Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Munich, Germany

I finally made it to Germany! Munich to be exact! First impressions? Germany looks an awful lot like back home: lots of flat patchy farmland, pine trees, woods, and a very similar road system. Also very cold and dreary looking in winter. (I'm sure its much prettier looking in the summer.) But I fell in love with Munich, and would love to go back and see things I missed out on, like the Englischer Garten and Neuwenshanstein castle.

Saturday morning Petya, Shannon and I woke up bright and early at 4:30am to catch our flight from Málaga. The flight was uneventful, although we did run into Larken and Cassidy, 2 other auxiliares from Algeciras, waiting in line for our same flight! We got to our hostel 2 hours before we could check-in, so we dropped off our bags and went in search of a delicious authentic German restaurant. We totally lucked out, and found a terrific place with a waiter who looked exactly like Christof from Inglorious Bastards. He managed to convince us to stay for another round of beers after we were done with lunch, which resulted in us staying for 3 hours, drinking a liter of beer each, spending 20euro, and walking away feeling tipsy and amused. Can't say I've ever gotten drunk at lunch before.

Our waiter's twin. Since we didn't know his name, we proceeded to call him Christoph the entire weekend. "Let's go visit Christoph again and get lunch!"

During lunch Shannon informed us, "Did you know more Polish cows were killed during the war than Jews?" Petya and I, "Polish cows? Did you really just say Polish cows??" (She meant catholics, btw.)

That night we went to check out the famous Christmas Markets that Germany is famous for. There is only 1 word for a Christmas Market: magical. We got gluhwein (?) Germany's famous mulled wine, which I didn't think was all that great. Too strong and alcoholic tasting. But that's the point I guess, it gets you tipsy faster so you don't notice the cold as much. We had brats for dinner, and O.M.G. They were delicious. Then it was back to the hotel for some more beers and an early bedtime. Petya tried insisting that we couldn't go to sleep at 9pm on a Friday night, but Shannon and I insisted equally as earnestly that we had been up since 4am, so really, it was more like 2am. Which is a perfectly normal bedtime. 

Drinking Gluwhein and loving Germany.

Sunday morning we went to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. Our guide, Sonja, was incredible. She is writing her masters thesis on Dachau and the history surrounding it, and so was extremely knowledgeable. She told us stories from survivors that she had met and talked to, and I felt like I walked away from the tour actually having learned something, which doesn't always happen. 

The history of this camp is extremely interesting, because it was the 1st of all the concentration camps in Europe to be built. It was originally built in 1932 to house 5,500 political prisoners, aka people Hitler didn't like. By the time the camp was liberated on April 29, 1945, there were over 60,000 prisoners. This meant that there were up to 12 people sleeping in a single bunk, and over 2,000 people in one dorm. Sonja told us that there were twelve sinks and two toilets for all 2,000 people to share during the single hour they had to get ready each morning. Trying to picture this just wasn't even possible...

From 1932 to 1945, the camp had over 200,000 prisoners come through, and had an estimated 31,000 deaths. (Compare this to Auschwitz, which between 1942 and 1945 was recording up to 20,000 deaths a day...). If you're interested, check out more here

"Work will set you free"

The intake/processing room is on the left, and "the bunker", where the guards administered special forms of torture, is on the right. 

A guard watch tower. The buildings where the prisoners lived/worked where all single story buildings. That was the way you could distinguish between guard quarters and prisoner quarters. It was another way for the guards to beat the prisoners down and break them mentally.

All that is left of the dorms are the foundations. Can you even begin to imagine 2,000 people living in one of those?

A ditch like this surrounded the entire camp to keep anyone from escaping. If, however, an emaciated/weak/starving prisoner was lucky enough to somehow successfully jump this, then they had to climb over 2 barbed wire fences, and swim across a canal. And climb over a brick wall.

The crematorium. The builders designed it to look like a "little red brick house" so prisoners sent there wouldn't be alarmed.

Interesting fact, the only difference between a prison and a concentration camp was that people sent to prison had a right to habeas corpus, while those sent to a concentration camp had given that up. (Actually, Hitler had given that up for them. He passed The Enabling Act, which said that the government had a right to detain a person for an indefinite amount of time if they were suspected of being an enemy or terrorist. Which gave him the power to arrest any one he didn't like and ship them off to the concentration camps. Clever.)

Enough of the depressing stuff. After the tour ended at 4:30, we had just enough time to get some food and then meet up in the train station for a Beer Hall Tour. Awww yeah. I felt like a terrible person for visiting a concentration camp in the morning and then doing a 180 and getting drunk, but hey, when in Germany...

Can you see our looks of incredulous excitement? Well, we were in the central train station, and had just watched our guide plop down a crate of beer, crack them open and hand them over. For us to drink. In public. No worries. Life is awesome.

Part of the beer hall tour group.

Inside Haufbrau Beer Hall. Any country that dedicates vaulted ceiling halls to drinking beer has got to be a great country.

Gettin' tippppsy :)

The tour took us to 2 beer halls, 1 Medieval Christmas Market, and then back to our hostel, which coincidentally had a bar worthy of stopping at on a tour. The official name of the tour was the Munich Beer Hall Tour Challenge, and our guide explained that during the 4 hours we each had a chance to compete for the title of the Beer Hall Tour Champion. There would be only 1 winner. And the winner would not be the person who had drank the most or refused a glass of water or generally acted like a drunken idiot. There was a group of 15 of us, and while it was really awkward drinking with everyone at first, by the time the tour ended (just as our guide assured us) we were all best friends and sorry to have to say bye. 

Monday morning was disgusting and rainy and freezing, but we were dead set on exploring Munich. We lasted for 1/3 of a 3 hour walking tour, before deciding that we should probably seek warmth before our toes got gangrene. We enjoyed more Christmas markets, ate more brats, discovered marshmellow puff covered in chocolate deliciousness that translates to "little black men" from German, and toured the Royal Residence. And then went back to visit Christof get dinner. And he remembered us! 

Petya's crowning moment of the evening was telling us that her friend was 100% German, which was obvious because of her last name. (Pause.) "And by 100% German I meant 100% Italian." Longer pause "And by that I mean 100% Irish!! I swear!" So then...what does her having a German last name have to do with her being 100% Irish? 

The trip home Tuesday was long and boring, and our flight got delayed 45 minutes, which meant that Ryanair couldn't play their stupid trumpet when we landed. Being late was almost worth not hearing that.

I'll end this with some shots of Munich, and my favorite things.

Gingerbread hearts. They were disgusting. Tasted like cardboard. Ahh well, at least they were pretty.

Me + brat = happy

Rathas City Hall in Marienplatz. The Glockenspiel in the center is Europe's 2nd most over-rated tourist attraction, according to our guide. I'd have to agree. It was a pitiful performance. 

Munich's buildings reminded me of Excalibur in Las Vegas. (They were brand new, but in the style of older buildings.) Click here to find out why!

Say that 10 times fast.

That's the end of my post, but to learn more about Dachau, why German beer is so delicious, and find out who the winner of our Beer Hall Tour Challenge was, click here to read Shannon's post about the weekend!


  1. "Actually, Hitler had given that up for them. He passed The Enabling Act, which said that the government had a right to detain a person for an indefinite amount of time if they were suspected of being an enemy or terrorist. Which gave him the power to arrest any one he didn't like and ship them off to the concentration camps. Clever."

    Sounds eerily familiar to our congress right now..... oy vey.

    great post though!

  2. When I was googling that to make sure it was right I came across tons of articles called "The Enabling Act vs. the Patriot Act" yeah.

  3. When I went to Germany in high school, we spent like 4 days in Munich! We went to Dachau and it was so sad :( I also got to go to the Haufbrau house and drink a lot of beer :) I'm so glad you had a good time! :)

  4. Haufbrau house was the best, did you see the table of the "regulars" who were wearing full traditional German outfits? They were sitting next to the band stage, and the whole image made me feel like I had been transported back in time. Such a cool experience!