Sunday, July 3, 2011


June 24-25

An afternoon train from Vienna brought me to München just in time to meet Nick, Noah, Gerst, and Chelsea again for a traditional German dinner. The restaurant was one of the only ones we have been to as a group that did not have any English descriptions (some of these are often amusing because they are so literal, others translate to things we've still never heard of - like "rucola" in Italian, which translates to "rocket" in English. "What do you mean you've never heard of rocket?" was the response recieved after asking our waiter about it. Its a leafy lettuce like plant with a strong after taste, in case you also didn't know). I did my best to help translate main dishes at the German restaurant, and in the end we ended up with schnitzel, wurst, cordon bleu from schwein, and some very good kasespätzel. Another nice surprise in Germany was how cheap the grocery stores are. Beer is cheaper than water, and Apfelschorle (fizzy apple juice) was only 25 cents! This is very exciting when you consider that I've paid 3 euro for a coke or bottle of juice in several places.

Munich is the only place I'm going on this trip that I've already been to before. I was surprised at how familiar some of the streets around Marienplatz and the hauptbahnhof were, since I only spent a few days here last time. I have very vivid memories of being confused by the S-bahn doors that open on both sides of the train (unlike all the other metro systems), trying to figure out the word for "map" at the kiosk upstairs from the trains (just saying "map" would have gotten us farther than all the words we made up), and looking for books at the store across from the glockenspiel. All of these are only little things, but ones I had forgotten about until I came back. Memory triggers are interesting, I'd like to learn more about them. I wonder which parts of this trip will be the most clear memories in later years.

The next day we visited Dachau, the first concentration camp in Germany. I was also here six years ago, and the experience was just as powerful this time. Maybe even more so after knowing more about the haulocaust and trying to imagine what those imprisoned here went through, instead of only absorbing facts. It is certainly a place that needs to be visited more than once to fully appreciate the content of the museum and memorial experience. Partly because of the amount of content exhibited, and partly because of the emotional and mental toll it takes to try to understand it. Most of the historical places I've visited on this trip have been several hundred years old. They are intersting to learn about, but difficult to relate to in many ways. Dachau is not old. It is easy to imagine what was going on in the world outside the camp walls, easy to imagine the people. The things that happened inside are unimaginable, how people could possibly be so cruel to other people, and how easily they were able to get away with it. Knowing that this all happened recently, within the last century, and that similar crimes are being committed in other parts of the world even today is frightening.

This time I forced myself to visit the crematorium and the gas chambers. I couldn't go in six years ago. Even though it is only an empty building now, it was still a chilling experience and made me feel slightly sick. I've heard people say that Germans try to hide their past. After visiting Berlin and seeing Dachau again, I don't think that's true. Their history is built into the cities and towns, in plain view. Remnants of the wars are seen in the "Never Forget" inscriptions, in the many memorials, large and small. Differences between the East and West are still visible, in the architecture and language (Munich is much prettier than Berlin. In east Berlin I only heard German, but heard many languages in Munich - both are large cities that attract tourists). The continued focus on reunification is seen in the "Deutschland - Wir sind ein Volk" banners on Museuminsel in Berlin. Germans appear to be very aware of their history.

After coming back from Dachau, I went shopping in Marienplatz, something much more light hearted. My backpack has gained almost 4 kilos between Munich and London (at least 1 of those kilos is in Milka bars). Souvenirs are much more appealing when I know I only have to carry them around one more city.

From Munich our plan was to fly Ryanair to London. Ryanair is a budget airline that flys out of smaller airports. We knew we wouldn't be leaving from the main Munich airport, but didn't realize until a day before the flight that the Memmingen airport, where we needed to be, is a 2 hr train ride away. And with a 9:20 flight, that means we had to take the 2:20 am S-bahn to be able to catch our train. Oops. Nick nicely shared his headphones and let me watch some episodes of 30 Rock on that very early train. And the 5 of us managed to snag one of the "Harry Potter cars" for the ride and I finally got to listen to the train song (Purple Bottle by Animal Collective) while actually riding on a train. Get that, woo!

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