Originally posted August 26, 2011.
Of all our stops on the family European vacation, we spent the most time in Munich. And of that time, we spent more time relaxing at restaurants and biergartens than seeing the sights. Usually, this would bother me greatly, because I love history and seeing historical landmarks. But we were tired and drained from Berlin’s tumultuous history so relaxing with a beer and sausages in a sunny, yet cool garden was just what I needed for this leg of the trip.
Many things helped make Munich one of the best parts of our trip. 1) We stayed in an apartment a little outside of the city. The owner met us at the door, taking our luggage upstairs and chatting with us all the way. It was like being greeted by relatives instead of yet another impersonal hotel room. The apartment itself was a little quirky (my sister and I stayed in the loft which had sloping ceilings—I had to be careful not to bump my head when I got into bed), but it felt homey. 2) We had really easy access to the center of the city through the subway. Just two trains and we could walk up the stairs right in front of the Rathaus (old town hall). 3) Bavarian food and beer is amazing. I loved every type of sausage (or wurst), spaetzle (tiny noodles), potato salad, pretzel, sauerkraut, and beer that I tried. It’s a good thing we were only there for four days otherwise I would’ve come back to the states much heavier.
Between meals, we did a good amount of shopping and people watching. We didn’t really go into a lot of buildings, partially because we were tired of reading all the plaques and partially because we knew most of the buildings had been reconstructed. It’s still interesting to see the “old” buildings, but it’s odd to know that although they still appear centuries old, most of their ceilings and walls date back to only after WWII. One great place for people watching was Olympic Park. Unlike our first day in the city, our second day was really sunny so there were tons of people walking their dogs in the park. And then we turned a corner and discovered a huge festival. Sommerfest had booths selling products for pet-owners, booths selling products for people, a dog obstacle course, live music, a full-sized carnival complete with all the rides and horribly wonderful carnival food, and a water-skiing competition. We really lucked out deciding to come to the park on that particular day.
Even though Berlin’s history exhausted us, we still felt obligated to visit one more WWII landmark near Munich: Dachau. My family thought it was important to actually visit a concentration camp. I didn’t want to go. I knew it was my obligation as a tolerant, loving person to visit the camp and to remember what happened, but I knew it would be an entirely depressing experience. As I expected, it wasn’t pleasant to visit Dachau. I felt cold and gray for the entire time I walked through the rooms where the guards stripped the inmates of their possessions and humanity, the barracks where the inmates squished in for as much rest as they could get, and the grounds where they gathered for humiliating role calls. The crematorium was the creepiest part by far. Even though they never used it, they built a gas chamber in that building. I walked through it, feeling sick to my stomach the entire time. It chills me to think that someone built a couple of rooms for purpose of keeping a large group of people calm in order to most efficiently murder them. I’m glad that this site is open today and that many churches/religious organizations have put up monuments and small worship spaces to symbolize how we can guide the future away from future holocausts. It gave me hope at the end of the visit.
At different points during the trip, my dad wished that he could move to Munich. If he and my mom do move there after I graduate, I hope I can go visit them. Yay for more Bavarian food and beer!