Thursday, July 1, 2010

And Then I Went To Munich

Coming down the mountain from Gimmelwald was like waking up from a nap... hard to do, but boy did I feel refreshed.

To catch one last breath of natural beauty, a few of us stopped at Tremmelbach Falls on the way out. This series of waterfalls cuts through a mountain in a way that is impossible to photograph but uncannily similar to the water slide scene from Goonies.

Five hours later and I was in Munich. Over three days, I enjoyed myself but didn't fall in love. I was lucky to have the company of three fantastic roommates for sightseeing and eating. Here they are, with pretzels.

Here are a few observations about Munich:

1. It feels like Disneyland. Specifically, Fantasyland. This is probably because Fantasyland is fashioned to look like Bavarian, with the famous Disney castle modeled after one of Mad King Ludwig's countryside castles. (His castle, however, is not plastic.)

But then again, most of Munich is as artificial in its construction as Disney. Not much survived the WWII bombings, so the town was rebuilt at great expense to look exactly as it used to, but the structures themselves are mostly just a few years older than the ones at Disneyland in Anaheim.

2. I found it hard to get off the beaten path in Munich. It felt overrun with tourists, whose activities divided neatly into dull-but-historic sightseeing and beer-and-brat binging. These two activities coincide nicely at Hofbrau House, where Hitler famously roused the rabble and started the Nazi movement.

Today, the swastikas are neatly painted over with Bavarian flags... and that is a pretty good metaphor for how Nazi history is remembered throughout Munich.

3. Except for one place: Dachau concentration camp. That was my first visit to a concentration camp, and it was powerful. Something I will never forget. The entrance is terrifying to see in person: "Work will set you free."

I only lost control of my emotions and properly cried once, at the Jewish memorial. It isn't the gas chambers or the crematorium or the barbed wire that haunts me. It's hearing the words "Never Again" when I know perfectly well that it could happen again. I felt sad and angry and helpless and scared knowing that there are those today who hate the Jews every bit as much as the Nazis, and that our best effort to stop them from starting another Holocaust is.. sanctions. Even as I write this this, I feel sick.

There were much more upbeat moments in Munich, too. Lots of bratwurst. Lots of beer. Pretzles and spetzle, too.

And a big win for Germany in the World Cup, which made for a boisterous walk home to the hostel.

All in all, I am glad that I visited Munich, as much for the friends I made at the hostel as for the sights. I don't need to go back any time soon.

Location:Munich, Germany


  1. How did I miss so many posts?? Oh yeah, no internet for a week. You could have went to Starved Rock State Park (1.5 hrs. south of Chgo) to see 'the back side of water'. LOL. Glad it was worth it!! Are you halfway through yet, or not even close?? K

  2. I continue to be very jealous. Large beers and pretzels sound amazing right now.