Trip Start Feb 11, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Austria  , Bavaria,
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Guten Tag damens and herrens,

Look, we're not going to lie. Our time in Munich was completely dominated by beer and sausages - with the occasional pretzel and pork knuckle thrown in for good measure.

On September 19, after our lazy week in Amsterdam, we were met in Munich by Chris' sister Laura, their cousin Richard and mate Simon and, a few days later, by our friends from home, Ben and Sal.

Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow account of our six days there (which, for the most part, simply involved getting up, trotting off to the beer tents, lining our stomachs with a half-metre sausage with mustard, then drinking copious amounts of beer from excessively large glasses until we passed out), we've decided simply provide you with a picture essay of some of the highlights from the week.

If it's actual information you want, skip to the end to read about the morning we spent at Dachau, the very first Nazi concentration camp.


If you're still reading at this point, then it's only fair we fill you in our trip to the Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp.

After all the drunkeness at Oktoberfest, it was a rather sobering excursion we took with Ben and Sal (and we warn you now that it's not altogether pleasant reading).

Set up in March 1933, Dachau was the role model and training ground for some 2500 other camps spread throughout Europe.

Prisoners from more than 30 nations - hundreds of thousands of Jews, homosexuals, dissidents and others deemed undesirable by Hitler - passed through Dachau's infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Freedom through work") gate. Out of the 200, 000 prisoners who were processed at Dachau, more than 30,000 perished at the camp while untold numbers of others died after being transferred to other camps.

Dachau prisoners were subjected to horrendous medical experiments while Soviet prisoners were sent there to be mown down in mass executions. Apparently the Nazi's used them as target practice.

It was an odd experience, walking through those ominous gates and into the massive, sparse site. We passed through the buildings where prisoners were "processed" - stripped of their hair, clothes, identity and civil liberties. We walked past rows and rows (30 in all) of the reconstructed foundations of prisoner accommodations that held thousands of people in cramped filthy conditions.

In one reconstruction, there was an interesting comparison between what living conditions were like at the beginning of the Third Reich (cleaner and less cramped for the benefit of visiting politicians), and then in the final three years when conditions were at their worst.

Apparently, when the German government gave the ok for a memorial site to be opened in 1966 (liberation of most camps was in 1945), it was under the condition that certain buildings, including the accommodation buildings be completely demolished.

On our tour, we were shown the Third Reich from a different perspective - that of an efficient and calculated business. An example of a very convincing propaganda machine - the Nazis had everyone believing they should be wary and scared of Jews. Perhaps in much the same way many people today are wary and scared of Muslim people because of they way they have been portrayed by the media and through various political agendas.

Another interesting fact we learned is that many modern-day companies (some very well known car, clothing and electrical companies that we won't mention here for fear of being royally sued), actively supported the regime, for example by patenting the gas chambers or designing the Nazi uniforms.

Apparently one of these companies was unaware that they still owned the patent rights to the gas chamber until a crafty journo recently brought it to light. Talk about a PR nightmare!

Perhaps the lasting memory of the day was walking through the original extermination chambers - from the changerooms where the victims would take off their clothes, to the "waiting room" and the "showers" (no actual plumbing installed), where they would go thinking they were having a routine shower, only to be gassed to death (the Nazis would drop gas cylinders into the room through shutters in the wall).

And then, the furnaces to burn the bodies when it was all done.

At the very end of the tour, we stopped by the memorial erected by the survivors, (or the "Dachau committee" as they call themselves). Much more understated than the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant memorials on site, it is a non-denomination statue of the "unknown prisoner", bearing the words "To honour the dead, to warn the living".

Afterwards, back in Munich, we had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus in the city, the place where Hitler and his group of fanatics met to plan their atrocities. We checked out the beer halls upstairs where Hitler would hold his meetings and observed that swastika tile patterns on the floor and on the ceiling that we hadn't noticed on a previous visit.

It was certainly a poignant way to end our time in Munich, but only the start of our education into Hitler's 12-year reign of terror.

Nursing our poor livers and trying to prop up our failing immune systems, we left Munich on September 25 and took respite in lovely Innsbruck in Austria.

Just four hours by train, we checked ourselves into a hotel for four nights. Yes, a proper hotel - with a bath and crisp white sheets and cable TV and stunning views of the snowy Alps and, most importantly, not another single person sharing our room, waking us up at 5am with unnecessary zipping and unzipping of packs or to coming home drunk and peeing in the corner. Pure bliss.

Understandably, we hardly left the hotel room for four days, revelling in the joy of complete privacy for the first time in nearly eight months.

We did venture in to town once or twice, and made the effort to take the funicular up the mountain where we enjoyed one of our famous picnics overlooking some of the most amazing scenery yet.

But mostly, we just hid in our room, eating takeaway, watching as many movies as we could fit in and simply staring at the beautiful views of the mountains. It was a much-needed "holiday" from our holiday.

And then all too soon it was time to head north again, back to Germany where we were to reunite with Ben and Sal, as well as our friend Christine, a fellow Aussie who we met in Egypt - and of course, be given a very-in-your-face refresher course in 20th century history.

More on that next time.

Until then,
Chris and Caroline

Leah: Happy Birthday for the other day Little Leah. Hopefully Yerry selected a nice bunch of flowers to send to the office.

Dancing on tables, clinking steins to hardy shouts of "Prost" and thumping away to the opening chords of 'Seven Nation Army' with friends, family and complete strangers in wonderfully decorated beer tents at Oktoberfest.

Discovering (and rediscovering) half-metre long sausages. Metric meat - brilliant!

Our star-studded encounter with Boris Becker ("BORIS!" So not impressed).

"MEEEAAATTTT!!!", "douche", "doppel douche" and "sound like".

Our chilly spontaneous picnic with Ben and Sal (and Sal and Caroline getting into trouble for taking too long to chose olives and dip).

A very drunk Si rap dancing in the kebab shop downstairs form our hostel.

Those crisp white sheets, the first glorious bath and those unforgettable views of the snowy Alps.

So much about Hitler's atrocities, but only just scratching the surface.

It is possible to survive on a diet of just sausages, sauerkraut, beer and pretzels for a week - but you will get very, very sick.

For a bunch of sausage eaters, the Germans sure know how to make a wicked kebab.

That it's possible to carry at least 12 full steins in one go. Though we don't advise trying this at home.

Red cabbage must take more than six hours to digest.

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