I did not choose Munich, rather Munich chose me. Let me explain. I had airline miles to burn. With only one week to spare, my plan was to get to Austria. However,my search for mile redemption was unsuccessful. The only availability was into Munich and home from Vienna. I grabbed it, and needless to say I am pleasantly surprised with this experience.
A late morning arrival at the hotel afforded us with an afternoon to explore. Our first stop was the Viktualienmarkt, an open air market filled with fresh flowers, food, and beer. A rather large patio complete with long tables for enjoying a pint or two of local German beer. Surrounding this market are plenty of shops. Back home, Americans are always in such a hurry to get somewhere. But here, I was amazed at the enjoyment of the people sipping their beer and conversing with one another. No one was checking their phones, or planning where to go. Only real people having real interactions…a rarity for sure in my world.
From the market we walked to the nearby Marienplatz which is the center of the town. The hustle and bustle of people everywhere is similar to nearly any big city. Lots of shopping, food, beer, and sites to see. After all this walking and before our jet lag set in, we stopped at the Hofbrauhaus beer hall. Wow! I was immediately thrown into a sensory overload! Hundreds of people packed into long tables, laughing, drinking, talking. From half pints to full pints, to me in Leiderhosen and feather caps galore! We find a seat and join a table already occupied. The menu was in German so we asked our table mates for assistance in ordering. The bratwurst and spätzle were delicious! We had 2 beers, one a ‘white” beer the other a dunkel (dark beer with higher alcohol content). The German man who helped us order explained how his mother used to make her own sauerkraut and how it smelled up the house for weeks! After they left 3 other people sat down and told us more about German beer customs and even toasted us with a robust “Prost” as we all clinked our beer mugs together!
The next day we joined a tour by train to the dachau concentration camp. A very solemn day trip for sure. But a necessary trip to memorialize the victims and learn more about this tragic time in history. We used Sandemans new Europe tours. Our guide matt met us at the Munich hauptbahnoff train station for a 30 minute ride. His knowledge about the war, Hitlers rise to power and the encampment of anti-political sentiment that originated in the camps. By 1938, Jews began to arrive at this camp. Even though this was not a ‘death camp,” it does house a gas chamber which was not utilized. At one point this camp housed as many as 78,000 prisoners. Walking through the barracks and seeing many bunks piled three high is quite an eerie feeling. One cannot comprehend what these pioneers went throu with little to any food, no heat in the winter, humiliation, and the typhus epidemic. To survive until liberation in 1945 took much mental and physical stamina. Hitler created much anti-semitism which lingered in Germany for years. What followed was Nazi desensitization. Prior to this tour it never occurred to me how those Jews felt returning home, if anything was left, and still being treated as second class citizens. Now, more than ever our world needs to be compassionate and accepting towards others for a peaceful existence.
Upon our return to the city we took the local S-train to the Residenz palace. The palace is similar to many European palaces in that it is over the top in regards to its ornateness. I find it hard to imagine the vast amount of wealth one would have had to have in those days to be able to build and furnish such a lavish lifestyle.
We reluctantly walked back to our hotel for the last night before departing for Salzburg.
To be continued….