So day 2 in Munich started off on a low note. Not that we didn’t do something interesting, but that it involved…well, Dachau. We started our day at Dachau.
Now, I’m not going to write 45 pages about a concentration camp, because this is a travel diary and not a history textbook. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you at least know something about the Holocaust. It’s very sad. It definitely happened. I shouldn’t have to tell you that but there are plenty of stupid people that think it didn’t.
We walked around Dachau for about an hour and a half. Most of what we saw was recreated, because a lot of it was destroyed prior to liberation by Germans who wanted to hide the evidence. Dachau was a work camp, not a death camp. It was interesting to see the way it compared to Auschwitz, which I visited last summer. For instance, obviously Auschwitz paid little attention to food or cleanliness or such because everyone would be sent to their deaths. In Dachau, everyone was worked to death, but of course, the labor was important, so they were fed, poorly, but more than in death camps. And kept in submission by being randomly beaten or killed or starved. It was of course, awful.
The thing that gets me in there was that there were grave sites, where ashes were buried. And those grave sites were marked and planted around them were pretty flowers and shady trees. And they were all marked as “ashes of thousands unknown.” And it’s just haunting that it’s like “we can make this resting place pretty and peaceful” when their last days or months or years were so tragic. It’s so weird.
There’s also the memorial sculpture for which Dachau is famous. It’s meant to represent the torment as well as the mangled bodies from photographs of Dachau’s liberation. It’s a very striking memorial. The artist knew exactly how to make the audience understand what he represented. This isn’t my picture, but I took it from the internet.
I didn’t take any pictures because it feels weird doing that at this place that was essentially a graveyard, so I refrained. I had a few from Auschwitz last year but I took most of those from some of my friends on tour. I didn’t feel right holding a camera in either one.
I was a little worried that going to Dachau was going to set the pace for the rest of the day. You walk out feeling emotionally drained and sad, obviously. But we took a couple of deep breaths and had a snack in the museum book store. We talked about how after 9/11, on the first episode back of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels asked, “Can we be funny?” and how that kind of gave everyone the permission to like, laugh again. So that’s how we felt. We took a deep breath, and returned to our day.
We got stuck in traffic on the way back to town, which threw a wrench into our afternoon. We’d already scheduled to meet at 2:30 in Marienplatz for a bike ride through the gardens. But we didn’t make it back to the hotel until 1:30. And we hadn’t eaten lunch yet, or changed. Tara and Jen opted out of the adventure, feeling hungry rather than adventurous and not wanting to do a bike ride after speed eating. But Marcel, Steph, Randy, and I decided to take on the challenge of getting there in time. So we ran to the hotel, changed in five minutes, took a cab to the center of city, and went on a search for quick food.
Having had our fill of heavy German food, we wanted something light, and preferably green. Jeurgen had suggested a buffet style restaurant, that we’d thought we’d found. However when we took the elevator in a building and wound up supposedly on the correct floor, we realized we’d stumbled upon a café with a gorgeous view of both Marienplatz and the twin-tower church. We had 20 minutes, which was limited time. We told our waitress and she suggested that we get salads, because it was the quickest thing we could eat. We figured that was perfect, considering we wanted something light anyway. In ten minutes we each received a mountain of lettuce and veggies and chicken and all kinds of things. These salads were SO GOOD. And we had to scarf them down like ravenous lions. By the skin of our teeth we made it back to our meeting place for the bike ride with the quickest and most satisfying salad adventure of all time.
And then it was time for bikes. This bike ride was a little bit more treacherous than our adventure in Annecy. Biking through the gardens involves trying not to hit other people or other bikes. Also we were constantly being passed by faster bikes who were also dodging people and dogs and such, so it got very adventurous very quickly. But the views were gorgeous.
After riding around the park for a bit, we also went on the road and found a spot to bike along the river. It was fun and pretty until we had to leave that portion of the tour and ride up a very steep hill. I will have you know that everyone else got off their bikes and walked them up the hill, but I didn’t! I made it! I was panting like a dog by the time I got to the top but I did it, dammit.
After our bike ride we stopped for a beer reward at an outdoor pub across the street from the Hofbrauhaus. We also met up with some Irish guys and American guys and one of them hit on me, but I’m pretty sure he was old enough to be my father so I just got really uncomfortable, stopped talking, and finished my giant beer.
From there, we boarded the bus and went back to the hotel. I took a catnap in the hotel in the delightful glow of the air conditioning. When I woke up it was time for dinner, so it was pretty good as naps go.
Our dinner was a buffet of weird food. There was like a potato pasta, various meats, and mini fiesta chicken wraps, and salad fixins. And then for dessert there were like these weird pureed fruit things with like crème fresche to put on it? Definitely odd. Already I was planning to get “second dessert” somewhere else.
A big crew of us decided to go back to the biergarten for one more drink. Of course “one more drink” is a liter of beer. Tonight’s crew consisted of myself, Tara, Randy, Steph, Marcel, Anna, Nassar, Catherine, Mike, Tikka, and later, we were joined by Jeurgen. Tara and I split a strudel that was way better than the weird dessert from the hotel, and I got another giant Helles beer, as did most of us. Tonight’s entertainment was an incredibly intoxicated German man who was belting classic rock music at the top of his lungs. At one point our whole table belted the entire bridge chorus of “Hey Jude” with him, and he was thrilled. At some point, the man stopped singing classic rock and began to compose his own tunes on the spot, so that was a treat.
We left the biergarten at like 10:00 and hiked our way back to the hotel. Catherine stole another mug, because matching sets are important. We said some final goodbyes to people who were not continuing on the Salzburg extension, including Catherine and Stella, our funny Canadian cousins. We miss them already.