Trip Start Apr 11, 2008
Trip End Jul 03, 2008

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Where I stayed
Flemings Hotel Schwabing

Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1st and 2nd are Spanish holidays, so I decided to take advantage of my long weekend to travel to other parts of Europe.  After a lot of research (mostly price driven), I settled on Munich, Germany, since I had never been to Germany before and had always wanted to go.  I also took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria while I was in Munich, but I'll cover that in a separate entry.

My whole trip to Germany was really great - however I had one unfortunate event that happened on my way there that I have to say, added an uneasiness to the whole weekend.  I flew out of Madrid on Thursday late afternoon, and planned to check 1 bag and carry on 2 (my camera case and a messenger bag).  When I arrived to check-in, I was told that I could only carry on 1 bag as the plane to Barcelona (I was connecting through) was very small and it was a full flight.  I tried to argue with the guy, but he wouldn't budge, so I unwillingly put my $1200 Nikon D80 into my big bag and checked it.  Needless to say, just as I suspected, when I arrived at my hotel in Munich, my whole bag had been gone through and my camera and blackberry charger were missing.  I was already a little nervous from arriving in Munich after 10pm, then having difficulty figuring out which train I had to get on (some instructions were in English, but the actual purchase options were only in German) to ride for an hour out to Schwabing, walk a few blocks dragging my ridiculously heavy bag in the dark not really sure where my hotel was.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep a wink that first night.

I won't bore you with the details of the ridiculous process of making a claim with the Spanish airlines, filing a police report, etc...but I had to do all of that when I got back to Spain, and now I wait to see what "token" amount the airlines will give me to compensate me for my loss.  Thankfully, I have wonderful co-workers who have helped me alot - especially with the language barrier.  Enough about that though.....

After returning from a great day trip to Salzburg, Austria, a couple of Americans I met on the trip took the recommendation of our also-American tour guide and walked up to the Augustiner Keller from the main train station.  It was everything you would expect of a German beer hall.  Old, drunk guys sitting in the "regulars" section right as you walked in, long tables with benches with servers wearing the traditional liderhosen and carrying HUGE liters of fresh beer.  I'm normally not partial to German food, but I have to say everything I ate in Germany was very good - a little heavy yet - but still, excellent.  After dinner, I headed back to my hotel room, which actually was in a very nice, safe section of Munich (although I didn't know that when I was making the hike in the dark the night before). 

The next day I went on 2 shorter tours.  The first was walking tour around Munich with the same guide - we covered all the major landmarks of the city and toured the Cathedral.  The only downside to Munich (and I suspect this is an issue throughout Germany) is that 60% of the city was destroyed during WWII.  So, although many base structures still exist, many of the insides of the buildings had to be rebuilt after the war.  But, as you'll see in the pictures ,there was still enough original architecture to really make the tour enjoyable.  The weather was perfect- low 70's sunny.  One thing I thought was funny (you'll see this in my pics) is that the typical german breakfast is a white sausage called Weisswurst on a bun and a liter of beer.  I walked by many outdoor cafes and watched the German families sitting outside enjoying the typical German breakfast - it was about 10am.  I know - the breakfast of champions!  I have to say even I did not partake in the beer for breakfast while I was in Germany (I know you guys can't believe it) but only because I had had enough of it the night before.  In fact, Germans typically view beer like Americans view Coke.  Even the at work there are coolers full of beer and workers can help themselves whenever they want.  Sometimes that would certainly be nice in the U.S!

The 2nd tour was of the Dachau concentration camp, which is located in the town of Dachau about 20 miles from Munich.  I have to say, if you ever have the opportunity to visit a place like this - go.  I know it's depressing, and not exactly a way to enjoy your vacation, but I truly believe it will change your perspective about what you hear about WWII.  I left Dachau with an almost sick feeling - but above all, I was proud to be an American.  Dachau was liberated by American forces in 1945 and it was only due to the efforts (and sometimes forced efforts) of the American soldiers that the Germans who had been living right next door in the city the whole time finally realized what Dachau really was - a hell on earth.  There were an estimated 40K+ people who died there, and 7K more died after liberation simply due to the fact that their bodies could not re-adapt to regular food, clean water and regular sleep.  The "bunkers" that housed the prisoners of Dachau were built for at most 200 people in each one.  By 1945, the Nazis had had a good 2 years of realization that they were not going to win the war, and as a result took on the task of eliminating certain people who were not considered "worthy" of life as we know it.  Most of these were Jews, but there were many others - some of which were not even tracked - Russian POWs, homosexuals, criminals who had completed their prison sentence but would not be permitted to re-enter society, people with differing political views, intellects from countries Germany had invaded who were considered "threats", and many more.  By 1945, the bunkers that were only built to house 200 people each, had anywhere from 3-4,000 people living there (in each one).  There were only 10 toilets per bunker.  People were literally sleeping on top of each other.  There was a typhoid epidemic, dead people were everywhere.  It was a mess. The Nazis had totally lost control of the situation.

Of course, we also toured the gas chambers, the crematorium and saw pictures of piles and piles of human bodies who perished at that place.  Now it is a memorial site. But even today there are people in Germany and all around the world who deny the truth of what happened.  Dachau was the first of the concentration camps started by the Nazi's.  The German people were completely misled by the SS about what these places were there for.  And, you can imagine the embarrassment of the German people once they realized what really had been going on right under their noses.  It struck me as I was leaving the site, to see a huge sign that is repeated in several different languages as that read in all caps "NEVER AGAIN".  I would hope not.

After that day, I sorely needed a distraction.  So, I met my American friends again at the famous Haufbrauhaus for a little change of scenery.  At our table, we could have had a mini-world conference.  There were people from many European countries, the US, and Canada.  The place was loud, with the German band playing happy music and the servers bringing arms-full of liters of beer and slamming them down on the tables for the guests.  It was a great night.  We stayed until they closed (and they were serious when it was closing time - they won't even give you a water!).  So, after an exhausting day - both physically and emotionally, I headed back to my hotel room and was dead to the world.

The next morning, I packed, checked-out and caught the train to the airport.  As I was riding the escalator from the underground train up to the terminal, I heard a familiar tune which was the perfect final memory of my time in Munich (although there really was nothing German about it).  As I got to the top of the escalator, there was a full brass band playing music for people as they had their big German breakfasts outside I suppose before they caught their flights.  The song was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".  Not exactly what you'd expect to hear in Germany, but it was a perfect final memory for me of Munich. 

I'll sign off for now.  I miss you all!


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