Our final stop in Heidelberg before hitting the autobahn for the return drive to Stuttgart, was Patton Barracks. Patton Barracks once housed the 26th Support Group and the Support Battalion (Provisional). I was privileged to be the Headquarters Company (included the Group and Battalion HQ) First Sergeant from 1987-1991.
Patton, like the other former U.S. facilities is reclaimed by the Germans. Much of Patton is torn down, but the core buildings housing the battalion’s units and the Group headquarters remain.
In this photo, we are looking through the fence at the rear of Building 115, Patton Barracks. It’s the building that housed the battalion headquarters and Soldiers. We are able to see the building from this vantage point because the gymnasium is gone. We took this picture before we discovered the front gate was wide open.
As we drove on, we noticed the unguarded and open front gate. No one tried to stop us as we rolled in. We drove through and headed straight for my old building.
This photo is me standing on the stoop where I stood many times before. It’s not exactly a wild west ghost town, but if you stand there for a few minutes you recall the many American Soldiers who walked these grounds, who built the patio in front of the dining facility just across the street. Soldiers young and old who called Patton Barracks home for the lengths of their tours. A flood of memories from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the start of Desert Storm. I was privileged to serve there.
That wrapped up our visit to Heidelberg. There was another, larger, housing area. Patrick Henry Village (PHV). My family and I also lived inside there for a few years. We were told the Germans turned PHV into a refugee center. Night was also falling and we decided against a drive thorough.
Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkts (Christ child markets) or Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas, or Holy Night, markets)
Christmas Markets are among the oldest of German traditions. We visited the Baden-Baden Christmas Market that remained open after Christmas.
There’s plenty to see. Vendors selling everything from hand carved Christmas ornaments, to hats and scarves. There are many food selections from traditional bratwurst to my favorite, flammkuchen. Sort of like a thin crust pizza. Suzie-Q and I are enjoying this one topped with smoked salmon. Washed down with traditional German holiday drink gluehwein (warm, spicy wine), just be careful the vendor hasn’t spiked it with rum.
Visiting a Christmas Market is a must do if you’re in Germany during the Christmas season.
Of all my time in Germany, I never visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. It’s not a place to go for Christmas cheer, but it is certainly a sobering place and a place to contemplate the human condition.
In comparison, Dachau was a small camp. 43,500 died there compared to more than a million at other camps. Reading the museum displays and walking the grounds is not pleasant. There are times when unpleasantness is required. When we have to know the depths of evil humans can reach.
The crematorium is still there and right beside it is a gas chamber. Mia my Granddaughter sat alone on a bench. Looking quite solemn for a 12 year old. She told me, “This place makes me sad.” It should make all of us sad, but it should also make us resolute that such evil should not be allowed again. Ever.
New Year’s Eve
Let’s finish this up on a brighter note. If you’ve never been in a German town on New Year’s Eve, you’ve missed a celebration. Near midnight, we gathered on the balcony of my Son’s house. As it became 2020 fireworks erupted in a 360 degree circle. Not professional fireworks, but the town’s people celebrating. I remembered those celebrations from years past and thought what a great way to start the New Year. Let’s blast off into it. Let’s live in the now. Let’s not dwell on a past we can’t change nor fret a future we cannot predict.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
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