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!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 13 / Altötting

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Round About Altötting, Bavaria
"Ice" It's Mandatory for All!
Following my abbreviated school day at KKG (König-Karlmann-Gymnasium) I took the opportunity to do a little solo exploring of the small city of Altötting, where our host school was located.  The downtown area is well known as a religious destination but what else could be found beyond the Church Plaza?  I walked downtown on the normal route, which I was getting more familiar with every time I needed to go down to the center of Altötting.  I soon passed by Wendy's favorite ice cream cafe and stopped in out of respect to order a cone of Snicky, my favorite favor so far, made to taste like a Snickers candybar.  The ice cream or "Ice" as it is called in Germany, so far consisted mostly of the Italian gelato style, piled high in stainless steel pans within a glass covered refrigerated case.  The portion size and price were both modest, equating to a cheap favorable pick-me-up at any given time of day!  Like I said in previous posts... It was mandatory!  In addition to the standard Bavarian fare served in local traditional restaurants and cafes, there were also other food choices available from around the globe including Turkish, Italian, and even Chinese take out.  I continued on toward the center of town to explore some of the unique looking shops I had seen earlier within the square but never had time to explore.

  Religious Shops on the Square
There were a series of shops who specifically catered to tourists and pilgrims visiting the Our Lady of Altötting Chapel and other religious sites within the downtown area.  These shops sold various wooden sculptures, most in the form of the crucifix, which was seen in almost every home I visited during my stay in Bavaria.  There were prayer candles of every imaginable size, reproductions of historic biblical paintings,  jewelry, etc... Some of the shops were built right into the side exterior walls of the large Collegiate Church of Saint Philipp and Jacob, resembling permanent market stalls.  I went inside each of them and they seemed to be almost the same store with slight variations of the same themed items, competing with each other.  I had a little trouble with the language barrier as the store clerk immediately greeted me in German and then attempted to assisted me.  I think my awkward standard response was... I'm an Americana and just looking...  The message was received with a confused smile, void of any vocal response.  I was then able to graze over the wares available for sale without clerk interference!  Eventually, I found and purchased a small silver hat pin of the Black Madonna, inscribed with the name Altötting.  Hat pins are something I try to collect from every destination I visit to help document my travels.  They are a great little souvenir that only cost a few dollars.  I collected a total of six pins during my trip which I would add to the banner in my classroom that displays my full collection.  

     Basilika of Saint Anna Renovations
I left the Church Plaza and strolled down a slight hill to explore some of the side streets and couldn't help but notice the huge church completely covered in scaffolding, easily visible due to its extreme height in comparison to the surrounding buildings.  I continued my tour of the side streets, which were much quieter than the busy plaza and made my way toward the large church undergoing renovations.  The church yard was surrounded by a tall wall blocking access and my line of sight of the ground level of the building.  Eventually, I came to an arched doorway with a large iron gate that was propped open.  It was being used as the entrance for the construction workers who had a few small work trucks parked just inside.  I slipped through the gateway and quickly went behind a nearby out building, so the workers wouldn't notice me.  I suddenly realized this was not one of the most intelligent decisions I could have made today.  I really had no idea if I actually was allowed to be within the churchyard, since there was a wall surrounding the place, after all.  Plus, if I was seen and questioned, I would never be able to explain myself since I didn't know the language.  How would I ever live it down if my first solo experience in Germany ended in a jail cell?  How do you say Epic Fail in German?  However, it was too late now...  I was inside the wall and now had no guarantee if and when I went back to the iron gate it would still be open.  There has to be another way out of here, so I decided to go forth and play the role of the clueless American tourist.  I've played dumb before... In fact, I am pretty good at it!  Ask anybody!

Monastery of Altotting
The Basilika of Saint Anna was a modern structure built in 1912 to help accommodate the many pilgrims arriving to visit Altötting.  The massive church can hold 8,000 people for a single Mass and was now getting a complete overhaul from the top of the steeple to bottom of its pews.  I rounded the towering church getting some great pictures of the building and surrounding churchyard, which was beautified with colorful rose gardens in full bloom.  The expansive open space appeared deserted, with the exception of several construction workers who were high above in the scaffolding, busy with their task at hand.  I started looking for an exit on the opposite side of the vast churchyard but couldn't find anything except fences, walls, and a canal that may have been filled with piranha and alligators to prevent escape.  I later found out, I was actually walking through the grounds of a monastery that was connected with Saint Anna.  Trapped, I decided to retreat back toward the gate where I had first entered the property, hoping it was still open before I was caught and involuntarily ordained a monk!  Not that there is anything wrong with that...  I quickly retraced my steps without detection, determined to remain Protestant by using my ninja-like skills of stealth and concealment to successfully return to the gate, which was thankfully still unlocked.  I slipped back out through the walled arch into the street and continued on my merry way as if I didn't have a care in the world.  That was fun, but I didn't try to slip through any open gaps within walled spaces for the rest of the day.  Note to Self: Curiosity can get you into trouble!

 Porsche 911 on the Streets of Altötting
As I walked about town, I couldn't help but check out the passing automobiles along with the historic charm of Altötting.  There are several tiers of quality on display driving along the streets with Opel, Ford, and Fiat filling the role as the basic model car makers providing the most economical choice.  In the middle cost category were a few French made Peugeot models but the most common make by far was Volkswagen, the most purchased car in Germany.  The next level up and most desirable automobile brands to own were BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, which were very numerous with all three cars being built in Germany.  At the top of the car pyramid, Porsche appeared to sit all alone on the apex, with the exception of the super car level, more common in advertisements, commercials, and the unobtainable dreams of the common man.  I did see one Maserati in Regensburg and later a Bentley during a day trip to Munich.  Even a few nice American cars were seen during my travels including a brand new loaded Ford Mustang Cobra GT 500 and a classic 1950's Chevy Corvette convertible, immaculately restored to pristine showroom condition.  An interesting side note... A new BMW in the Unites States is 20% cheaper than the same model sold in Munich, where the factory is located.  Some Germans have been known to travel to the United States to purchase a BMW and then have it shipped home to save thousands of dollars.  Go figure... The geographic cost discrepancy is explained by the ability of what people can afford to pay.  The healthier the economy, the more people can afford to pay, raising the final price.  It is the same concept that makes prescription drugs in Mexico cost a fraction of what they do in the United States.  The price is set to the level of what people can afford to shell out in an effort to maximize profits in every market location around the globe.  I wonder what my classic 99 Dodge Caravan would be worth in Germany... A diamond in the rough... or just rough?

Side Street Corner in Altötting
As I walked around town, it was great to see a lot of little Mom and Pop type family owned stores, void of the run of the mill corporate style chains that are so common today.  People were buying fresh cut roses from the flower shop, fresh bread from one of several bakeries, and meat from the butcher.  Many of the stores had been there for a long period of time, passed down from father to son and mother to daughter.  They will most likely endure through future generations, longer than the average upstart franchise, which are often here today and gone within a decade.  Family owned restaurants and cafes were everywhere, most likely known by the locals for preparing their signature dishes from secret recipes handed down through the ages.  It was really refreshing not to see a McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, or a hundred other fast food restaurants anywhere in sight.  Although, the march of progress can never be stopped, it was evident that the heart and soul of the small city of Altötting was clearly anchored in the age old traditions of their past.  Speaking of food, it was now past noon and time to seek out some nourishment.  I was a little intimidated without my interpreter Wendy along so I went where I was already known.  One of the food items Wendy insisted I try while in Bavaria was something called a döner, which I guessed was some type of Bavarian doughnut.  However, I was completely off target.  

Turkish Döner Shop of Altötting
A döner is a Turkish sandwich that is a very popular food choice in many parts of the world, including Germany.  Several kinds of meat are combined together, such as chicken and lamb, and are roasted on a vertical spit over a rotisserie flame.  The roasted meat is then cut off the spit using an electric shaver, where the meat falls into a collection bin below.  The meat is piled high in a bread pita wrap, which is then heated in a hot press, and then topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a few spoons of ranch dressing.  It is served in a paper wrapper to go, which makes it popular with the local kids, adults, and visiting tourists on the go.  Wendy had helped me broker a döner transaction a few days earlier at the same shop.  As I walked through the door, they immediately remembered the Americana in the stylish white German hat.  When it was my turn, they looked at me with raised eyebrows waiting for my order... döner, I said with confidence, which sent smiles through the men working behind the counter.  They pointed to each of the four possible toppings one at a time and a shake of my head effectively conveyed my order.  I was learning that few words were sometimes needed to transmit basic communication to others using hand gestures for emphasis... It was kind of like playing a foreign language version of charades!  Anyway, the important thing was I managed to make several purchases today without assistance from a translator.  Plus, the döner was delicious. It was also popular with our students who also ordered a "döner in a box", which was the meat, combined with vegetables and french fries, tossed into a paper box container in place of the pita bread wrapping.  It was kind of like a "döner salad" to go or a "walking döner".  I told Wendy, when I eventually retire from teaching, my plan is now to open a döner shop in Lititz.  Watch out Rosie's Lunch!

A Döner Kebab to Go
In my opinion, Germany's population appeared to somewhat resemble the United States, becoming more of a global community through prolonged immigration.  A growing number of the country's citizens had roots originating from various nations from around the globe.  Over the decades, the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the newly implanted residents had added their own flavor to the local culture, especially when it came to food.  Italian, Czech, Russian, Asian, Arab, and English... just to name a few, were adding their own cultural contributions to their local communities.  However, it also appeared many immigrants had helped their quest to become accepted by assimilating to the German culture.  Many appeared to have meshed within the German ideal of uniformity, absorbing themselves within the culture by conforming their language, dress, and style of housing to acceptable norms.  Germany's healthy economy will no doubt, continue to attract people from far and wide to relocate to Bavaria and beyond.  Germany as a whole, currently has a population of approximately 85 million people living in an area the physical size of the state of Montana in the United States.  In addition to help nurture a more common economy, the creation of the European Union and common Euro currency appears to also have helped facilitate a merging of peoples and cultures.  By the way, my döner was delicious and I would follow Wendy's advice to try one several times during my three week visit!

 Altötting Town Hall / Rathaus
I walked back to Church Square and took a seat on a bench in the shade by the beautiful town hall (rathaus) building where we had recently met the mayor of Altötting.  The weather was beautiful today, just as it would be for all but a few days during our visit.  We had been lucky because it can rain quite frequently in this area of Bavaria during the summer months.  A group from Cocalico who visited the previous year had some rain almost every day during their three week stay.  The Church Plaza was a great setting to finish my döner and Coca-Cola Light.  Now it was time to return to KKG so I could catch a ride home with Andy, who was now almost done teaching for the day.  I walked back toward the school through the streets of Altötting, watching the world flow by, and feeling I was somewhat part of the current...  

Walking Along the Road in Altötting
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews