Around Munich

To give you some context, I visited Italy for the food, Austria for nostalgia, Paris for the arts, and Munich because... I had to visit Dachau. Of course there’s more to the city, but this was the main reason I was here. Dachau was the first camp, instituted before concentration camps were conceived of. It was mostly used to house people who opposed the Reich, to begin with. It eventually became a worker’s camp, where people were put to work until they died. It was a very powerful moment for me to come face to face with the doors proclaiming 'Work will set you free,' and remember all the atrocities I'd read about.

German school children mandatorily visit a concentration camp and learn about its history. I saw two or three groups at Dachau - in fact, I saw teachers talk to kids pretty much everywhere I went in Munich. I've to say, I really admire the German education system. They've fast & slow track learning systems based on both ability as well as inclination, which strikes me as being right. They've a rigorous test to get into college, but college itself is cheap. I think they've cracked something - Germany has one of the highest average earnings in the world; and, despite being roughly the size of Montana, consistently produces 1/4th the GDP of the entire United States. 

They've clearly moved past WWII but you can see it's irreversibly marked the country. I was told that very few people know the words to their national anthem, and that the German flag is rarely flown in the country. It's almost like they've the opposite of nationalism now; which is a shame when you consider what else Germany has produced - Martin Luther, the Gutenberg press, Wagner, Beethoven (the last two weren't Austrian. Hitler was, but everyone assumes he's German. As my husband pointed out - tremendous PR work by Austria, there). 

As for Munich itself, it rained non-stop while I was there. I was staying in one of the most character-full buildings in town, so I didn't mind being rained out. Only 4% of the buildings in Munich survived WWII bombing, and this was one of them. Another place I enjoyed when it was pouring down was the Hofbrauhaus (beer of the royal court) - it's the most famous beer hall in Munich and had a really authentic recreation of the old hall from the 1880's + a museum where it's easy to while away a couple of hours. I know a lot more about beer now. Munich's drinking culture really amuses me. I came out of the train station at about 7am, and overheard a customer ask for a refill

In the brief interludes of sunshine, I decided to ignore the 6 degrees temperature (I live in Canada, after all), and sought out Munich's outdoor offerings, including hikes up the Olympic Park hill and urban surfing in the English Gardens. 

I also got to see a little bit of Bavaria when I took a day trip out to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the poster child of the Romantic Road. I was expecting to see another Lucca, but was pleasantly surprised. Rothenburg is like no other place in Europe, or really, the world. It belongs in fairytales. I loved everything about it - the views, the castles, the moats, the carefully handcrafted wooden toys... I really think it beats the Disney franchises in terms of sheer magic appeal. I'd happily come back here with kids, preferably around the time when they're starting to question Santa Claus, or shooting stars, or whatever else. No easier way to reinstate belief, all around. 

My notes on getting to Rothenburg, as well as on top sights in Munich are here. Photo-stories are here.

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