Location: Munich, Germany
A short trip from Vienna brought me into the capital of Bavaria, Munich. I arrived at another Wombats Hostel again conveniently located just off the major route surrounding the Munich HBF station. The weather had turned during my train ride over from one of quite pleasant weather into a rainy and kind of dreary mood. Despite the rain, I made my way around the community surrounding the hostel for a few hours and then made my way back into the common room where I would take a nap. I wasnt asleep more than 20 minutes before I could feel someone standing over me. I opened my eyes and had to do a double take on both sides to realize that the pair standing over me were Sean OConnell and his girlfriend Catie McDavid, the couple I met in Rome! What a completely unbelievable coincidence, not to manage pretty awesome too! Turns out that Sean and Catie had spent the weekend down in Munich, and were just about to head back up to Bamberg. They had left their bags in the Wombats luggage room for the day, and just happened to notice me sleeping on the couch. I was in complete awe, and still am that the world is such a small place that we could run into each other in such a way. I only had about an hour before my new friends had to make their way to a train station, but it was nice to catch p and to solidify my intent and their desire for me to come visit them in Bamberg closer to the middle of May.
I came back from dropping Sean and Catie off at the HBF and was filled with a really great vibe. It had been awhile since I had developed any serious friendships, and to my surprise, that is exactly what I ended up with after leaving Munich. I ended up meeting two couples from Canada: Mark and Katrina from Toronto, and Matt and Emily from Halifax. They themselves had just met earlier that day, but appeared to me at first glance as good old friends. Fortunately for me, I meshed right into their little group, and before long, we were remarking how well we all got along. Emily couldnt get over how alike Matt and I were, and I believe Katrina thought the same of our newly formed triple-bromance. I have only met a select group of people in my life that can make me laugh as hard as I did when I was with Matt and Mark. Quite possibly some of the most hysterical moments of my trip, which unfortunately would sound completely un-funny if I tried to explain them trough writing. However, for those of them who may be reading, need I remind you of pretzels the size of an angry teachers crossed arms, Kappa Psy Delta, and the Saddam Hussein Beverly Hills Cop. Our first night together, our group went to a place called the Augustiner Braukeller, just up the road from the hostel for some traditional Bavarian fare including Pork Knuckle, Potato Dumpling, German Tortellini, Mushroom Sauce, and Bavarian Burger. It was in deed delicious heart-stoppingly-good food and atmosphere to boot.
My first full day in Munich I spent on a free walking tour provided by the hostel and delivered by a guy named Aussie, an Afro-German Nationalist from Canada who sings R&B and who teeters the line of questionable sexuality in some very uncomfortable ways. Our tour group was small, Matt, Emily, Mark and Katrina were off doing something different as they did the free tour the day before. A sizable portion of the tour was spent wandering through old Munich, checking out the Central Catholic Church, the Glockenspiel, a beer garden, sausage vendor, and several small stops along the way. Aussie was very informed on Munich, and you could really tell that he actually cared about the city, and his job. In between numerous facts about Munich and reminding us to tip him at the end of the tour based on how much we enjoyed it, he managed to poke fun at almost everyone of the guys on the tour, usually making remarks about the size of our penises. Naturally I took the brunt of the jokes dished out, as I didnt look completely mortified when he took shots at me
Just another day in the life of good ol Patty.
After the city tour, I made my way back to Wombats to meet my new Canadian Crew where we headed back in to the Old town for a few brews at the world famous Hofbrauhaus. Prices were definitely built for tourists in so far as they fiscally drained you of whatever money you had brought. With budget in mind, we collected and wandered our way back towards the hostel, marveling at the spectacle of several carts selling white asparagus and strawberries along the way. We got back kind of half-cut, and proclaimed another trip to the Augustiner was in order following a go round at the happy hour at the hostel. We are still not certain, but Emily was showing signs of Swine Flu, or so we liked to joke, so she decided no to come along for the night. Fatigue cut out Katrina, and so all that was left was Mark, Matt, and Me, until we met a guy from Marthas Vineyard named Patrick Schule, who had just arrived in Europe. So the four of us headed out, and made short work of several MaB beers at the Brauhuas. Patrick was definitely a welcome addition to our cohort, and was a pretty intense character. Amongst other things, he told us of how he sailed a yacht to Norway last year, and talked about trips on his family yacht down to the Caribbean; Very interesting person. His hilarity stemmed from the fact that he was fresh to Europe and bursting at the seams with excitement about everything. He made a few off the collar remarks I wont recall on here, but lets just say that he was pretty funny.
I spent from about 1:30 am until 4:30 am watching a Flames game on the satellite TV in the lobby, and consequently spent most of my second full day in Munich sleeping, until later in the day when Patrick and I went to the Olympiazentrum, site of the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. It was pretty grey, cold, windy and rainy, so it wasnt as enjoyable of an experience as I had hoped, but still very cool. Mark, Katrina, Emily and Matt left that day to visit the Neuschwanstein Cinderella Castle with two American chicks they had made friends with who challenge to top my stupidest and most annoying people in Europe chart. We collected again that evening around 5:00 for a brief dinner before sitting in the common room waiting for their train to leave for Berlin. It was sad to watch all of them leave, but I had planted the seed of coming to Amsterdam for my birthday in their heads, and was certain that they would do their best to make it happen. Mark and Matt especially are two people I can see myself being friends with in the future, and having come to visit. They were both really quality people who were easy to get along with, and who also saw eye-to-eye with me on a lot of things.
On my final day in Munich, I traveled just outside the city to the former Concentration Camp in Dachau, which opened in 1933 while Hitler was beginning to weed out political and social figures that stood against his initial stages of his rise to power. I went with Patrick, which was nice as attending such a powerful place with no one to talk to it about would have been pretty hard to deal with. The camp now serves as a memorial site, and features several different sections dedicated towards various aspects of life and death within the concentration camp system. It also does a great job of explaining the situation in Dachau compared to others, explains the camps liberation by American soldiers, and describes the various functions that the camp actually served. For example, Dachau was not a death camp like Auschwitz; its main purpose was to serve as a work camp as well as a trial/test camp for those to come. Some of the most impactful parts of the memorial were the prisoners artwork, old categorization charts, and the off site gas chamber and kiln which although never used for mass killings, were still put into operation at times in the camp. It was an extremely emotional entrance to the camp, and interesting to consider how much history went on within the walls. The German government has also done a tremendous job of including several pieces of artwork within the camp to commemorate the Holocaust produced by survivors and artists the world round. It was easy to leave Dachau, but hard to forget. Visiting a concentration camp for the first time was beyond what I expected it to be. I thought it would be a gigantic reiteration of high school social studies followed up with physical evidence. However the feeling and atmosphere is something rarely considered that offers one an insight to how things worked and how awful it really would have been. Another experience in Europe I am glad to have had, and so thankful for the opportunity to learn more.
Munich is a beauty of a city, filled with a really great feeling and surrounded and encompassing so much history and culture. Apparently voted the number 1 city to live in the world in 2008, it undoubtedly lives up to that standard now in 2009. Munich is a city in Europe I think everyone should see, but sadly I think many skip over. So much of what we consider Germany originated and still thrives in Munich and the people there are proud to show you it. Bavaria and Munich are filled with great beer, amazing food, friendly people, old and new traditions, culture, art and lederhosen everywhere.