Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Monday, October 8, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 8 / Lake Chiemsee

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Lady's Island / The Bavarian Sea
View of Lake Chiemsee, Bavaria
Despite having long days of planned activities and being extremely tired by the late evening hours, I was still having trouble getting a good night's sleep.  I was probably averaging between four and five hours a night and was missing the familiarity of my bedroom back home.  Ever since I was a kid, I have run a floor fan in my bedroom all night long to drum out all the little noises within the house.  The constant steady hum was a soothing sound, which I later learned was officially known as white noise.  I thought about bringing along a small desktop fan but didn't have the room in my suitcase by the time I had everything packed.  Underwear or the fan?  Hmmmm...  However, I had a backup plan!  A few years ago, I was staying in a hotel in Pittsburgh over the Christmas holiday and was really having a tough time falling asleep.  In an attempt to find a solution, I used the iTunes app on my iPhone and visited the online store.  I searched for "white noise" and was pleased to find several choices available, including... rolling ocean waves, tropical rain forest, babbling creek, springtime rain and eventually... fan sounds!  Can you believe it?  I purchased an entire album with the content face of a sleeping newborn baby on the cover that had about 20 different tracks of white noise listed, including six various fan sounds!  I connected to the hotel's WiFi and downloaded my sleep aide within a few minutes.  I selected the track that most resembled my floor fan at home and set it to play in a continuous loop.  With my iPhone plugged into the outlet to stay fully charged and humming away on my nightstand beside my bed, I cranked up the volume and settled in for a long winter's nap.  I was so impressed by my resourcefulness and ingenuity!   

 Angela and Erwin Schadhauser
My first night in Bavaria I used the same procedure but it just wasn't loud enough so I played it on my laptop but for some unknown reason, it just didn't have the same effect.  Was I just suffering jet lag?  Andy and Angela's first question each morning at breakfast was concerning how well I had slept and I confessed... I was missing my fan and the simulated noise from my computer just wasn't cutting it.  Andy thought his mother might have an electric tabletop fan somewhere, maybe... but fans are not a common household appliance in Germany.   I said it was no big deal, not wanting to appear like a sensitive sleeper needing special amenities and comforts like a big baby... which in fact, I was...  But Andy said he would ask her about it because it would also help to cool off my attic living space during the current hot weather.  Ok... If you insist!   When we arrived home from our long day trip to Regensburg, I was greeted by a medium sized electric fan sitting upright on my bedside table.  I love Andy's mother!  She would spend quite a bit of time and effort during my stay to make sure I was comfortable and content.  The hum of the fan really did help me sleep and cooling off my room was an added bonus.  The next day Wendy and I were scheduled to join Andy's wife Angela and her father, Erwin Schadhauser on a day trip adventure to picturesque Lake Chiemsee, which is often called the Bavarian Sea.  At first, it appeared Andy and Angela were taking turns entertaining Wendy and I but it was actually Angela's father who was the one graciously offering to host us on this trip.  Proud of his country, he wanted to show us what a beautiful place Germany is by taking us to one of his favorite scenic spots.  Lake Chiemsee is the largest freshwater body of water in the region, framed in the distance by the towering mountains of the German and Austrian Alps.
Lakeside Chateau / Dockside Shopping
Angela's father pulled in to pick us up shortly after 8:00 AM in a brand new black Mercedes he recently purchased.  I think he said it was a retirement gift he bought for himself.  Nice!  I had never been in a Mercedes before and it was awesome sitting shotgun!  Mr. Schadhauser seemed to be enjoying his new toy by driving like a seasoned European living in Germany.  It was a fun, fast, and smooth ride through the picturesque Bavarian countryside.  The fact that Germany had no such thing as a strait road was once again confirmed, as we twisted and turned around the constant curving roadway.  We pulled over along the side of the road shortly after arriving, so we could get out and take in the first incredible view of Lake Chiemsee from an observation point located by a colorful flower garden.  Sailboats dotted the water's blue, flat surface and I was able to get my first view of the famous Alps off in the distance to the east.  I still can't believe I am here...  I really had no idea of the itinerary for the day and was surprised when Angela's father purchased tickets for a tour boat to take us across the lake and even visit several islands.  We had some time in the town of Chiemsee along the shoreline before our boat set sail, giving us a little time for some shopping along the pier.  It was a hot sunny day and I had brought a baseball hat along in my backpack but was looking for something a little more.... German?  I found a great little white woven brimmed hat that fit well and looked fantastic on me... if I say so myself!  The reality was...  I looked like the complete tourist whenever I wore it and the camera around my neck didn't help!   The next day, our kids at school gave me a hard time about it... so, of course... I wore it every chance I could the rest of our trip.  I made one of my first purchases using the Euro causing me to start feeling a little more comfortable in my foreign surroundings.  I can do this... I think!

Hey, where did that guy buy that awesome hat?
During my quick explore, I was able to get some great pictures of the hillside chateaus decked out with flower boxes.  The traditional architecture of white stucco walls, darkly stained wooden trim, red terracotta rooftops, and flower boxes overflowing with vibrant color were my favorite sight to behold in Bavaria.  These Alpine structures were exactly what I had always pictured the rural countryside of Germany would look like and I was glad to find it present in every area we visited.  Soon it was time to cast off for our adventure on the Bavarian Sea, so the four of us boarded the boat and found seats together on the open rear deck of the ship.  The deck terrace gave us an outstanding unobstructed view of the lake and surrounding mountains.  However, it was extremely sunny, making our outdoor location, which was void of any shade, very hot and somewhat uncomfortable.  Wendy had forgotten to bring a sun hat along today but Mr. Schadhauser, being the gentleman he was, forfeited his own hat for Wendy.  I decided to return the favor by giving him the Warwick baseball hat stowed away in my backpack.  It looked great on him... but not quite as good as my new hat looked on me of course... After all, it made me look like one of the natives!  Angela was tough and went without cover.  Andy and Angela were now expecting their third child and her beaming glow beat back and overpowered the rays of the sun...  Congratulations guys!

Fraueninsel Convent Grounds
We sailed out over the open water, enjoying watching the sailboats darting across the lake in every direction.  There are a total of three islands located within the Bavarian Sea including one that is uninhabited.  The larger of the remaining two islands is named Herreninsel, which is also known as Gentleman's Island that I would later discover contained a castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.  The smaller island and our first stop on our boat tour is known as Fraueninsel or Lady's Island.   The island is crowned with a Benedictine Abbey that has existed since 782 AD and is still in operation, currently housing approximately thirty nuns.  The nuns of the abbey are famous for making their own special cloister liquor spirit called Klosterlikör.  Wow... I didn't expect that!  First on our tour was the hilltop Gothic basilica that contains some of the earliest Romanesque frescoes on the continent dating back to the year 1130, during the High Middle Ages.  We entered the churchyard following the pathway through a small cemetery with graves that were beautifully maintained with plantings and flowers.  I had never seen such a beautiful series of grave site memorials before, which resembled more of a colorful garden than a cemetery.  The grave sites, some of which were hundreds of years old, were regularly maintained by the descendants of the deceased. Later in the trip, I would see other similar beautiful cemeteries in Salzburg, Austria, and even in our hometown of Altötting.

Churchyard Graves of the Fraueninsel Basicila
Next, we stepped inside the ancient wooden arched doorway, into the quiet calm dimness of the chapel.  The large stone step at the base of the church entrance had the shape of a concave dip that resembled a possible way to drain water from the doorway.  However, the real cause of the concave dip in the stone doorstep was erosion from a different source... People's feet!  So many people had visited the chapel over the building's long history, that the stone had slowly worn down over the centuries of constant foot traffic passing through the entrance.  It was one of the most memorable mental imprints of the entire trip, a visual representation of the incredible length of the region's history.  It was amazing to think of the sheer number of people it would take to wear down a large stone like that over time.  The chapel's artwork, alter, and sanctuary were beautiful and bright.  The wooden pews were unique, carved into long rows of individual seats, separated by their extended armrests.  In the Catholic tradition, a side alter glowed with over fifty white votive candles, lit by visiting parishioners to symbolize their prayers to God.  The chapel did not have the grandeur of the Regensburg city churches but was holy and elegant in its own design and purpose.   It was time for lunch and as we exited the churchyard we passed a beautiful restaurant with a large frontal biergarten shaded by trees.  The inviting cloth covered tables were enclosed by an abundance of floral plantings that formed the perimeter of the outdoor seating area.  It was tempting but Mr. Schadhauser had other plans... We were going the traditional route... Bavarian style... with a meal of smoked whitefish caught that very morning, a few feet away in Lake Chiemsee.      

Worn Step of the Chapel Entrance
The fish market and outdoor seating area was on the other side of the isle but since the entire island only encompassed a total of 38 acres, we didn't have very far to go.  The G. Ferber Pollfischer fish shack was nestled along the hillside overlooking some fruit orchards just outside the grounds of the convent.  We found a shaded table on the terrace and I followed Mr. Schadhauser around the back of the chateau where there was a counter.  The fish shack was self serve and Mr. Schadhauser made his selections from a glass case and we then carried our catch back to the table.  I had never eaten smoked fish before but I was open to trying new things and this was one meal that didn't include sauerkraut!   I will admit that it didn't appear to be the most appetizing looking meal that was ever set before me but when in Chiemsee...  Smoked whitefish was one of Mr. Schadhauser favorite meals and this spot was a must stop every time he visited the island.  It was hard to believe this thing laying before us had actually been alive and swimming in the lake just a few hours earlier.  It looked like it had been dead for over a hundred years and resembled a fossil from the Jurassic Period.  How exactly do you eat this thing?  Mr. Schadhauser was a pro and demonstrated the multi-step process of consuming such a foreign looking object.  He broke the fish apart with his hands, dividing the fish into four portions with the expertise of a seasoned smoked fish devouring warrior.  He demonstrated how to remove the meat with your fingers, separating it from the sharp bones.   No utensils required!   

Fresh Smoked Fish from the Bavarian Sea
The fish was tasty with a strong smokey flavor... because... it was... smoked fish!   It was really good and I finished most of my portion in good measure.  However, the fish smell was permanently imbedded within your hands and accompanying fingers for the duration of the day.   No matter how many times you washed them, you were stuck with a nonrefundable aromatic souvenir of your meal that you got to take home with you.  Mr. Schadhauser loves smoked fish so much he got a couple more to take back home with him when we revisited the fish counter to return our tableware.  Now that we were fed and had our essential needs met, it was time to complete the circle of the pathway tour back down to the docks where we would catch the next boat out to visit our next stop of Herrenchiemsee or Gentleman's Island.  Within a short time we were back on board the tour boat making our way across the open calm waters of the lake.  There were several types of water craft traveling about the lake including a small old steamship, several paddle wheel boats, and the ever present sailboats, which seemed to be the preferred mode of travel for most sea captains this particular day.  Within a few minutes we were pulling up to the docks of the largest of the three islands of Lake Chiemsee.  I had no idea at the time but I was about to come as close I have ever been to France right in the middle of Herrenchiemsee Island. 

 G. Ferber Pollfischer Showcase
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



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