Wednesday, June 27, 2007

27.06.2007 Munich, Germany

Hello from Munich!! The beer capital of the world!

We arrived here around 6:45 am yesterday morning.....the train was nicer than our last overnighter, but the seats were like airplane seats that just recline, so neither of us got a terribly good night's sleep. We didn't have any trouble finding our hostel though, since it is one street away from the Hauptbanhof (main train station). The hostel we are staying in is called 'Jaeger's'.....which is funny to me.....some of you will get why. (and just a cultural note: the beer 'Jaegermeister' here is the one that all the homeless people drink......interesting....).

Anyway, our room has 40, yes 40, beds in it! Though it only seems like 10 since there are 4 seperate alcoves each with 10 beds. So funny though....It really is different! And I'm definitely glad that I am such a hard really wasn't hard for me to get to sleep or stay asleep!

Yesterday was spent mostly just sleeping in the lobby of the hostel, going for a couple of very short walks, and sleeping some more once we got into our room. We both needed a bit of time to recharge!

Today, though, was much more productive. We got up and caught the S-bahn to Dachau. It was a very sobering experience for me. And it was especially difficult to really get my mind around what had actually occurred there not too long ago. We went through the iron gate that says 'Arbeit Macht Frei', just as so many prisoners had in the 12 years that camp was open during the Nazi reign. Dachau was the first concentration camp opened and became the model for the many to follow. It is frightening how many main camps there were, then to think of all the subcamps, of which there were at least 15 just for Dachau.

There is an extensive museum with loads of information in the main building of the camp. The mood there was incredibly somber as we read stories of individuals and their experiences there. As you enter the museum you go through much of the same route prisoners would have taken....through the rooms where they were made to undress, then as they were shaved (sometimes with razors that did not quite work and just tore the hair out causing bleeding) then put up to the neck in the disenfecting solution which would burn, then through the showers (which actually were showers here, and not another name for the gas chamber like at Auschwitz). Finally to come out at the end with prison clothes that most likely did not fit, and made to stand in the main yard for roll call, sometimes for hours on end.

We saw one of the barracks which showed inside what the living conditions were like.....three bunks high, the rooms full of beds, with healthy and sick people crammed into these small spaces with one another.

One thing both Katherine and I wondered as we left was how a camp as horrible as it was could have existed in the middle of a middle-class neighborhood. It was not out in the middle of nowhere, as I had imagined, but actually just in the middle of a town.

Part of the memorial is a plaque in several languages that reads 'Never Again'.

The experience is one I will never forget, most definitely.

On another note, it has been absolutely FREEZING here for the last few days....while we were at the camp we were wandering in the pouring rain. Neither of us came prepared for weather quite this chilly. On our way back, we decided to ride the metro an extra stop into town so we could go to H&M. I bought a sweater, as I definitely need it here!! We are en route back to the hostel now for hot showers and dinner of cheese, bread, nectarines (which we just bought from a street vendor for only €1,99 for 1 kilo! Its amazing how much cheaper it is to eat healthy here....with the exeption that beer is cheaper than either water or soda!) and various other random things....

Tomorrow we get up and check out of our hostel, then we will go on another free walking tour with the same company our tour was with in Berlin. Its fabulous....they have these tours in almost all the rest of the cities we're going to! (Amsterdam, Paris, London). Then we have the entire day to simply wait until our night train....we leave Munich tomorrow night around 11:30 and get to Venice the next morning around 7:45!!

Love you all, and I'll write more soon!


Anonymous said...

I am so moved by your description of Dachau. It's just beyond comprehension isn't it. The memorial plaque says it best, "Never again."

Anonymous said...

Alison, I am so impressed with your travels and your descriptions of every thing. You are doing a wonderful thing and I am so proud of you. And I'm really envious of you and wish I were young again. But, of course, I don't think I was ever so brave. Grandma