Friday, July 18, 2008
Munich - The FINAL CUT!
Saturday, June 28 - Well, just as I had mentioned in my previous post, things always go wrong when I’m traveling from one place to another. I had originally planned on going from Cesky Krumlov to Salzburg, Austria, but decided on Munich instead, because I couldn’t find a place to stay in Salzburg. This probably has something to do with the Euro Games, which are winding down in the next day or two.
I left Cesky Krumlov around 10:30am, and didn’t arrive in Munich until 6:30am the following day. The first train of the day broke down, which caused me to be late and miss the next train. I had to wait about an hour and a half for the next one. Luckily, I had met a family from Wisconsin who was headed to Salzburg, so I had some company while I waited. In fact, after hearing that I was originally headed to Salzburg, they offered to let me sleep on the floor of their hotel room. At the time, I actually decided to take them up on it, but later continued on to Munich anyway, as I’d reserved my hostel with a credit card and I had a sneaking suspicion that they would charge the whole thing if I didn’t show up.
At about 11:30pm, I was finally on my second to last train, and almost in Munich. All I had to do was switch trains in a town called Passau, and I’d be in Munich within an hour. But, I was pretty tired by this time and had sort of fallen asleep on the train. When I woke up, the train was stopped at Passau and I had 2 minutes to get on the train to Munich. I grabbed my bags and ran out the door, practically falling out of the train because I was still half-asleep. I ran down the stairs and into the corridor, trying to figure out which platform my train was on. I had about 100 meters to go, and was running as fast as I could in flip-flops and a 40-pound backpack. I got to the platform and started running up the stairs, with the train in sight. And then, as soon as I crested the last step, the train pulled away. I was 10 feet away and I missed it.
The worst part about missing the train was that that was the last train to Munich for the night. In fact, it was the last train to anywhere that night. Thus, I was now in an unfamiliar town, in a train station, with nowhere to go, and no way to get there. I couldn’t believe I’d missed that train. All I could do now was wait until morning, when the trains started running again. Unfortunately, the trains start later on weekends (this was Friday night), so the first train to Munich wouldn’t be until 5:45. Great.
I walked around the town looking for anything that was still open, but it was no use. I pulled out my laptop and walked around until I found some random wireless signal, so I got on the internet for a while and sent some e-mails, as well as looked up the whereabouts of my unfortunate location. After that, with four more hours to kill, I just walked back to the train station, the only place I knew of to go.
During the night I met a German guy who was in the same boat as I was. His case was actually a little bit worse – he was on his way home to see his wife and daughter after being away for two months. He missed the last train home. He and I talked a while, but his English was very hard to understand. After a while, I laid down on a bench with my pack under my head, and remained there in some sort of not-quite-asleep state of half-consciousness for a few hours. Eventually, the train arrived, we both were on our way, and I got to Munich just fine.
Upon arrival, I checked in and went straight to bed. I slept from about 7am until 1:30, which wasn’t too bad. I was in a 40-bed dorm (yes, forty), so most people were out on the town and I could sleep in peace. When I woke up, I went out on the town to walk around a while.
80% of Munich was leveled during WWII. However, it has been rebuilt very well, and barely shows any of its former scars. The downtown is full of broad lanes, squares, and for some reason a fountain on practically every block. I walked about a kilometer to the center of old Munich, called Mariesplatz, where a large church stands called Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady. (Side note – I’m pretty sure that every town in Europe has some sort of church in honor of "Our Lady.") This one has two high towers, and I went up in one of them while I was there. Also, just inside the front entrance of the church is what’s called the "Devil’s Footprint." Here’s a condensed version of the story behind it:
When the church was being built, the devil came to it and stood inside the front entrance. He noticed that it had no windows, and because of this, he decided that he wanted it for himself, as a place where people would worship him instead of God. He told the architect that if he ever changed the design of the church, he would steal his soul. Years went by and the church is finished, and the devil comes back. He walks through the church and notices that it now has windows. Furious, he brings over the architect and shows him that he broke the original design by putting in windows. The architect then points out that the church had windows the entire time, but from where the devil had been standing the first time, the church’s large columns conveniently blocked the line of sight of the side windows, giving the illusion that the church is windowless. The devil realizes he has been tricked, and in a fit of rage, stomps his foot into the floor of the church. The indent left by his foot is now the "Devil’s Footprint."
The story is rather famous in regards to the church, but unfortunately untrue. The footprint is actually that of the architect, in a unique attempt of putting his stamp on his work. I like the devil’s footprint story better, though.
In the Mariesplatz square itself is the world-famous Glockenspiel, basically a huge cuckoo clock. I saw it, but wasn’t there at a time that it would ring, so it wasn’t terribly exciting. In the square, I bought some fresh strawberries and started to walk back to the hostel. On the way, I ran into the best street performers I’ve ever seen, and ended up watching them for nearly an hour. The video at the top of this post is them playing Canon in D. The violinist was amazing.
Sunday, June 29 – Today was a big day. First, I planned on taking a free walking tour of Munich at 10:45. Then, I would head to Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich. After a few hours there, I would come home and prepare to watch Germany play Spain in the championship of the Euro Games. This game was unbelievably huge – everyone was talking about it. Ever since I’d gotten back to Germany, you could see people walking around covered in Germany gear (flags draped around them, huge hats, jerseys, etc). These games happen only every four years, and Germany has the most victories out of anyone. If they won tonight, there would be mass chaos.
As I met in Mariesplatz for the free walking tour, I once again ran into a familiar face from home – this one even more ironic than the previous times. I ran into a girl named Becca that not only went to Maryland and was in the business school with me, but in our last semester we had a logistics course together – BMGT475. While we’d only spoken a few times before, we definitely knew each other, and were also both in Greek life. Neither of us could believe that we’d run into each other on the other side of the world, and so I had to get a picture to mark the occasion. I was hoping she was going on the free walking tour, but she was meeting there for a Dachau tour instead. It was cool to see her though – I absolutely can’t believe that I’m running into people so close to home.
On the tour, we hit a lot of cool sites, and the tour guide had some interesting commentary. One of the places we went to was the world-famous beer hall Hofbrauhaus. Las Vegas has a copy of Hofbrauhaus, that I’ve actually been to when I was out there for CES. The Vegas version wasn’t very close to the original, though.
One interesting fact about Hofbrauhaus is that it’s actually the birthplace of the Nazi party. It was there that Hitler laid out the points that would eventually become the backbone of the party’s beliefs. He also held rallies here and gave out free beer, no doubt a tool he used to get people to join his cause.
Actually, many of the sites we hit on the tour had to do with Hitler and the Nazis. In the year 1923, Hitler tried to start a revolution that would eventually allow him to forcefully take the city of Berlin. It was called the Beer Hall Putsch, and we walked in the footsteps that he and more than 2,500 other "revolutionaries" took as they marched through Munich.
Later, on the night of November 9, 1938, the Nazis ransacked Jewish homes and businesses, setting fire to buildings and beating or killing Jews that they found along the way. This incident is now referred to as Kristallnacht, or "The night of broken glass," due to the shimmering remains that blanketed the streets when the sun rose the following morning. In Munich, there are now over 100 subtle monuments memorializing those lost during Kristallnacht - all at former locations of Jewish homes or businesses that were destroyed that night. Most are tucked away in corners and down alleys, out of the public eye. I only saw a few as we walked through Munich, as I kept forgetting to look for them. I did manage to get a picture of one, though.
Another example of the Nazi occupation lies on the side of a street, and consists of nothing more than four bolt holes and a square of faded concrete. It was here that the Nazi party placed wreaths and a plaque commemorating Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. It was considered a symbol of great pride for the Nazis, and so they required every single person that passed it to give the Nazi salute. Two armed guards assured that no one passed without giving the salute. However, some people didn’t agree with the Nazis, and so they refused to give it. Instead, they would walk down a street one block before the wreaths, so as to go around it. They didn’t get away with that for long, though, as the Gestapo realized what was going on and placed guards there as well. They would take down a person’s name each time they went down that street, and if a person went down it one time too many, they would be arrested and sometimes even sent to Dachau as a political prisoner. On that little side street, there is now a row of golden cobblestones, memorializing those people that passively opposed the Nazi party by refusing to walk past the plaque and wreaths.
Another such example of passive resistance came at the end of our tour, when our guide finished by telling us the story of a publication called the "White Rose." The White Rose was a pamphlet published secretly by a group students and a philosophy professor at the university in Munich, and it aimed to expose the Nazi party for what it really was. They would write about the atrocities that the Nazi party were committing, and then distribute the flyers by dropping them by the thousands into main squares and highly traveled areas. In one of their publications, they addressed the Nazis directly, saying something along the lines of: "We are your guilty conscience. We will not be silenced peacefully." They knew that if they were ever caught they would most likely be killed for what they were doing. Unfortunately, some of them did get caught as they were distributing the flyers, and were turned over to the Nazis by the very President of their university, who was a Nazi supporter. To punish them for treason, the Nazis publicly executed them. In the end, most members of the rose were eventually caught and executed, and there is now a memorial at the university that some of the members attended. After the tour I went to visit it, which consists of copies of the White Rose juxtaposed on the concrete, as if they had been dropped out of the window.
After the tour, I had planned on going to Dachau concentration camp, but in talking with a tour guide, she told me that if I had already seen Auschwitz, there was no reason to go to Dachau. Dachau couldn’t come close to Auschwitz, she said. Thus, I just went back to the hostel to get ready for the big game.
That night, after stocking up on some cheap Germany gear, I went out to a beer garden located in one of Munich’s big parks called the English garden (Side note - check out this picture to see some sweet Munich surfers in the English Garden). There were thousands of people there, and I ended up meeting a cool group from Georgia, as well as two guys born and raised in Munich. In beer gardens and halls, they sell beer by the liter only, and it comes in a glass mug about the size of your head. You can see some glasses on the table in this photo. The beer is great, and I had three of those during the game. Unfortunately, we ended up losing 1-0 to Spain, but there was still a lot of energy. Not many people can say that they’ve watched a European soccer championship on the home turf of one of the teams. Afterwards, I just went home since I had a long day of traveling the next day.
Speaking of which, my next destination is Switzerland, and I’m currently on a train that just crossed the German-Swiss border. Switzerland’s beautiful, and the town I’m heading to is nestled high in the Swiss alps, accessible only by taking a train, a bus, and then a cable car. It doesn’t have a grocery store or any other amenities, but the view is absolutely unparalleled.
I definitely think this will be the pinnacle of my trip, and have been looking forward to this stop particularly. I’ll be doing some all-day hikes to the top of the surrounding mountains, which will give me a great view of the world-famous Jungfrau, a mountain that’s claimed the lives of many mountaineers over the years. My trip’s now officially halfway done – I can’t wait to see if the second half is as great as the first.
Oh, and also... I've been pretty good about not buying any sort of souvenirs in the cities I've been in. They're usually expensive and will make my already heavy pack just that much heavier. However, I acquired my very first TWO souvenirs in Munich. I won't say what they are (you'll have to wait til I get home, or maybe send me a personal email to figure it out), but I will give you the following three clues:
One is very light, the other is very heavy
One was very cheap, the other was rather expensive
One I acquired at 1pm, the other I acquired at 1am
Can you figure out what they are?
To see all 85 pictures I took in Munich, click here.