Munchen (munich) we knew we were in germany ...

Trip Start Apr 01, 2001
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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

MUNCHEN (MUNICH)

We knew we were in Germany when we handed our Interrail tickets to the inspector and were ordered to "Pay suppliment!" .... Uh Oh. We had spent all our Austrian cash and planned to take some Deutche Marks out of the ATM when we got to Munchen, so unless this guy was going to accept a card, or some US dollars we were stuck. In Austria our ticket was valid on all trains without any extra charges, but the Germans arenīt so generous and, as we were finding out, hit you for supplements on all intercity and eurocity trains.

Our attempts to find accomodation in Munchen ahead of time had failed so we arrived homeless with visions of having to splash out on a hotel - first stop Tourist Information. Munchen lived up to its reputation as the hardest German city in which to find accomodation. It doesnīt help that IYHF in Bavaria wonīt let old farts (over 26) like us in - maybe we should take this age discrimination up with the European courts.
Itīs not true... Germans do laugh!... The woman at Tourist information positively cackled when we asked her to find us a room in Munich for less than DM 100 ($50). Still, she did manage - Pension Marie Louise, just around the corner from the station. To our surprise the pension was clean and in a quiet location, its only drawback was that it was situated in Munchen's answer to Silicon Valley. Every time we went out Tonya had to prise Paul's nose away from the shop windows, and put up with his cries of "Wow, look at that!" - Talk about computer withdrawl symptoms!

Not many things pesuade Tonya to get out of bed at 6am but its amazing what sheīll do to save money when travelling. By moving to a hostel we could a save $10 a night, so at 6:30am we were waiting in line for a bed at the Eurohostel. We managed to get in, so we moved from comparative luxury to a 22 bed dorm.

DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP

Donīt let anyone persuade you to do a $17 organised trip to Dachau from Munich - just hop on S-Bahn 2 (free with InterRail), and when you get to Dachau station there will be a bus waiting to take you to the Concentration Camp. For once, our timing was perfect - we arrived at 11:30am just in time for a short English film explaining the history of concentration camps through to their liberation by the Allied Forces.
The only way to begin to comprehend the atrosities that the political prisoners, Jews, clergymen and so called "undesirable elements" were subjected to is to take the free English guided tour at 12:30. The tour lasted 3 hours and explained everything - The rise of the 3rd reich, how the camp came to be, the horrific conditions in which inmates lived, the tortures they were subjected to and the real meaning behind "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work makes one free) the slogan on the gates the prisoners entered through.
We were shocked to notice the striking similarities between the concentration camp dorms and the hostel dorms we are staying in!

We had avoided doing any sightseeing in Munchen because we had heard about Mikes Bike Tours. These are meant to be great and we had planned to do the extended tour - "Six hours of sightseeing every sight you would want to see in Munich". However, we showed up under the clock tower and met Ben who was to be our guide. Ben was your typical loud American - exactly the reason Canadians have maple leave stiched to their backpack! Ben spent 20 minutes shouting at us and trying to generate some "group spirit". He had people crouching on the ground and clapping and yelping like performingh seals. Call us spoil sports, but the reason we are on an independent backpacking trip and not at a holiday camp or on a cruise ship is that we arenīt into being herded around like animals - so we left the bike tour befor it had properly begun.

We spent the rest of the day at the Deutsches Museum - the world's largest science and technology museum and then went to the cinema to watch Tomb Raider. A film that is aimed at an audience with a higher IQ level than Mikesīs Bike tour!

NEUSCHWANSTEIN

This incredible castle was built by "Mad" King Ludwig who was obsessed with the works of his friend Richard Wagner. Every room has frescos telling the story of one of Wagner's operas; Tristan & Isolde, Lohengrin, Parsifal etc. More recently the castle has become famous for inspiring Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty's castle.

You aren't allowed to take photographs inside Neuschwanstein , but there was an American woman who was determined to get some pictures. Before the tour started she was asking us if we thought photos were allowed. We had all seen the huge "NO PHOTOS" sign and pointed it out the her, since she had somehow managed not to see it! The tour leader then said that she could take photos of the views from the windows. Well, that was it, the American woman didn't look at anything in the castle... she just followed the tour from room to room leaning out of any open window taling pictures. If no window was open she would press her cheap automatic camera up to the glass and click. She's going to be rather disappointed when she finds that she has an entire film where the autofocus has focussed on the window pane!



BAMBERG

Bamberg avoided being bombed during the wars, and a stop here was recommended to us by a German girl as "proof that Germany was once an attractive place... before the postwar architects got their hands on it."
If only Paul had thought to get some German lessons from Regina, his colleague, before leaving Bermuda... The three words we know between us (ja, nein, and weissebier) didn't help us explain to the Margaret Thatcher lookalike landlady, that we had a reservation for a room above her pub. After a 20 minute conversation across the threshold which went something like this:-

Margaret Thatcher: Full
Us: We have a reservation
Margaret Thatcher: Full
Us: We have a reservation
etc etc

Margaret Thatcher stepped aside and stopped blocking the doorway. We took this opportunity to enter the premises, sieze the guestbook and point out our names. Thankfully our reservation had been recorded, and we escaped spending a night on the streets!



BERLIN

Odyssey Globetrotter Hostel advertises one of the less well-known Berlin walking tours; "Brewer's Best of Berlin - Total Berlin Tour". The walking tour to end all others... For nine hours we marched through the city (no dawldling allowed on this tour) trying to keep up with Mr Terry Brewer. Terry is a Londoner and ex-history teacher who worked for the British Diplomatic Service in Berlin whilst it was a divided city. Who better show us around?

For DM 15 ($7)we were shown all the sights in the Eastern half of the city, had a German history lesson and were entertained with stories of every place we visted. The highlight for Paul was when Terry lead us through a housing estate to ann innocent looking childrens playground and then informed us that we were standing directly over Hitler's bunker. We would never have found this on our own since the sight is not marked for fear of it becomming a place of Neo-Nazi pilgrimage.

Imagine waking up one morning to find that a wall has been erected in your street. You are to be a prisoner in your own home for 28 years. You can't get to work or school since that is the other side of the wall. And you can't visit friends who live "on the other side". With this in mind we visited the Checkpoint Charlie Museum dedicated to the Berlin Wall. We were captivated by the various escape methods. How desparate people must have been to dig tunnels with their bare hands or to hide themselves in suitcases for several hours. One man even managed to smuggle someone out in a Bubble Car (smaller than a Bermuda Ex-pat-mobile!)

The rest of our time in Berlin was dampened by the incessant rain which had set in. This gave us a good excuse to shelter in bars and restaurants and sample some Berlin specialities. We particularly enjoyed;
Hax - An entire leg of pork served for one person.
Berliner Weisse - a local beer avaiable in 2 colours, green and red. We sussed that the red is raspberry, but still have no idea what the green was meant to be. If you know we'd appreciate an email!

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