World Cup Madness and other intense moments
Trip Start May 23, 2006
10Trip End Aug 02, 2006
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My last night in Berlin (after a quiet day with just a little bit of exploring in between rain showers), I finished a relaxing dinner of Vietnamese food with Don, and then headed back for what I expected to be a quiet night at the hostel by myself. Instead, I ran into the inimitable Scots, who just happened to be staying at the hostel, much to my delight! We then went to an all you can eat Indian buffet, though personally I skipped the eating, then drinking in this back alley bar filled with locals and students which was well cool. It was great to see them again! The next day, as I wasn't leaving Berlin until the evening, we went to the Fan Fest party on the main street. It was the most insane party of my life possibly... there were what felt like millions but were probably only tens of thousands of people all chilling and wearing their countries' flags and cheering sporadically. There were live performances from a Brazilian group, House Party from the Netherlands, and Stamping Feet, which was a German techno group of sorts. More importantly, I was about 10m away from Right Said Fred performing "I'm too sexy". If only David Hasselhof had appeared on stage, I could have died happily at that moment. Instead, there were promises of Nelly Furtado, but alas, I had to leave to catch my train before her performance. Still, it was totally great, and being me, I talked our way into the VIP area in front and into a set of free hats for all of us!
I then caught my overnight train to Munich, for the duration of which I was with a lovely Polish lady who spoke about as much English as I spoke Polish, so it was a quiet night, though she did manage to explain that she was going to Verona to compete in the World Bridge Championships (and then started yelling in Polish, I think about the lack of space in our little berth). It was rather uneventful, though I did have nightmares the whole night of being robbed, courtesy of my previous train experiences.
I arrived in Munich, checked into my hostel, and decided to take a walking tour with a few guys I met there. About an hour in, we realized that it was not the best use of our time on a beautiful sunny day, so we took off and went for a stroll through the English Gardens, passing the Bayer Munich team bus on the way (though I couldn't see if there was anyone in it). We ended up at the Chinese Beer Gardens, having a very large pint by their version of a pagoda, and one pint turned into two... at the risk of alarming my parents, I will be honest and say that by our calculations, my friend Dev and I both managed to drink an impressive 7 litres of beer in our first 24 hours in Munich. going from beer garden to hostel bar (after a nap) to the Hofbrauhaus beer hall to another random local place.
The next day I was no worse for the wear, and we all met up (including my roommate Sean, who was quite the interesting character) to go to the Olympic grounds in Munich and watch the opening world cup match. The boys decided at around 2 that the beer was just way too expensive and we needed to go get beer in a convenience store to bring in. Leaving them to their own devices, as I had to go to the toilet, they somehow managed to convince themselves that they would be able to get a mini keg in, because it wasn't glass. One of the security guards at the event actually burst out laughing when he saw us try to walk in with it, so instead we drank it (to be fair, they drank it, I was done with beer at that point) outside the gates, making friends with random Germans who came up to give us advice as to how to get German beer out of a keg (don't - it is too foamy and needs to be served from a glass bottle) and asking to fill their water bottles with it on the way in.
Once we got in, all the prime spots with an actual view of the TV screen were gone, so we were relegated to the sidelines with a partial view. Sean and I left after the first half when we realized we actually wanted to watch the game and were more interested in that than the atmosphere (also I was FREEZING at that point, having decided not to bring a sweater). We watched the rest of the game at the hostel, and the next game, after which I called it quits and went to bed- after being so chilled all day, I felt myself coming down with something.
The next day, Dev and I went to see a castle outside of Fussen, two hours from Munich. It is known as the "fairy tale castle" because it is so beautiful, and it really was. It was up a big hill, which we hiked like champions (after I had an ice cream and he had some wurst), and right next to this beautiful gorge with a waterfall. There is not that much to describe about it, I will upload my pictures soon and you will be able to see the beauty of it.
That night, Dev and his cousin left Munich, and I ended up going back to the Hofbrauhaus with these two girls from Edmonton who I met on the train from Fussen, and two girls from my room who were studying law in Indiana. It was a great night- we made friends with Mexicans, Italians, Germans, and mostly Australians (though the Swiss put on a hell of a strip show once the bar closed on the street outside!). There were two bachelor parties, for one of which the groom-to-be was dressed up as a penguin, with a beak and wings. I didn't really understand much of what was said, but it was totally cool to see all the different countries again and the oompah band playing along.
Had that been my last impression of Germany, I might have been left convinced that it is the type of place that really I could handle living in, and would want to come back to. But I felt an obligation to go to Dachau, being so close.
It was a completely surreal experience to visit a concentration camp. For the first time, I can understand people who deny the Holocaust, because standing there in one of the places where it happened, it seemed impossible. How could one human being do such terrible things to another? It just didn't seem like it could possibly be real- the sun was shining, there were poplar trees along the camp road swaying in the wind, and the main building had been turned into a museum, which helps make everything feel far more distant and detached. But walking around the camp, I was shocked at how real everything actually was. Looking at the camp walls, with a ditch in front, then barbed wire, then cement, with guard towers all over the place helped me to visualize what it must have actually been like. At the same time, a Korean tourist would walk by with a giant camera taking pictures of everything, or I would pass a tour group taking a group photo in front of the memorial statue. The gas chambers were the hardest thing to look at, as they were left pretty much exactly as they were, surrounded by trees and the sound of bird singing, the juxtaposition was striking. It was also stunning to me to see how close the camp actually was to the city of Munich. I don't understand why so few people took a stand against this evil, or how it could happen in the first place. More accurately, I do understand how it could happen, and how easy it would be to just stand by and let these atrocities take place. It was a terrifying and sobering morning, and I ended up almost running out of the place at the end, when I had had enough.
Emerging in Munich to World Cup fever again, the bustling streets and all the people sitting in sidewalk cafes gave me a very strange feeling.
The rest of the afternoon I spent reading in the hostel, waiting for my train to Prague, which I caught, and am now here, after a very crowded train ride. As always, I hope everyone is doing well and please do email me, I want to hear what is going on with you!