Saturday, November 15, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: A Weekend In Munich

This weekend, Central College didn't have anything planned for us, so I decided to go do my own thing and go to Munich, Germany from Thursday to Sunday!  I did this trip a little differently than I did my London trip.  This time, my weekend consisted of two tours and not too much free time on my own.  

This trip also presented its own challenges from London.  For one, there's the fact that everyone speaks German.  I don't know German.  For another thing, there was a "train driver's" strike that lasted my entire trip.  Trains didn't stop running, but there were only about 1/3 of the trains that are normally running in service.  So that meant longer waits for most lines.  I arrived on Thursday an hour and a half later than planned, due to a delayed flight, then hopped on the S-Bahn train that would take me to the train station right across the street from my hostel.  The train was waiting when I reached the platform, so already, I wasn't feeling the effects of the train driver's strike.  

I got to my hostel, Wombat's City Hostel, and was much more impressed with this hostel than with my London hostel.  Everyone should stay at a Wombat's City Hostel.  There are several around Europe.  Any way, since I arrived later than I expected and it was dark and things were probably closing, I spent Thursday night getting settled into my dorm and getting ready for Friday.

Friday was my tour to Neuschwanstein castle which is really close to the Alps.  

Friday was the only day when I felt the effects of the train strike.  I got to the meeting place for my tour on time and we were informed that we were going to leave an hour later, since there were fewer trains going to the Neuschwanstein area.  A lot of people left the tour at that point, but I decided to stay on the tour.  I don't know when I'll find myself in Munich again and I was really excited to see the castle.  So for that hour of waiting, I got to know Louisa from Italy!  We continued to talk throughout the tour too.  I learned about Italy, which is good, because I'll be going there in December.  She learned some weird American-English phrases that I say that Italians apparently don't.  It was a good time :)

It was exciting to sit on the train and then all of a sudden, you see these mountains looming before you!
It took two trains and a couple of buses, but we reached the castle!  But right before, we stopped at the bridge to view the castle as a whole.  This is what Disney saw that inspired the iconic Disney castle.

Small stream running underneath the bridge... it was really far down...
There was a lookout point on our way up the hill to the castle.  I think this is one of my favorite pictures ever.

I'm sad that I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside... if you've seen Disney's movie Sleeping Beauty, the inside looks like that.  It's really beautiful.  But I was really surprised by how new this castle is.  It was begun in the 19th century.  I was also surprised to find out that this castle is 1/3 of the way done.  The King at the time, Ludwig, who was also was also the architect died under mysterious circumstances and never finished the castle.  A friend of mine has told me that there is always something being worked on in the castle.  It was so beautiful and the outside looks largely complete... I never would have known if someone hadn't told me.

The walk down the hill to the meeting point was just as beautiful.  The trees had turned colors already and it wasn't super cold outside.  On the way down the hill, I met Angelica from Mexico and I talked to her and Louisa quite a bit.

The ride back to Munich was pretty uneventful, which is good.  No incidents.  We were all pretty tired.  Some people slept, some of us plugged in, but generally there wasn't a lot of conversation on the train ride back to Munich.  But it was a very full and very wonderful day.  It was totally worth a visit to Neuschwanstein.  I do wonder what this castle looks like in the winter and the spring though.  I'd love to return here someday and found out for myself.

Saturday was a slightly more active day with a little bit more freedom.  I signed up for a tour (more on that later), but it didn't start until 2:30, so I could have a relatively slow morning and I could explore some of the city on foot with the map I'd been given.  The first thing I visited with a church in the Rococo style (there are a lot of these types of churches in Munich, I found), called Asam's Church.  Since this was the first church I visited that day and the first Rococo church I've ever seen, this was pretty special and I was absolutely floored.  Just the amount of decor to take in was overwhelming!  But it still managed to be quite beautiful. 

I mean... I had no idea where to focus my camera, there are so many things to look at in this view alone!

Tall and skinny church
After this church I visited the Jewish museum, which was right around the corner, basically.  I don't have any pictures though.  You couldn't take any inside.  But basically, this was a museum documenting what it was like to be Jewish in Munich throughout history.  It referred to concentration camps and the Holocaust a little bit, but that wasn't the focus of the museum.  There were pictures of Jewish people, Menorahs, Torah covers, other tools used in synagogues, stories in a variety of languages... it was pretty neat, even if I couldn't understand all of the spoken stories.  It was a really nice memorial and museum, especially because there aren't a lot of Jewish markers or synagogues in Munich due to being destroyed at different times in history.

After the Jewish museum, I continued to walk about the city in the hopes of finding the Marienplatz where my tour would later start.  I just wanted to know where it was.  So I took some pictures along the way.

Bleh... yucky snake...
I went into Shakespeare and Company in Paris in spring 2012, I knew there was a location in New York, but I didn't know there was one in Munich as well.  The more you know!
Afterwards, I stopped into the Church of the Holy Ghost, another Rococo church.  I thought this one was a lot prettier than the Asam church.  It was lighter and I really appreciated the paper birds on the ceiling.

Finally, my tour started.  I signed up to take a Third Reich tour.  Now, this tour wasn't really what I thought I was signing up for, but nevertheless, I learned a lot and really enjoyed my time on this Third Reich walking tour.  I thought that I would be hearing about what it was like for people to live in the Third Reich, but instead, I learned a lot about Nazis and how Hitler came to power.  Munich held a special place in Hitler's heart, I guess.  It was the place where he started to get his following.  He came to full power in Berlin, but got started in Munich.

A memorial where a prominent Jewish political figure was killed in the street.  His name was Kurt Eisner.
This is the birthplace of the National Socialist German Workers Party, which later became the Nazi party.  In Hitler's time, this was a beer hall (now, maybe part of it serves beer while the rest of the place caters to parties and big gatherings).  Hitler would go to this beer hall, stand up on a chair and make speeches to the people (although it took a while for them to listen, they did eventually listen.  Hitler was a powerful and charismatic speaker with good timing).  There was a party going on in the room that was the beer hall, so I couldn't go in and I couldn't take pictures, but I got to peek through the door.  It was weird to think that decades ago, Hitler was standing maybe fifty feet from where I was standing at the time.  It was really weird.
Once Hitler gained more popularity and power, he made bigger speeches at this location.
I forgot to mention that I had an overarching reason for wanting to come to Munich in the first place.  In middle school, I used to do history day for social studies or humanities or whatever you want to call it.  One of the projects I did (this one with a partner) was on a German resistance group called the White Rose.  Hans Scholl, a couple good friends of his, and Sophie Scholl (his sister) wrote leaflets calling for a re-examination of the German identity and asking people to work against the Nazis.  In the end, they were caught, tried, and sentenced to death by guillotine.  Sophie, because she was a woman, was offered the opportunity to not be sentenced to death, but in order to drive the point of the White Rose home, she refused the opportunity.  Since they sacrificed their lives while resisting the Nazis, they have been honored with a memorial in front of the University.  

Before my Third Reich tour started, I bought a white rose with the intention of leaving it at the memorial when we went there for the tour.  But I found out that the Third Reich tour doesn't go to the university to see the memorial, they just talk about the White Rose.  My tour guide saw that I bought a rose and I told him what I wanted to do.  I didn't expect anything to come out of that.  But when we were nearing the end of the tour, he told me that the university was on his way home and that he would take me to see this memorial, since it was very important to me that I see it.  So if you ever book a tour through Bus2Alps in Munich, Germany, Tom is a wonderful tour guide.  Very knowledgeable and he's from the place in England that inspired Mordor in the Lord of the Rings series.

Visiting the White Rose memorial was a more emotional experience than I realized it would be.  I think it was just being at this University where they did their work and where they were eventually caught.  I think it was also being there as an almost 21-year-old person and then realizing that Sophie Scholl was 21 when she was resisting the Nazis with the White Rose.  I don't know.  It felt like the perfect time to make this "pilgrimage" of mine.  Another thing was that I felt like Sophie Scholl was a friend of mine or some kind of family member.  My Nani and I spend quite a bit of time talking about her and she knows Sophie's cousin, so there's this really great connection we have to Sophie.  We've talked about this a little-- we feel like we actually knew Sophie and Hans even though that's not the case.  That made it really emotional too.

The rose that I left.
Their University in Munich.
That was my last day in Munich, essentially.  The next morning, because of the train strike, I woke up and left way earlier than I needed to just to make sure that I'd catch my flight on time.  And I did.

I really enjoyed Munich and really appreciated the rich history of this place.  I hope that someday I can come back and spend some more time here.  Perhaps with improved German skills (because I didn't know any German and I got stuck when I tried to speak German or was shot down for trying).

Thanks for Reading!


1 comment:

  1. THis was a very cool read. How sweet that the tour director made the effort. Sometimes when traveling, you get very cool things that happen. I am so impressed with your bravery in doing so much of this by yourself. I know that now you are with your family - I bet that was a sweet reunion. Enjoy their stay and your time with them. I'll tend to your fish tomorrow.


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