Both sides of my family come from the Ukraine, which also includes some Polish blood in our genes. Growing up I watched my Great Grandmother, who we called Baba, cook pierogies, kielbasa and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage and borscht. Visiting her throughout my childhood, I always remembered her grandiose rose garden and her antique cabinet that contained painted Easter eggs, decorative plates and hand-stitched table clothes.
Although my Great Ukrainian Grandmother lived in Cleveland, she lived close to her Eastern European roots. Why does this matter? Because my family, including my grandmother, lived in Berchtesgaden, Germany for seven years before immigrating to the United States in 1951. During the War, my family was taken from their farm in the Ukraine and sent to Budapest, Vienna and later Berchtesgaden to live in displacement work camps.
I learned a lot from my Baba who lived an abundant life filled with family and grand children. Complete opposite of me, a driven for success type of person, I valued her simplicity to find happiness while being surrounding by her loved ones.
I felt those same feelings while walking through the time Berchtesgaden streets. Besides its charm and beauty, the locals lived a simple life filled with strudel, kürbis soup and market vegetables. Everything around had that German-Austrian flare that included class and delicate details. Houses on the hill were decorated with lavish flowerpots and ivy that trickled down the wooden walls.
This city is also known for Hitler’s retreat, Obersalzburg where his bunker and Eagle’s Nest home lies. Walking through the bunkers was an interesting experience. We walked in the same rooms and hallways of such a dark historical figure. So much history occurred in the same hallways where Hitler and his one thousand SS troops once lived and stood. It was surreal to think that my family once lived, or maybe crossed paths, with the War’s most treacherous beings. But, somehow they survived everything. It's interesting to see such a beautiful place integrate the light and dark aspects of life - nature and war.
Today, Berchtesgaden is a perfect Southern Germany getaway to escape the city life and stress. Surrounded by pristine nature, visitors can explore Königssee and the nearby national park for hiking and walking. It’s the perfect place to reflect about life, spend time in nature and discover the secrets of human history.