our second day in munich. we had a great breakfast (included) at the hotel, more choices than imaginable and all of them good. eating cold cuts however did not appeal, but the rest was too good and nothing like the standard “continental” breakfast hotels offer at home.
we headed to the hauptbanhof (rail station) to get organized for our day trip to dachau. we lucked out meeting a young romanian woman working for eurail in a special support office for english speaking travelers. she gave us every detail we needed to manage the tour on our own as well as getting tickets for our trip so saltzburg on friday and the trip to innsbruck the day after. so far, every person we have dealt with have been exceptional, all friendly and extremely helpful.
off to dachau; this is a trip i have wanted to do for far too long and at last i’ve made it. i expected it to be a sombre or even depressing trip, however it is was somewhat more. after touring most of the grounds and barracks where prisoner “slaves” were housed for want of a better word i ventured into the main administrative building which documents the rise of nazism and the systematic plan they developed for the persecution of jews, gypsies, homosexuals and many others.
the literature implies a certain sereendipity of events that allowed it all to happen, but somehow i think it was more a case of wilful ignorance and underlying prejudice that made it all the more easy for such horror to occur.
after watching a film that summarized this i took a break for lunch where we compared thoughts on what we’d seen. we were both of similar mind, and equally perturbed by the endless tour groups of young german students who have a mandatory requirement to visit a concentration camp during their senior years in school. it was hard not to feel that too many of them were unaffected by the history, we thought some came across as bored or even amused by the horror.
following lunch we continued our tour of the grounds including the crematoriums and memorials where the ashes of thousand are buried. we agreed we’d meet at the bunker as i had yet to finish the history tour in the main building. by the end i really could not take any more and felt that i might cry soon if i did not get away from the images, stories and tools of inhumanity. rick and i met in the the couryard that separates the administration building from the “bunker” a breath of fresh air and a friendly chat helped shake the feeling of tears… perhaps i should have let them flow. we entered the bunker as the last phase of our tour. for those unfamiliar with dachau, it was the first concentration camp and training ground for many of the atrocities that would be used at other camps. the bunker was used for a myriad of tortures including physical and emotional abuse, and was where too many met their end. feeling the claustriphobia of the small cells, low ceilings and the cold that permeated everything it was time to escape this hell hole.
i’m glad i made the trip and i think it did what i was expecting: provide not only a greater understanding of the evil that happend during the second world war, but also how close it is to today and the easy acceptance of intolerance that still fills the world, much of it uncomfortably near to home. in fact not many weeks back a national religious leader was able to suggest that people like me should be executed and he still has a job with the church. regrettably there are many like him in right wing politics and religious organizations that spout fear and hatred disguised as love and christianity.
back home for a bit of a fresh up before heading back into the old town to finish the tour we started when we arrived. there is a lot of history here which surprised, mostly because i did not think so much would have survived the war. wrong, many building date back to 1500’s and some a few centuries older. munich is a bit of a postcard; some buildings are what we’d consider a cliche, however they are the real thing with painted motifs, intricate facades and ever more ornate interiors. if you think of disney and the fairytales this is where the backgrounds came from… we saw the old city walls, churches and town halls and ended the day at the old hofbrauhaus for dinner and beer. the beer mugs are giamungous and hold a full litere of beer, not sure how the waiters and waitress are able to haul so many at a time as they weigh quite a bit. i ordered a dark beer which is the orginal hofbrau beer and a plate of assorted sausages, saurkraut and spuds acommpanied by a salad (balance). rick had white sausage, salad and giant pretzle all washed down by the beer and followed by the oh, so good apple strudle…..oh my god was that goood!
after a short walk we hopped the subway and made it back to the hotel by 9 for an early night.