Monday, July 25, 2005

Munich

So let me divide this entry into three parts becuase I did three radically different things while in Munich. We begin with:

MUNICH
Munich is the heart of Bavarian Germany. Basically this means they are located in the south of Germany near the Bavarian Alps. Munich itself is famous for a number of reasons, their favorite being beer. Munich is where Oktoberfest began and to this day they pride themselves on their beer halls and beer gardens (there is one or the other located every 2 feet). Munich is also known as one of Hitler´s favorite places to meet and greet and there is much third reich history here. Upon arrival in Munich we headed out to see the town. Basically downtown Munich is just filled with shops and pedestrians. The buildings are old-ish but don´t look that way because they are filled with stores. We walked down to the Hauf Brau House which is the most famous beerhall in Munich. I think the beer is stronger here. We went back to the hostel and on the way Gary and Jerry decided they should run through a fountain. Then they hugged all of us dry people till we were all cold and wet. The next day Beth wanted to see the glockenspiel, Jocelyn wanted to eat and do a bike tour, and everything got crazy. Remember that shopping street I mentioned before? Well now it was jam packed with people and we were rushing through them to get to the clock before it started glockenspieling in 5 minutes. I think that started the trouble. That and apparently it doesn´t go every hour so it was all in vain. Since we only had an hour till the bike tour, I thought we should grab lunch, but Jocelyn wanted a sit down lunch so I grabbed a table at a cafe. Well the boys weren´t happy with the menu and Beth kept insisting we couldn´t eat in a hour and so I asked Jocelyn what she wanted to do since this was what she wanted and she started crying. That´s when I knew I was not going on the bike tour...I needed to get away from these crazies!!!! We ended up getting sausages at a stand...or rather they got sausages while I ran around looking for a table and holding it for them (really are thy children??? can´t they do things for themselves or be happy when someone takes care of it for them?). Then we split up and I was better and I got to enjoy Munich by myself. First I headed to the victualmarkt which is a farmers market - I do love farmers markets. Then I walked up these side streets passing churches and monuments till I came to a square. I wasn´t real sure what some of the buildings were, but I went into the theatkirche which is this gorgeous baroque church with all this carving inside. Most churches have stone carving, but in this, it was all white, so maybe marble? And it gave the whole church a real light feeling. Then I walked through the Burggarten and saw some more amaying buildings which I took pictures of even though I still don´t know what they were. Then it was off to the Englischer Garten which is like 1000 acres! Crazy. I started at the surfers bridge which was the neatest thing ever. There are surfers lined up with their boards on either side of the river taking turns riding back and forth on this continual wave under the bridge. Unbelievable. I walked through the gardens and saw a nude man running in the nude bathing portion of the garden...and it was not warm out! Then I went to the Chinese Tower which is the largest beer garden in the world. Since it was the middle of the day and I´m not an alcoholic (contrary to what you may have heard) I didn´t stick around there for long enough to find out if it lived up to its reputation. Then I met up with Gary who had decided not to take the bike tour either and we walked along the beautiful aqua river to where the Oktober fest is held. Right now its this empty field with skeletons of structures which will be beer halls come September. Guess what. Gary loves Great Hotels as much as I do and watched all the Passport to Europe series!!!! We met back up with group and there was more drama, Beth had crashed her bike into a cement wall and had a bruise and scratch on her leg. She wanted to go to the hospital......the girl wasn´t even bleeding. Instead we got her ice and headed to dinner at another beer hall. It was great being able to see everything, but after being in all the cities I had been in, I felt like Munich was no great shakes. It had pretty gardens and old buildings, but most cities here have that. The thing that sets Munich apart is the beer, which is really not a reason to go to place.

DACHAU
While in Munich we took a trip to Dachau, Hitler´s first concentration camp, about 15 minutes from Munich. I was getting nervous on the way there of how I would react. I did okay there. The place is like a big barren piece of land which helped in reaction. It´s so out there, in the middle of a forest and if it wasn´t for the autrocities commited there you may think "oh, what a nice place for a camp". You walk through this gate which reads "Work will set you free" which is creepy, but not as creepy as the picture of what the roof used to say "Freedom is earned through honesty, purity, piety, hard work, cleanliness, sobriety, and love for your father land." The references to freedom seem a cruel joke to those who were there.
There is a documentary in the old admissions building where people were checked in, stripped of their belongings and humanity, and given ill fitting clothes. That was almost the hardest part of the visit. Behind this building is the barracks, or prison cells where torture and punishment were carried out. The execution wall still stands. This is also where the daily pole hangings took place as men were hung from their arms tied behind their backs for an hour. In front of the administation building is the roll call area which is just this huge empty area where the entire camp was lined up morning and night. Behind this, separated by a poplar lined lane is where the bunks were. No bunks remain standing, but there are cement foundations stretching back where each stood. 2 bunks were recreated in the front and you can walk through and see how the bunks changed over time becoming less like beds and more like flat pieces of wood where bodies were pressed together in the overcrowded area. The 3rd bunk is where medical experiments were carried out. Across from it was the infirmary which grew larger and larger throughout the period. In the last bunkers were kept the most undesirables, and this is where the Jews were. Behind where all these bunkers stood were memorials and as I entered the Jewish memorial, there was a group reading in hebrew. Then they began singing the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah (the hope) It was moving. The last stop on the tour was the creamatoriums. This was the hardest. Seeing the ovens where thousands of bodies were burned gives you a sick feeling in your stomach and even though they were never used, I couldn´t go through the gas chamber.

FUSSEN
The last day in Munich Gary and I woke up early and headed to Fussen. Fuss is German for foot and we were on the train for 2 hours heading to the foot of the Alps. We were going to a magnificent castle built by King Ludwig II in 1869. It´s where Disney got the idea for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. And it was worth it. The train was packed with the entire continent of East Asia. Honestly, there could not have been a soul left in Seoul! Gary and I decided they must teach about this castle in school there or something. The town itself is quaint and romantic, I loved it. We took a bus from the station to the castle area and then another bus up to the castle.....up the side of the mountain to the castle. You pass through forests, and lakes and it must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. The bus dropped us off and we hiked to the Marian bridge which sounds great "breathtaking views of the castle from a bridge over a gorge and waterfall" They fail to tell you the bridge is this tiny little thing made of wooded boards over a 90,000 foot drop into the gorge. (that may be an exaggeration, but you are WAY high up with no support and no safety net). They also fail to tell you that there will be about 300 people on the bridge at one time jostling for a good view in the narrow space and that if any one walks, all the boards move on the bridge and if you look down you can see between the boards. One of the scariest things I´ve ever done. And we got confused as to which way to go and had to cross over it twice. After that we hiked to the castle which is gorgeous. Really, no words can describe, but I took lots of pictures. We went on a tour of the inside which was just magnificent. Ludwig was mad about Wagner so every room is covered in wall paintings depecting one of Wagner´s operas. And the wood carving everywhere!!!!! Ludwig died mysteriously (went missing for a few days and then turned up dead in a lake) so the castle was never finished. (The inside at least) but the few rooms that were done which we saw were crazy beautiful. It was so worth missing the 3:30 train back to Vienna. As it was we were running around trying to catch the bus down the mountain so we could catch the bus to the train station so we could catch the 3:00 bus to Munich so we could catch the 5:20 bus to Vienna. We made it. Whew!

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