Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Visiting Munich and Dachau Concentration Camp

Munich, the capital of Germany, opened our eyes to great food, liters of beer, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel and a trip to the country’s first concentration camp, Dachau.
We arrived in Germany later in the evening, quickly unpacked, then headed back out for an evening of entertainment and good food.  We had dinner at the Ratskeller.  The Ratskeller is the restaurant in the basement of the Rathaus, or town hall.  The restaurant was a dimly lit place serving up all kinds of German foods.  We had a roast type meal with potatoes and, of course, Apple fritter, for dessert.  The food was very good; probably one of the best meals of the trip.
Dinner at the Ratskeller.

 After our bellies were full we headed over to the Hofbrauhaus.  JC was extremely excited about going to the Hofbrauhaus because this is a main location during Octoberfest.  Beer is served in liters and the atmosphere of the restaurant/pub is full of drunken fun, which on occasion turns to drunken brawls.  The restaurant was very hot, with no air conditioning and a packed house, but I stuck out the wait for JC to drink his liter of beer.  Rows upon rows of picnic type tables are set up for patrons to eat and drink.  For those serious drinkers, a family stein is kept in a locked storage bank and brought out whenever a family member arrives at the Hofbrauhaus for a drink.


Stein locker.

The restaurant was packed!
 The next morning was spent on a guided tour of Munich.  We visited Nymphenburg Palace, built around an Italian villa in the 1600s.  The large grounds have beautiful ponds and gardens.  We passed many other statues and places of importance before we headed to the Town Hall area to watch the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
Nymphenburg Palace
Every day at 11 in the morning the Glockenspiel chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century about the marriage of a local man and woman.  Huge crowds gather around to watch the story play out through the figurines.  During our time in Munich there was a big race taking place, so there was a massive crowd in the area.  The whole show lasts about 15 minutes.
Glockenspiel at the town hall.
 At lunch JC tried the traditional Munich sausage called the Weisswurst.  It is a white colored sausage made from veal and bacon.  Our tour guide told us to eat the sausage the correct way you must peel the skin back first, then add the special mustard sauce.  I had no part in trying this sausage.  The look and way you had to prepare it for eating was not something I was keen to.  My salad served me nicely.
Munich white sausage
 Our afternoon was spent on an optional tour to the country’s first concentration camp, Dachau.  On the way out to the concentration camp our tour guide told us the German’s remember World War II and tell others in the country about it so a similar situation never happens again.  When we arrived we first walked through the old train tracks where they would bring prisoners in to Dachau.  They would then enter through the gates and go through the process of being stripped of all of their belongings, shaved, cleaned and identified by their reason for imprisonment.  We walked through the the building where all of this took place and tried to read through as many of the information boards as we could get to.  It was absolutely fascinating and also heart-wrenching at the same time.
Electric fence, wire, ditches and creek surrounded the concentration camp.
 All of the barracks that were original to the camp had been destroyed because of disease that had spread through the people, but one barrack had been reconstructed to give us an idea of what one looked like.  It was unimaginable to think 10,000 people were forced to sleep in one barrack.
 Our final stop in Dachau was to the gas chamber area.  Because of the high number of people that were prisoners at the camp another building was added which was where the gas chamber was located.  It was extremely eerie and almost brought tears to my eyes walking through the rooms where they would keep the dead bodies, the gas chambers and the rooms which house the ovens.  It’s hard to believe that humans could be that cruel to one another.
Original room for ovens.
Even though this part of the trip was by far the most somber and eye-opening, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to visit these sites as it was a huge part of our world’s history.  I would say because of the historical importance of Dachau, it was probably one of my favorite stops along our German vacation. 

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