For our Tuesday day trip, Courtney and I settled on heading down to Munich. I’ve been there a whole pile of times now (insert jaded expat voice here), but since there are plenty of options on what to do in a day there, that’s where we decided to go.
Courtney asked what there was to do in Munich, and we discussed the options. We could do a free tour, visit the Hofbräuhaus, the English Garden, check out some palaces, or the Olympic Park. But like many Americans who have been far over-exposed to the History Channel, when I said the word, ‘Dachau,’ she said, “let’s do that!” For me, I’ve done the concentration camp thing, both in the Czech Republic (Terezin), and in Poland at Auschwitz. I pretty much feel that if you’ve seen one horrible reminder of human tragedy, you really don’t need to see another. But since Courtney was into the idea and we have no idea when her sperminated self will be able to travel to Euro-land again, I said okay.
Again we used the Bayern ticket for our day’s travels, which very handily covers your trips on local public transportation as well. This was great in Munich, as we needed to use the S-Bahn for the 20-minute trip to the outskirts of the city where Dachau is located. When you reach the Dachau Bahnhof, you will have no problem finding the bus to the camp. Just follow the crowds of tourists with cameras slung around their necks. Done and done. The bus was horribly crowded, but at least we knew we were going to the right place.
The bus drops you off right at the Visitor’s Center, where you find the usual information center, cafeteria, restrooms, etc. Entrance to the site is free, but you can arrange for a tour, or pay less than 5€ for an audioguide. We picked up an audioguide and followed the stream of people down towards the gate. In front of the gate you can see the remainder of the brick road that prisoners were made to walk on from the station to the camp.
Slight digression: There was a family a bit in front of us, and they all stopped for a photo op on the road by the gates. We saw this a few times throughout the day, and I saw it when I visited Auschwitz as well. I took a few pictures in both camps, but to me it just seems odd to have a picture of your family grinning away in front of the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate. It’s such an infamous image and in my mind there is nothing but sadness associated with it… I just don’t understand why you’d want a happy family photo in front of something like that. There are so many other great photo opportunities in Germany, I guess I’d just leave this one off the list. Okay, digression over.
Okay, so I think smiley photos are weird, but I did take a couple…
We started in the main exhibition building which you see in the picture above. Inside is enough information to make anyone’s head start to spin. It goes chronologically through the rise of the Nazi party, and the start of the war. There is also a history of the Dachau camp specifically, the different prisoners and groups that were brought to the camp, and what the conditions were like for the different prisoners. In the middle of the exhibition is a theater, and you can watch a movie that covers the history of the camp from the beginnings to the Allied liberation. If you have a weak stomach, I would skip the movie. That’s all I’ll say about that.
After the film, we had enough of the exhibition, and headed back out into the sun. That means we skipped the whole second part of the inside, which apparently covers the final years of the camp and liberation, but really we couldn’t see/read anymore. We had the audioguide, but there was more to read than our eyes could handle. Instead we went outside, and into one of the remaining bunkhouses that you can see. Afterwards it was a long walk down the tree-lined central road, past the foundations of all the long-gone prisoner houses. Visiting places like this on a nice day always feels a bit strange, but not too much we could do about the weather. At the back end of the camp there are memorials from the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths, as well as a Carmelite convent where “The nuns regard it as their duty to offer prayers of worship and atonement at this sight of immeasurable suffering and inhuman atrocities.” (via)
From there we turned left and went to the site of the former crematorium. The sight of people snapping pictures inside made me kind of nauseous again, so it was a short visit for me. Once you’ve seen people-sized ovens, that’s kind of enough for the day.
In short, if you haven’t been to one of these places before, and you have any interest in going, I’d say it’s worth a visit. Maybe it was just me, but it seems like we spent a ton of time in school studying World War II, and there are no shortage of shows about it on TV, so most people have at least some knowledge about it. But seeing it in person is a whole other horrifying experience. Both Dachau and Auschwitz were excellently done memorials, with more information than anyone should ever read in a day. That’s all I have to say about that, but if you want more info on Dachau, you can visit them at Dachau Memorial Site.
After a few hours at the camp, we headed back into the city for a mid-afternoon lunch at the Hofbräuhaus. Because even though Courtney couldn’t drink the beer, that’s where you should go in Munich, right? On the way, we stopped at the Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, and saw the Rathaus/Glockenspiel.
When we arrived at HBH (I’m lazy, sorry), I was a little surprised to see how empty it was inside. I’ve been there quite a few times now, and it’s allllllways busy! But when we got to the back of the restaurant, we could see that it was only empty inside because everyone was out in the beer garden! It was a gorgeous day, so we decided the garden was the place to be, and we grabbed the only free table we could see right next to the central fountain.
The waiter came around to take drink orders, and while poor Courtney was stuck with her typical German drink choice of Apfelschorle, I could at least indulge in a beer. I asked for a beer, the waiter looked and me and said “halb?”
Seriously guy? What do I look like? A girl? An American? No sir.
“Nein, ein Maß, bitte.”
Happily, Court could still pose with and smell my beer. Next trip she’ll get to drink some…
Just like the day before at Weltenburg, the menu at HBH was a bit tricky for me to translate. They did have an English menu of course, but before we got one, I got to take a very amusing video of Courtney attempting to read the German one for us. Unfortunately I can‘t get the damn thing to load on here, but I‘ll work on that one for the future. Because it‘s funny!
I have no idea what we ate, bread and pretzels for a starter definitely, and I think Spätzle may have been involved, but I remember it was good. Food at HBH has always been good in my experience, so if you‘re in Munich, head on over.
To walk off our lunch, we decided to go check out the Olympic Park in Munich, the site of the 1972 summer games. We got down into the U-Bahn and settled in for the ride. However, we had a few problems.
The first problem came when two very loud middle-aged American women sat down across the aisle from us. They then proceeded to have a full-volume conversation about a large family group who got on, wherein they tried to deduce where the family was from, by spewing a whole pile of stereotypes right in front of them. Guess what? They might not understand every word you say, but most people here do speak SOME English. So when you’re talking about the women in brightly colored clothing/headscarves, and their several children/strollers, and the two guys with them, some of those people can probably understand you. They then went on to have a conversation with another woman who was definitely not a native English speaker, but was an English teacher in Munich, who proceeded to wax philosophical about life in Germany. My favorite part came when she was describing how small the country was, and told the two Americans that Germany is 1/10 the size of Texas. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure my geographical knowledge isn’t that far off. To be clear, according to the mighty and all-knowing Wikipedia, Germany is 137,847 square miles, and Texas is 268,581. Smaller? Yes. 1/10? Not even remotely close. I shouldn’t judge though… math isn’t some people’s strong suit.
Idiots aside, a few stops into our trip we ran into train delays. We sat in one station for quite a few minutes, and heard some unintelligible announcements. Then, we found ourselves going backwards on the train. When we arrived in the next station we could see the delay announced on the notice board, and something about a bomb. Yep, a bomb.
We were there August 28th, also known as the day when a 550-pound American bomb from World War II was found in the middle of the city. Needless to say, we weren’t getting anywhere we wanted to go at that point. Finding old bombs is fairly standard issue here, but this was the first time I’ve been so close to it. Here are a couple of articles, and videos of the explosion that we could have stuck around to hear that evening….
Spiegel Online: WWII Bomb Discovered in Munich City Center
BBC: WWII US Bomb Detonated in Munich
Courtney found it a bit ironic, as when she was studying abroad in France, she had to skip a planned trip to Madrid because of the bombings there. Maybe it’s her…
Since it was apparent we weren’t getting to the Olympic park that day, we scrapped the plan, left the U-Bahn, and did some wandering around the city before going back to the station to get a train back to Nürnberg.
During the House Hunters International shoot, we were pretty much dead to the world at the end of the day, so we hadn’t been out in the city at all in the evenings. I decided that we should get out at least one night, so when we got off the train in Nürnberg, we went straight down to the river to one of my favorite places for an evening drink, the Kettensteg restaurant. This is a really nice beer garden and German restaurant right on the river near the Hallertor in the old city. I don’t have any pictures of it, but here’s one from the interwebz…
We were joined for a drink by HP of my recent hiking adventures, because I felt that Courtney needed to meet some more of the lovely German people. So we had a nice evening by the river, and relaxed a bit before her last full day in ze Deutschland…