Unfortunately we had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to Munich that Sunday. We were planning on leaving later (because sleeping in is such a luxury, and it just doesnt happen as often as youd think on our trip), but Dachau wasnt open on Mondays. So, we were up at 6am making our way to the train station through the streets of Freiburg. lol, there were drunk people everywhere, still partying in the bars or stumbling home in the dawn.
Once in Munich we hopped the S-Bahn and then a local bus to get to the concentration camp
. It turns out that the day before was their 66th anniversary since the liberation of the camp, and they were holding a memorial service the day we arrived. So there were lots of floral wreaths everywhere. We got there in a nick of time just to catch the last English guided tour at 1pm. Guides can be hit or miss, but this one was awesome. She was very casual (some sound like they're a video recording, reciting facts) but she knew her stuff- we learned sooo much! Turns out Dachau was the first concentration camp set up before WW2 and it was initially a "re-education camp" for political and religious prisoners. So, people who spoke out against the Nazis were originally dragged there. If they were unsuitable for labor, they were sent off to an extermination camp. The extermination camps were primarily in Eastern Europe, where the German people couldnt run into them. Dachau was a "propaganda camp", so it was lined with trees and pretty flower beds. There were several rows of barracks, but the press were only ever shown the first barracks in the line- the nicest one. Otherwise, the other ones were way overcrowded. I think the woman said the camp was only built for 5,000 prisoners at a time, and when it was liberated it had something like 32,000 crammed into it. There's also a large prison on-site for the "really bad people." They were stuck in tiny cells with no light and very little food and water. They even had standing cells used for torture. They were like chimneys almost, and you had to crawl into them from the bottom of the cell and it was very tall, but the sides were less than 2ft on each side
. So, the prisoner literally had stand- there was no room to sit. And they were left in there for 3 days at a time with no food and water. Since it was built of brick, very little air passed in and out. The guide said it was like being buried alive, but standing up. Like any camp, everyone was tortured on a regular basis. They were beaten and abused. They would string you up to poles by your wrists, which were tied behind your back. Within an hour both your arms were dislocated and you were maimed for life. But since you were no longer useful for work, they just shipped you off to an extermination camp. Dachau does have a crematorium and gas chamber, but the gas chamber was never actually used for exterminations. The crematorium was used on a regular basis since so many people died of disease and torture. Both were creepy, though. Just like in the movies, the building has several adjoining rooms set up to appear like you were going to get a shower. The first room was for waiting, the next was for derobing, then the next was for waiting again, and finally you get pushed into a large dark room with shower heads attached to the walls near the ceiling. There were two slots where the poison could be dropped in from the outside. The next room was for the dead bodies, and finally the crematorium, with three separate ovens with the sliding gurney, were in the last room. So creepy.
My favorite part of the camp was probably the museum, which covered all sorts of special topics from the medical experiments to seven pregnant women who managed to survive Auschwitz with their babies. Medical experiments included trying to figure out how to cure an embolism once its been injected into the bloodstream. Another was testing out a "wonder drug" to cure sepsis, which the Nazis would induce by injecting prisoners with pus. The third one I read about were the salt water experiments
. Prisoners were given nothing but salt water to drink- no food, no pure water. They wanted to see if it was possible to survive. The seven pregnant women was a crazy story, particularly because at Auschwitz, pregnant women were immediately killed. All seven managed to get pregnant right before being sent away to the camp, and all seven babies were delivered by another prisoner who was a doctor. Through some sort of miracle, their babies werent killed after the delivery either. They suspect it was because it was nearing the end of the war and the Nazis were losing... so the guy in charge thought he might get an easier war crime sentence (which he did) for showing mercy on the women and their babies.
That night Chris and I did our first beer hall- one of the Augustiner ones. We enjoyed awesome food and liter sized pints of Augustiner. Mmmmmm. They're so freakin big it takes two hands for me to drink!
Our second day in Munich we ended up doin two tours. The first was one of the free walking tours that many of major cities in Europe offer. The guides just work off tips. So we saw the Glockenspiel, the giant clock with the life-sized "dancing figures". Oh god- this thing was utterly terrible. You guys make fun of Its a Small World in Disneyland..
. this is way worse. And the guides made fun of it the entire time- it was hilarious. The best part was all the idiot tourists behind us who were actually videotaping it!! lol. The guide said only 2 buildings were left standing in Munich during the war... the first was the largest church, used as a point of reference for Ally bombing. The second was the Glockenspiel, for psychological warfare. We walked around to different churches and buildings within the city. One thing that was interesting was, both at Dachau and during the free tour, was to hear about all the resistance movements against the Nazis. I feel like back home in my history classes I was led to believe an entire country just let one man and his goonies commit mass genocide, when that wasnt the case. Half the people were involved in resistance groups, whether it be passively refusing to salute or aggressively trying to assassinate Hitler, and the other half were just plain damned scared. When you think about it... what would you pick in that situation? Would you resist knowing you would die in a concentration camp, or try to avoid being noticed? What if you had family dependent on you for food? Its hard to think about it.
We also stopped at our first beer garden. lol, okay, so the Germans have May poles,but they arent the kind that girls dance around like in England. "They're for manly things!" our guide said, "like for seeing who could climb it the fastest, or who could successfully steal one." Yup. Silly men. Each town and organization has its own May pole, and these things get pretty damned big. If you successfully steal one, then the victim has to throw you a huge party, complete with beer, to get it back. So the most recent, big, story was when the May pole went missing from the Munich International Airport. lol. The security guards were like... crap...
our pole is gone... Its an airport. How does it just get past security like that, right? So they call the Munich police, "...uh... our May pole is missing..." The police, "...oh yeah..? ..What does it look like?" And they just bust out laughing. The security is so lax the pole gets stolen, and the police are so bored they're committing crimes. lol, needless to say the airport security had to throw the police a party to get their pole back. Another big one was when the huge May pole in the market beer garden went missing. I've seen this thing... it's huge. And it just disappeared without any witnesses one night. So the city offered the May Pole Robbers a party in order to get their pole back. And the robbers were like, "..No no no. WE want something else." They wanted their own private table at Oktoberfest for eternity. And that's what they got. The only round table at Oktoberfest is specifically reserved for them.
The rest of the afternoon Chris and I enjoyed lunch in the beer garden, eating our wurst the way the Germans do. Wurst in one hand, bread roll in the other (not together like a hot dog). Then we walked down to the Englisher Garden to wander around a bit. There were lots of nude people sunbathing, especially old tan men with it all hangin out. The coolest thing was watching the surfers on the river (Billy would love doing that). There's this one section of the river where the water juts up, and the current is so strong that surfers just go back and forth across the river on their boards
That night, our second and last night in Munich, we did a beer tour. We actually had the same guide that did the free tour earlier in the day. This tour was fairly cheap, and he took us around to a beer garden, a beer hall, and two different bars. We got two free half liters of beer and a shot of Jager included in the price. Oh man, we drank too much that night, lol. I drank about 2.5 liters, and Chris did 3, plus the shot, in total. We had a really good group on the tour, and we just talked and laughed the whole night. It was a lot of fun. =)
So, all in all, we loved Munich, much more than we expected! I would love to come back someday.
So, we were worried Munich would just be another big lame city, like Madrid, and lacking in personality. Its actually on our favorites list now. =) Our main reason for going there was so we could check out the Dachau concentration camp. Someday, Chris wants to check out Auschwitz in Poland, but as our rail passes arent covered there and its way out of the way on our loop, that will just have to be another future trip.