Posts Tagged ‘Wewelsburg’

So in five days I’ll be getting on a plane and heading home (cue the patriotic Neil Diamond music). Since my time in Germany is running out, I figured that I’d go over the highlights of my trip, the things I’ll remember and talk about for years to come.

And that will make their way into a story or two, because that’s what happens when you’re me. Everything is fodder for my dark, twisted imagination.

So here they are, the highlights of my time in Germany:

Working for the US Army

Me at the office.

Me at the office.

Obviously this has to come first. It’s the whole reason that I’m here in the first place. I got to work for three months in the US Army Civilian Corps, working in the Equal Employment Opportunity office on a variety of projects, including a few articles and newsletters. I gained a lot of experience that will no doubt help me with future jobs (can’t confirm anything on that front yet, but I do think good news is on its way). I also made a few friends while on base, and I got to experience firsthand what it’s like to live and work for the US Army. Sure it was only three months, but what a period of three months! You can definitely expect a story or several coming out of this experience.

Living in Germany

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a foreign country beyond a vacation of a couple of weeks. I got to do it for four months! And you know, it’s a lot of fun, as well as very educational. Sure, my German still sucks (though I find a lot of people here speak enough English for me to get by), but that didn’t get in the way too much. From trying the train and bus systems, to learning that bakeries here have a weird tolerance for letting flies or bees crawl over their food in the summer (yeah, I found it a little gross too), to even getting lost and learning to rely on the natives for directions, every week seemed to have some new adventure for me, and I can’t wait to tell everyone about some of those adventures I couldn’t talk about here in more detail, either in person or through stories.

My Trip to Munich

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

That was my first big trip in Germany. Before that I’d explored parts of Wiesbaden and made trips to Frankfurt and been to nearby Mainz once or twice, but this was really going out to see the country. And it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of being here in Germany, especially since visiting Munich was top of my list of things to do while in Germany. I was given a personal tour of Munich by a WWII scholar who showed me how Munich was such an essential part of the rise of Nazism and some of Nazi Germany’s most formative event. I had such a great time that day, and I would gladly do it again given the chance and maybe someone to share the experience with. In any case, I will have to look up my Holocaust Studies professor once I get back to Columbus and talk to her about my trip. I bet she’d be very interested in seeing some of my photos and souvenirs, including an actual German silver mark from 1937! Now having that is scholarly street cred right there.

For a fuller account of my trip to Munich, read my post here.

Seeing BABYMETAL in concert

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

If you have no idea who or what BABYMETAL is, they’re a Japanese pop-metal fusion band fronted by three teenage girls. Yes, it is kind of weird, but it is really awesome and they’re making tons of waves in the metal world (if you want to sample them and see what the big deal is, I highly recommend their Road of Resistance video). To say the least, I am a gigantic fan, and this was my second time seeing them in concert. The first time was at the Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus this past May, but they were on a smaller stage and allotted a shorter performance time, so it wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped. When I heard they were going to be in Germany while I was there, and that they’d be doing a full concert, I immediately got tickets to go.

And you know what? I had a blast! They did their whole repertoire (easily enough when you only have one album and a digital single) before a crowd of about a hundred and fifty people, and I just had the best time. I got really close to the stage by the end of the concert, which was good because in addition to tall fans seeing the show from several yards back is no fun, and I got to see a ton of the action up close. Honestly, when they played my favorite song, “Doki Doki Morning”, I nearly died from happiness. At the end of the concert, I felt drunk despite having not had a drop of alcohol all day, and couldn’t help but sing the tune to some of their songs for quite a while after the concert was over. It was just a magical night for me.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

That concert was also special because, besides a T-shirt I got as a souvenir, I made a new friend at the concert, an Israeli named Itamar who had recently been discharged from the IDF and was traveling around Europe and going to BABYMETAL concerts whenever he could. To him, those concerts were fun and relaxing (considering my own experience and the studies that show heavy metal is a mood lifter for fans, plus the fact that plenty of the band’s songs feature positive messages, I didn’t find that too surprising). We started talking before the show started, realized we had a lot in common, including a thing for horror stories, and hit it off. After the show we found each other and promised to stay in contact, and he said he’d check out my books. The very next day we became Facebook friends. Isn’t that nice?

I also had a great idea for a novel while I was at the concert, but I think I’ll wrap up this entry in the list and say this was a big event for me and I had a ton of fun. And if I get the chance, I hope I can see BABYMETAL in concert again someday.

And I’m jamming out to them while I write this post, but does that surprise you in any way?

Wewelsburg Castle

Wewelsburg castle.

Wewelsburg castle.

A trip to Europe is not complete without a castle or two, in my opinion. Last year on my study abroad trip it was the Tower of London, and this year it was Wewelsburg Castle, a three-sided German castle in Paderborn that was once the seat of the local Prince-Bishop. During WWII, the SS used the castle as a training center, and some say it was also where they did mystical rituals meant to empower themselves as Aryan men (there’s both evidence to support and oppose this theory, but I wouldn’t discount it). Ever since last year when I did a paper on the connections between National Socialism and mysticism and I discovered the castle in my studies, I’ve wanted to check it out, and being able to do so on this trip was a very big deal for me. I learned a lot while I was there, and I even got a story idea while I was there. Wewelsburg is definitely a place I’d recommend anyone visiting Germany visit if they’re in the mood for seeing a castle with an interesting and dark history.

For a fuller account of my trip to the castle, you can read my post here.

German food and drink

Love that German beer!

Love that German beer!

Now, because I keep kosher and because I can’t read German, my access to German food was limited. Still, when I could have it, I found that it was pretty good. They definitely know how to make some tasty baked fish dishes, the Germans do. They use plenty of spices to give it flavor, I think.

And German beer and wine is definitely some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I know Germany is known for its beers, but the wine is pretty extraordinary too. In fact, Frankfurt and plenty of other German cities and provinces make a lot of money off wine, and there’s even a university in Frankfurt where they teach wine and beer making. If I wasn’t such a writer, I might consider applying to that school and started a winery or something.

Definitely don’t miss out on eating actual authentic German cuisine while you’re here. You’ll miss out on a central part of the country if you do.

And finally…

All the story ideas!

Last year when I was in Europe, I kept track of how many ideas I had while I was abroad and came up with 40 ideas. This year I did the same, and after four months and so many experiences, the amount of ideas I had was staggering. 81 ideas as of this past Saturday. Yeah, that’s a lot of ideas. Novels, short stories, articles, even a video game or two, inspired by anything from dreams to stories I read and shows or movies I watched, to all these experiences and several more experiences I had while in Germany. Yeah, it’s definitely been a good time for me creatively while I’ve been here. I just wonder when I’m going to write all these stories! Hopefully not never.

 

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I have to say, I’m going to miss Germany terribly. It’s been quite an experience while I was here, and I hope that maybe someday I can visit again, maybe see a few things I didn’t get the chance to see during my four months here (I probably would’ve seen more if I could, but time and money are always a factor in these sort of things). And who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll get that chance after all.

One can always hope. Right my Followers of Fear?

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Wewelsburg castle. Magnificent to behold.

Wewelsburg castle. Magnificent to behold.

Well, I finally did it! I got to visit the castle I’ve been dying to see since I first heard about it while researching Nazis and the occult prior to last year’s study abroad trip. And today, I spent a good part of my day uploading most of the photos I took to Instagram and Facebook. Honestly, it sucks when that ends up taking a longer time than it should, but what are you going to do?

Anyway, if you’re not familiar with Wewelsburg Castle, it’s a triangular castle in the small village of Wewelsburg, part of the town of Buren. During the Nazi era, the SS, led by Himmler, began doing renovations on the castle with the purpose of turning it into the ultimate Aryan production center, a place where the Nazis’ ideological beliefs could be made real. Some people even believe that Himmler, who was a big believer in all that Nazi mysticism stuff, conducted ceremonies in the castle, and hoped to make it into a sort of SS Hogwarts. I personally think that the SS could’ve been doing some magical rituals while they were there, and there is some evidence to suggest that’s what they were planning on doing or did there.

Of course, if you ask the museum staff about it, they will deny that anything like that occurred at the castle, but maybe they want to keep the right-wing nuts and the Satanists and pagans away (yet they still have a small display in the museum to the mystical side of the SS in the exhibit). The staff also deny any sightings of ghosts or anything else paranormal, but maybe they want to keep away ghost hunters too.

Weird occult stuff. Don't ask me what each stands for, I couldn't give you a definitive answer.

Weird occult stuff. Don’t ask me what each stands for, I couldn’t give you a definitive answer.

Anyway, the castle is divided into two permanent exhibits. One exhibit, the Ideology and Terror of the SS, is mostly housed in a separate building, with a path leading to the Crypt and the Group Leader’s Hall in the North Tower (more on that below). It’s very similar to the exhibit at the Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin, which I visited last year: lots of white columns and display cases, with photos and artifacts talking about the history and the beliefs of the SS. Some of it was in English, but most of it obviously was in German, so I didn’t spend as much time there as I might have liked.

Still, it was interesting to be there. I got to see a lot of artifacts, including a few books on mysticism and some occult memorabilia, some uniforms, and a lot of other cool stuff. And at a certain point, you could walk along a footpath to the North Tower, where two of the rooms the SS renovated are available to look at (sadly, no photos are allowed in those areas). The Crypt is a dark and eerie space, and definitely had a ritual purpose, though not necessarily a magical one. The walls are covered with paintings of stylized depictions of victims of SS tyranny, as if to say that the space is now a memorial to them than to the SS and the Aryan man. On the floor above is the Group Leader’s Hall, which was incomplete at the end of the war and was probably meant to be a meeting room of some sort (but for what purpose?). The most interesting part of that room is that in the center of the room is a Black Sun symbol, which has both esoteric connotations and–because the SS used it as a symbol of power–neo-Nazi connotations. I stood on top of it as if to say, “Yeah, I’m Jewish and you’re worth shit.”

Entrance into the castle proper.

Entrance into the castle proper.

The other exhibit discussed the castle’s history, when it was the second home of the Prince-Bishops of Paderborn. You basically go throughout the whole castle–down hallways and up and down staircases–seeing its history from prehistory to the early 1900’s. That was interesting too. Part of the exhibit displayed what creatures lived in the area in the Ice Age or earlier, and another area talked about how important agriculture was to the area. In one room they had the actual road traders used displayed where it had been uncovered during renovations, and in another section there was a small tribute to the Jewish community that lived in the area. And in one part of the East Tower is a basement room where witches were kept and tortured during the one recorded set of witch trials in the area. Believe me, I’m definitely going to email those photos to my History of Witchcraft teacher in the morning.

The castle courtyard, facing the direction of the North Tower.

The castle courtyard, facing the direction of the North Tower.

At the end of it all, I had a really great time and was really glad I’d gone (though before I ended the tour of the castle I had to take off my coat because I was starting to get really warm from all the physical activity). It’s definitely going to be one of the highlights of my time here in Germany, and I took a lot of photos so that I’ll remember it long after I’ve left the country. I even had an idea or two for stories while I was there, and I bought a few books in the gift shop so that I’ll have plenty to reference should I ever need to look up some info. Definitely check out the castle if you ever get the chance. It’s well worth the trip.

Of course, I doubt this’ll be the last adventure I have in Germany. While my time here is becoming limited, there’s still one place I’d like to visit, and I think I might have the opportunity this coming weekend. Oppenheim is a town not too far from me, with an underground ossuary and labyrinth, which sounds a lot like the Paris catacombs, and they have a wine museum too. With Oktoberfest starting, sounds like the kind of place I could have a bit of fun before I say goodbye to Deutschland, don’t you think?

A model of the synagogue that used to be in the village, located in the small Jewish display in the castle.

A model of the synagogue that used to be in the village, located in the small Jewish display in the castle.

Well, I wanted to write more posts today (I’ve got plenty to write about), but it’s getting late and I’ve got an early morning tomorrow. I guess I’ll just say goodnight for now and see what I can post tomorrow.

Goodnight Followers of Fear! Pleasant nightmares!