Germany, Day 4
June 11, 2014
At the rate I am progressing, it will be a full month before this blog series is complete. Today’s blog covers my first full day in Munich, and it was full of history, sights and subways.
I woke up early at 7:30 AM in my hostel bunk. Since I had no desire to stay in a room full of sleeping strangers, I set out to explore the streets of the city. Since Munich is much larger than Erfurt, I made sure I was equipped with the proper map.
Although the city is riddled with wide streets, very few cars are out on the road. In fact, the streets are mostly abandoned. The two main signs of life are the security police patrolling the streets around the Marienplatz and the half-finished cigarettes on the edges of the sidewalk. Besides the cathedrals, no structures are above six stories tall. Munich is a mixture of the European charm we found in Erfurt and the sights, sounds and smells you can find in any major American city.
After meeting with the girls at 9:00 AM, we set out to find breakfast via the subway. The Munich subway system is the second subway system I have ridden. While it is nowhere near as intimidating as New York City, it is still difficult reading a subway map that is not written in English. That said, it is still cleaner than NYC.
After breakfast at the Hofbrauhaus (an internationally-known spot famous for its breakfast bratwursts), the group signs up for a tour of the Dachau concentration camp. The tour group meets near the city’s tourism center—the group is a mixture of Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, and it is led by a cheeky British tour guide named Tom. From the tourism center, it took us one long subway ride and two buses to get to Dachau.
The tour of Dachau was the most sobering part of my time in Germany. Many of the original structures are still standing in the camp, though museum renovations have been made in the past 70 years. I did not take many pictures of Dachau—it did not seem appropriate. The concentration camp stands as a monument to the horrors experienced by the inmates. Additionally, it stands as a warning against the elitism and extreme homophily that governed the policy choices of the Nazi Party. It is rare to see the darker relics of history in person—it is a lot different than reading about it in a textbook.
After the tour, we went back to the city to get dinner at an Italian restaurant near the Hofgarten, a large open park with rolling hills and a Roman-style gazebo. People under the gazebo danced a version of the waltz, and people around the park on the blankets talked, smoked or made out (yes, these were the three most common activities).
Across all the cities we visited, Germans seem happier than Americans. They fill parks, dance under gazebos, and play with their families in market squares. Dr. Tsetsura says they do not live off as much money as Americans do; they work less, and have more family-oriented priorities. It is funny how a little work-life balance can alter the mood of an entire country.
On the way out of the park, we passed by Ludwig Maximilian University. I actually have taken an online class through their business school, so I tried to get on campus. Unfortunately, it was a closed campus and I could not find an unlocked door. We rode the subway back south to our hostel, and quickly turned in for the evening. We were all tired from the amount of walking.
The first full day of Munich was a day full of different experiences: from walking through gas chambers of a former concentration camp to walking through the sloping hills of the Hofgarten. At this point of the trip, I am beginning to realize that my brief excursion through the Germany is coming to a close. But I have one full day left—and trust me, the last day does not disappoint.
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