Micheal
At A Glance:
  • Tour Dates:
    September 24 - October 1, 2017

    Price:
    $2,995/Person (DO)
    $3,495/person (SO)

    Meet ~ Depart:
    Frankfurt, Germany~
    Salzburg, Austria

    Combines with:
    Art & History of Beer Brewing

    Uncovering Camelot

     

     


  • In 1993, bestselling author Jenna Blum and her mother traveled to Germany on a one-month tour intending to visit the tiny farm town from where her great-grandparents had come and drive around the country in the attempt to answer a question that had been plaguing them for some time: how did the Holocaust happen here? This question was particularly troubling to Jenna’s mother, a professional concert pianist, who struggled to reconcile that a country which had produced so many of the world’s most celebrated musicians, artists, composers, writers, and thinkers had also engineered history’s most atrocious mass genocide. As Jenna and her mom made their way around, everywhere they went seemed to unfold another layer in this perplexing mystery. From the idyllic, fairytale-like forests and castles to the disquieting grimness of a concentration camp, and on to sublime vistas in the Alps, Jenna gathered bountiful material to help her envision the heartbreaking narrative of her groundbreaking, New York Times best-selling novel, Those Who Save Us – the story of a German woman trying to save herself and her young daughter during WWII and the daughter’s quest half a century later to discover what her mother did.

    This unique sojourn retraces the footsteps of Jenna and her mother’s epic journey and allows Jenna’s readers and fans the opportunity to travel along with her on a journey of the imagination. Together you visit sites that inspired passages from the novel, enjoy readings in the actual settings of the work, hear behind-the-scenes stories and inspirations from Jenna, and discuss the complex, dark history that gave rise to Those Who Save Us in the first place. Literature lovers in general and aspiring writers will also be captivated to delve into the mind and musings of an author to discover the inspirational trappings which underlie the art of writing while edging themselves closer to that blurry area where fantasy and reality coexist. As Jenna thoughtfully muses, “When a writer writes, she’s making things up, but to visit the actual settings her characters live in, touch what they would touch, inhale the same air, view the same vistas: that is a magical journey that makes them real.”

    Our journey begins in Rothenburg, a beautifully-preserved medieval town that dates back over a thousand years. Strolling the cobblestone pathways while viewing the lovingly-restored facades of the homes and shops along the way transport your imagination to a bygone era. In the 1930s, Nazi ideologists found Rothenburg so charming that they idealized it as the epitome of a German “home town,” representing all that was quintessentially German. In fact, throughout the decade, day trips to Rothenburg were organized from all around the country to display this “most German of German towns”; subsequently, all of Rothenburg’s Jewish citizens were expelled in October 1938. It is this very same juxtaposition—fairytale landscapes that masked the malevolence of Nazism—which Jenna explores in her novel and, thus, this historical town provides a most appropriate starting point for our tour.

    From Rothenburg we travel north along Germany’s Romatic Road to the town of Weimar, which, in addition to having large cultural and historical importance for Germans, is the setting at the very heart of Those Who Save Us. It is in Weimar that powerful forces compel the novel’s heroine into making life-altering decisions that will have enduring effects for both her and her daughter. Because the character works in a bakery, you gather with Jenna to taste traditional German breads while discussing the thematic and symbolic relevance of bread in the novel. Visits to the concentration camp Buchenwald and the verdant Park an der Ilmallow Jenna to further illuminate the importance of the novel’s setting and some of its themes.

    Next, we travel south to Nuremberg, the site of the famous postwar Nazi trials. Nuremberg was also the site for the infamous rallies celebrating the “Thousand-Year Reich.” Here, Jenna finds the appropriate locale to discuss the controversial films of director Leni Riefenstahl which were widely used as Nazi propaganda, and also the overall significance of Nuremberg in pre-war, wartime, and post-war history. Visiting Nuremburg’s rock-cut beer cellars, which German civilians crowded into as bomb shelters during the Allied air raids of World War II, enables us to understand some of the true terrors that were endured by the common folks at the mercy of much greater forces.

    Continuing our journey southward, we enjoy two days in picturesque Berchtesgaden, a charming Alpine town that was a favored retreat of SS officers who liked to vacation with their lady friends in this breathtaking locale. We enjoy a leisurely afternoon cruise on pristine waters of Lake Konigsee, nestled within the beguiling Alpine peaks. This picturesque setting provides Jenna an appropriate backdrop to discuss one of the more important chapters in the novel, focusing on the discrepancy between German appearances and reality and the romantic grandiosity that helped fuel Nazi ideology. Additionally, Jenna will host a reading at the atmospheric Hotel Wittelsbach, the setting for some of the novel’s most pivotal events.

    Finally, we make the short trip across the border to Austria and our final destination—the stunning City of Salzburg—a UNESCO World Heritage city. Being an unabashed devotee of The Sound of Music, Jenna garnered inspiration both in its memorable songs along with its famous depiction of German-Austrian culture, which she credits with helping her to create the atmosphere of Those Who Save Us. Jenna leads us on the famous Sound of Music Tour and shares with us how this much-beloved musical played such an integral role during the months she worked on the novel. It is fitting that our tour concludes in this elegant cultural center that was caught in the crosshairs of one of the darkest moments in modern history, invariably coaxing our minds to reflect the parallel situation that confronted the heroine of Those Who Save Us.

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