Today we arrived in Munich at 7am after taking a night train from Berlin. We put our backpacks in left luggage at the train station (tried to squeeze everything in the small €3/day locker but had to settle for the spacious €5/day locker), and went to find breakfast and coffee. We got back to the train station around 8am to take an S-bahn train (free with our railpass) to Dachau to visit the Dachau concentration camp memorial.
The memorial opened at 9am so we arrived a bit early and had to wait outside – after taking a bus from the train station. There were many middle and high school students at the memorial, as apparently all German students have to visit a concentration camp before graduating from high school. Although it is a good idea for the students to learn about this darker side of German history, Katie is not sure this was being accomplished as well as it might have been. Some of the the students were loud, and seemed to be having a great time on their field trips. The lesson is clearly not getting across to these students if they were able to laugh and joke when standing next to some of the images we saw. The attitudes and lack of reverence shown by some of the students distracted from the otherwise very serious, somber tone of the memorial.
As for the camp, the first thing that struck us was how massive it was! The camp was expanded in 1938 to hold 6,000 “workers” – but ended up holding 30k+ at points. The museum was really detailed and deep. It was well presented, and very sobering. Per our guidebook, we were planning on spending 3 hours but ended up spending 6 hours reading the massive indoor exhibits and walking around the grounds. Seeing some of the intense pictures, learning about the increased extermination plan as the Germans started losing ground, barbaric human medical experimentation, and seeing the 6 crematorium ovens were the most difficult. But they all served to support the memorial’s motto: Never Again.
After taking the bus back to the train station, we had lunch at one of the plentiful Turkish restaurants (they are everywhere in Berlin and Munich!). JT had a donar sandwich, and Katie had a donar wrap. Neither of us thought the food was great, as the chicken was too dry/overcooked for Katie’s taste.
After eating, we took the S-bahn back to Munich. Once in Munich, we got our backpacks from left luggage and went to Hotel Dolomit (Booking.com) to check in. However, apparently they overbooked the hotel, so we got placed at their other “4-star” hotel, Best Western Hotel Kristal (Booking.com) next door. We were skeptical at first, but it does seem we got a good deal here.
Then we took the U-bahn (which sadly was not included in our German railpass) up to the English Garden. Outside the park we saw the Friedsengel (Angel of Peace) and the Siegestor (both places visited by contestants on the Amazing Race). Inside the park, we saw the famous perpetual wave on the Eisbach River (and saw a surfer on it), pretty trails, lots of people at the overpriced beer garden in the middle of the park, and lots of people out enjoying the day on some of the large fields (including one completely nude man in the middle of the crowd).
We then headed back to the hotel, as we needed to do laundry. We got Chinese fried rice and noodles from a quick Chinese restaurant, China Express. The food was not good, but edible and quick. We then went to a laundromat close to our hotel to do laundry from 9:30pm to 11pm. We met a nice couple from Australia while there, and ended up talking to them for much of the time we were there. The girl was finishing a medical sciences undergraduate degree, and was going to get more training to be an ultrasound technician. The guy had dropped out of school at 16 to start working, had worked as a coal miner for the same “resource recovery” company as his dad for 6 years, and now he was going back to school to study mechanical engineering after having a motocross accident that left him in a wheelchair. Through talking with them, we found that Australians get at least 4 weeks of paid vacation a year while working full time jobs, in addition to other holidays and more time based on the number of years worked. His Dad had accrued over a year of paid vacation and was planning a month-long trip to the states.
One sad note from the day. We lost our Germany Rick Steves guide after setting it down somewhere in the indoor part of the Dachau memorial. JT searched the entire memorial (~4 times) after realizing it was gone, but someone must have picked it up and decided to keep it. Losing this makes getting around and visiting sites more difficult, but we only have three more days in Germany.