Wednesday, October 13, 2010
October 13—“ Climb Every Mountain”
Today we visited Berchtesgaden and Kehlsteinhaus (Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest”) in southern Germany, near the Austrian border. The day was supposed to be clear, but a dense fog blanketed the morning sky. As the bus wound its way up the steep mountainside, the beauty of our surroundings was magnificent. When we arrived at the Eagle’s Nest, the fog was so thick over the Alps that it appeared as though one could walk from one mountaintop to the next. It is no wonder that Hitler chose this place for some of his official meetings.
Eagle’s Nest is also a particularly special place for one of our veterans, Mr. John Cipolla. Along with his company in May of 1945, he marched a day and a half up Kehlstein Mountain to Hitler’s headquarters. Mr. Cipolla shared how he went into Hitler’s office and made himself comfortable in the former dictator’s chair. The company commander walked in to the sight of SGT Cipolla’s feet on the desk, relaxing and having a grand time. He was told quite clearly to get his feet off that desk and to get out of the chair! According to Mr. Cipolla, the Allies did not need any of Hitler’s persona to rub off on them. Today, Mr. Cipolla was able to sit in the same room he was in sixty-five years ago, but this time he was enjoying a lunch of goulash soup.
The magnificence of the Alps was astounding. A person cannot stand approximately seven thousand feet above sea level without thinking of God’s great creation. Yet we were standing in the midst of Adolph Hitler’s mountaintop retreat. Sister Irmengard reminded us yesterday that we must not take depression and despair from sad surroundings. Rather, we must take hope; hope for the future and Eternal Life. This is what our veterans have done. They continually tell us their reflections of World War II, and then they see the students and know their efforts and sacrifices were not in vain. As Mr. Cipolla said, “Do not focus on the bad things. Put them out of your mind and continue having a good time like we have been.”
It is also important to give Cristy and Ray Pfeiffer, our tour guides, the recognition they deserve. A great deal of careful planning and hard work went into our trip. Our time in Europe has been laid out masterfully with almost every minute full of adventure, fun, and history. We all appreciate their generous and caring spirits and the obvious dedication to their job. Finally, our thanks would not be complete without mention of Alain, our expert bus driver. His dry yet playful sense of humor will be definitely missed as our trip nears the end.
Melissa Roach and Jessica Rose