Monday, September 5, 2011

April 21st: In Memoriam & In Munich

We left Austria bright and early the next morning. If there's one thing on this trip that I can't complain about, it would definitely be the weather. Other than a pretty cool day when I first got to London, and a sprinkle of rain in Florence, it was gorgeous the whole way through!

We stopped not long into our drive at this pretty, glassy lake just for the chance to take a few photos. The side we were on was still shady as the sun hadn't had a chance to rise over the mountain behind us.

After a little more driving, we stopped in a small town, near another glassy lake, for a chance to buy some snacks.

There were strict regulations on how many hours a driver could be driving the bus. And mandatory 45 minute stops after every few hours. Luckily this gave us lots of chances to get off the bus to stretch our legs. Below you can see people hanging around, enjoying every last second of that 45 minutes.

As we entered each new country, our tour manager Jude would give us a bit of a history lesson. Being German herself, she had lots to say about this particular country. Of course, we all know that Germany has some rather infamous historical events attached to was also curious to see what memories it brought back from my Social Studies classes in high school. We did a very in-depth study of the World Wars in Grade 10 (or maybe 11? it's all blurring together....) so it was territory that I was at least familiar with.
Our first destination of the day was the concentration camp memorial site in Dachau.

Arbeit Macht Frei......"Through work one will be free."

Considering the context, well, I think it says a lot.

One of the other Canadian girls on the bus took a few minutes as we were pulling into the parking lot to tell us about her grandmother and grandfather, both of whom had been in concentration camps during the war. Her grandfather had actually been in this particular camp, so this stop was understandably emotional for her.

What she said that stuck with me most, was how her grandfather rarely talked about his experience, but that at a family dinner he mentioned how he had never expected to live to see that moment. How he hadn't expected to be free, sitting once again at a dinner table surrounded by his children and grandchildren. And for how grateful he was to be alive to see it.

Thankful to be wearing sunglasses, for more reasons than because it was bright and sunny, I had to take a few minutes sitting on the grass to compose myself before I got up to have a look around.

There was a museum of set up in one of the remaining buildings with more information than you could fathom about this concentration camp as well as the others scattered across Europe. The model of the camp above was housed there. The museum is in the U-shaped building on the middle of the right hand side of the picture. The two rows of long buildings above it, in the top right corner of the picture, are the rows of prisoners barracks.

Below is an aerial shot of the barrack buildings.

Currently, the barracks are no longer standing, except for the two closest to the museum building which are kept as an example for tourists to walk through...

The rest only exist as gravel filled outlines.

I took lots of pictures of informational signs, especially helpful now, five months later.

(Seriously? Five months? It can't have been that long....)

It's hard to imagine these buildings ever holding up to 2000 people. Looking at them now, you can't even imagine where they would have physically kept that many people...

The next several photos are of plaques that were posted throughout the barrack building. I found the words in them gave me a clearer picture of what the reality of that time must have been like...

Of course, the most chilling part of the visit, as one could imagine, was seeing the crematorium.

It was so stark.....and clean....

It was (and still is) completely mind-boggling for me to stand in that place and try imagine the atrocities that occurred in these places.

The atmosphere here was...

(well, I was going to say hard to describe, and then do my best to describe it anyways...)

....sombre, I think is the best word. It's not like your usual tourist site with people talking and laughing and children running. It was hushed. Quiet. People wandered around alone, or in twos or threes. Picture taking was very limited and done unobtrusively.

I felt like you could feel the sadness of the place seeping up from the ground to sink into you. I haven't ever felt like that in any other place.

"May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because the resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men."

It was not an easy morning, but it felt right for us to stop and spend time paying respect to those who were lost.

One morning doesn't seem like much to give in comparison.

So, after a quiet, introspective morning, we arrived in Munich for the afternoon.

This is the "new" town hall, which, visually, looks older than "old" town hall.

I didn't have any plans for Munich, so I just wandered up the busy shopping street from the Marienplatz, the square in the photo above where the town hall is located. It was incredibly busy, with throngs of people everywhere.

There were a few street performers out and about, which is always entertaining.

I went inside just one church, the Frauenkirche. It serves as the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and is the seat of its Archbishop.

There is a legend associated with the church. Supposedly, the construction of the building was financed by the devil on the condition that the building not have any windows, but the devil was then tricked by the builder who positioned columns so that the windows were not visible from the spot where the devil stood in the foyer. When the devil discovered that he had been tricked, the church had already been consecrated, so he could not enter, but could only stand in the foyer and stomp his foot furiously, leaving a dark footprint in the floor of the church.

We had been told the legend prior to arrival in the city, which is why I chose this particular church to go into. And yes, there was a dark footprint in the floor in the foyer.

However, I hadn't pictured the devil wearing shoes.

I was expecting claws....or maybe a cloven hoof instead? :)

I had lots of time to wander. I snapped a photo of this cute little monk below.

The city's name is derived from the Benedictine monks who founded it, so this little guy is part of the city's coat of arms.

And of course there was always time for more ice cream....

Thank goodness for all the walking I was doing!

We ended the day by heading to a beer hall for dinner. And I wasn't the only one who had spent most of the afternoon wandering in and out of stores....

Some of the girls bought themselves dirndls specifically for this evening outing. And they sure look cute!

(Almost made me wish I had bought one....except I would never wear it again. Well, maybe at Halloween. :)

Yes, there was much beer involved in this beer hall, as one might assume. Can I just say that I'm not a beer drinker? Because I'm not. At all. But I was in Germany, in a beer hall. Thankfully we were given the "girly" option of drinking it with 1/3 Coke and 2/3 beer.

Sooooo much better!

Those mugs hold an entire litre.....they were huge!

We had some lovely entertainers singing and dancing for us, which was nice. I was especially impressed by the cowbell playing! Reminded me of playing handbells in elementary school, except this girl was much more talented.  At one point she knocked one of the bells completely off the table, one of the people at the front picked it up for her, she reorganized mid song and kept on going as if nothing happened!

And then there was the German drinking song. Oh the drinking song. We had to learn it on the bus before we got to the beer hall. And practice it. And then the musicians kept making us get up and sing it every five minutes. And you had to stand up, and swing your beer stein back and forth. And watch your food get cold while you did it.

The first couple of times were fun. We were singing a German drinking song in German in a German beer hall after all. But by the fifth or tenth time, if you hadn't had enough to drink by then (because to those who had drunk enough it was hilarious by this point), you were wanting to chuck something at them to make them stop! :) 

The night didn't end right after the beer hall, but we did all hop back on the bus to head back to our hotel before most of us explored other options. Either the hotel bar (where I was chatted up by a 16 year old fellow Canadian on some sort of school related tour) or elsewhere.

One of my favourite little memories from the trip is from the bus ride home in the dark. We always had music playing when we were on the bus, but tonight with everyone in a good mood and a little bit of alcohol in everyone's systems, people were more in the mood to sing along. When the first song came on everyone burst out singing along and it continued on with each song the whole way back to the hotel. It was this really warm feeling (not all blameable on the beer) of us being this strange sort of family. So now every time I hear Wonderwall by Oasis I think of this and it makes me smile. Sometimes it's the littlest things isn't it? :)

(And there may have been a few of the more intoxicated dancing in the aisle. I suppose I should feel bad for our bus driver having to put up with us. :)



  1. Excellent photos, but I don't see anything for over a year... :-( Why not?

  2. Hi! I’m new follower of your blog and would like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:

    I hope you can make it!


    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick