so well.  I think right from the start these kids had a common bond: living overseas and wanting to be with other Americans! :)  We all had a comfortable bed to sleep on and wonderful food to eat.

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The Sneddons live in a quaint little town on Lake Starnberg.  We happened to be there on Valentine’s Day, so the 4 adults/2 couples went out to dinner at a lakeside restaurant.  It was very pretty and the food was good.  I had real “wiener schnitzel” and was pleasantly surprised that I liked it.  I guess I never knew exactly what it was.  Now I do.  It is a deep fried piece of veal prepared Viennese style, meaning the veal is flattened, dipped in batter and fried.  Viennese referring to Vienna, Austria.  Interesting bit of information.  Anyway, the 4 of us had great conversation and we had to pull ourselves away to return to our children and to allow Michael to get some sleep before Sunday morning responsibilities. We had a lovely time!

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