05 June 2013
It has been fun to collect the different currencies countries use. While most of them do use the Euro, many countries in Eastern Europe use different currencies…so fun!
The flooding has been all over the news, as well as in front of our eyes… Here is a river in Munich that was flooded to the brim… As we trained into Germany we saw the water nearly reach the train tracks!
We caught a train early this morning to Munich so that if our train was stopped by the weather we would have plenty of time to adjust accordingly and still fit everything we want to do today into our schedule. Samira was so kind to wake up early and make us apple strudels…the only traditional Austrian food we had left to try while in Vienna. I have decided that if Samira and I lived in the same town we would be best friends because we both love EVERYTHING.
The Dachau concentration camp was such an incredible experience. It was surreal to be walking on the same ground that 200,000 prisoners of the Nazi Germans walked in the 1930s and 40s during WWII. I saw the gatehouse, the barracks, the labor camps, the crematory, and the security fence that made up the atrocities of the camp.
The way the camp tour is set up, it slowly builds you up to experience worse and worse settings and details about the camp. We purchased audio guides, which were great and let us listen to as much or as little of the details as we wanted too. Of course I listened to every detail because I wanted to understand as much as I could while I was physically in the concentration camp. First we walked by the railway lines that carried so many people into the camp. It said that they first arrived in the Dachau train stations before being transferred to the camp. We arrived into the Dachau station from Munchen (Munich) before busing to the camp memorial site. It made me wonder whether the station is still in the same location as it was back then, and it gave me a little taste of what it must of been like to arrive in such a horrible place. We reached the entrance gatehouse where the words Arbiet Macht Frei were written across the gate. This was the separation between life and death for many people.
Inside the gatehouse were the bunkers, empty ones and ones reconstructed to look like they did during different time periods in the 1930s and 1940s. We walked through the center of the camp where role call was called everyday and it just made me cringe to think about how many people’s names were called and left unanswered because they had died in the camp. We also saw the labor camps, dorms, watchtowers, and the crematoriums.
As our audio guide shared the stories of several survivors of Dachau and explained the horrific living conditions and abuse the underwent each and everyday of their lives. The camp was built to hold 6,000 people, but contained over 60,000 through most of the war years. You can just imagine how uncomfortable, crowded, and miserable that must of been for those living under those conditions. Within the camp are several specific memorials including the tomb of the forgotten, the Jewish memorial, the underground church, and several others. The museum at the end of the camp exhibits photos and stories that just cannot be fathomed. These people suffered so much and they deserve to be honored and their stories remembered.
I am glad that I had the chance to see what life was really like in the dark days of Europe in WWII. I will always hold a place in my heart for all those who were victims of the Holocaust. It was a real tragedy, one that should never be forgotten and one that should be learned from.
Jessica introduced us to her friend Samuel, a music student and the Munchen (Munich) Art School. He plays the Cello and from what I have heard, he plays quite beautifully. He kindly let us stay the night with him and took us around the city after we finished our morning in Dachau. It was a nice relaxing evening full of parks, food, good conversation, and lots of laughter. Samuel grew up with Jessica back in Taiwan. Sometimes I felt like the oddball in the corner with my lack of Chinese and German language skills…but I had a great time listening to “what sounded like chaos” and even learned a few Chinese words!
Pig knuckle and some unique cheese and potato dip with an interesting spice on top were the specialities of the evening. Germans are also famous for their giant salted pretzels and superb sausages. We had a little sampler of everything and it was great! It was quite funny though, as I looked around we were the only table of hundreds without a beer to be seen. Munich is one of the beer capitals of the world and supposedly has some of the best beer ever made, although it will always be a mystery to me as to which country has the best beer as I choose not to drink. I guess I will just have to take the German’s word for it when they say no one comes close to their level… Hooray Germany!
It is funny, as you travel around Europe day after day you start to realize commonalities between all the countries. Bicycles, dogs, cigarettes, men in tight shirts, churches, statues, bakeries on every corner, alcohol, etc… Although every country is unique, there are certain things that are just there. Always. It must be a European thing. Munich had a lot of churches and it had a lot of dogs and bicycles. It had men smoking in tight shirts, and of course it had lots of beer. There was one thing that set Munich apart from all the other places I have been thus far, the parks (or shall I say gardens) are not only beautiful and spacious, but they are filled with athletes of all sorts…especially runners. I say people playing soccer, basketball, walking on tight ropes, running sprints, jogging, jump training, frisbee, etc… For all the beer they consume they seem to have a great system of working it off! All the other countries I have visited thus far (15 to be exact) had all these things, but not to the extent of Munich. No wonder Germans are so fit!