Germany is a country full of culture and history. Given that it played a major role in the 2 World Wars of the last century, it only makes sense. As a result, Germany’s capitol city Berlin is rich with history. Seething with it, you could say. There are streets that still have pieces of the Berlin Wall around the corner. Parts of the city that look and feel as if you’ve stepped back to a more difficult time.
Knowing Berlin would have a lot of history surrounding it, I was really excited to visit this city. However, I was a little disappointed with the feel of the city. Let me explain; when you’re in Paris, you know you’re in Paris. You can tell by the architecture of the buildings and many bridges, even by the way the French people look at tourists. In Rome, you know you’re in Rome again due to the architecture and people. London is, of course, a distinguishable city. You know when you’re in London. But I didn’t feel that way in Berlin.
Berlin has many beautiful buildings and is an incredible city. But, just from walking around the city, I felt as though I could’ve been in any German city. The heart of the capitol has many important and historical buildings that are notable “Berlin”. Simply perusing the town doesn’t give off the feel of the city.
Although this small observation disappointed me, this history nerd ate up Berlin. From finding random pieces of the Berlin Wall still intact to checking out Check Point Charlie, Berlin is a city with incredible history.
Above is a picture of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This is the memorial I was most anxious to visit. This memorial is comprised of several hundred concrete pillars of different heights, creating a sort of maze for the viewer.
There aren’t any signs or boards telling you why this memorial was made and or why the artist chose this way to memorialize those murdered in Europe. Walking through it was eery and uncomfortable. People were quiet, steps were soft.
I think the point of this odd looking memorial is to make you uncomfortable and to confuse you. Because the events of the Holocaust are confusing and uncomfortable. Many people still refuse to accept the truth of what happened in World War II. Having this large memorial in the heart of the German capitol is a continued reminder to immortalize the tragedy of the lives lost in genocide and war.
My next stop in Germany was Munich.
Initially, I hadn’t planned on visiting Munich but I found a bus ticket from Berlin to Munich for $5. So, I had to go.
Unlike Berlin, you know when you’re in Munich.
To explain why I have to tell you a little bit of German history/geography which, if you’re like me, you know very little of either in regards to Germany. Historically, Germany is divided up into states. Berlin is a part of the Brandenburg state while Munich is in Bavaria. The culture in Bavaria is entirely different from the Northern Brandenburg.
I’m sure when most of us think of Germany we think of beer, brats, and Oktoberfest. Guys in lederhosen and women in the cute beer maiden costume ready to serve you a liter of the local brew. This is exactly what Munich gives.
Not everyone is in lederhosen or serving you a liter of beer, but the capitol of Bavaria has a very clearly defined culture that has lasted through the ages.
Munich is a beautiful city and so fun to visit. Every building has some aspect of Bavarian culture attached to it. I didn’t get nearly enough pictures to accurately display how incredible this city is.
There were fewer locals who spoke English in Munich so I had a harder time making my way around and ordering the correct food. But all language barriers aside, it was all worth it for the food I had.
I try to have to the local food in every city I visit. In Munich, I found an open air food market with some awesome looking meats and breads and somehow ended up with this amazing pork sandwich.
For dinner, I met up with a new friend in Munich at the Hofbrahaus for a liter of beer and some wiener schnitzel. Wiener schnitzel is a fried view cutlet and this local classic came with a potato salad and a cranberry salad(I think?) on the side. It was pretty tasty. Now, if I told you all that I finished that entire liter of beer, I’d be lying. If I said I bought it mostly for the picture, I’d be telling the truth. Do it for the picture! Right?
Lastly, I had the absolutely pleasure of visiting Dachau in Germany. Dachau is the location of the first work camp in Germany during the Holocaust.
Work camps aren’t the same as death camps; like Auschwitz in Poland. Jews, gypsies, handicap people, and anyone who fell outside of the qualities desired by the Nazi regime were harmed by the Holocaust. Those who were sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp came as political prinsoners. Prisoners at work camps like Dachau were forced into harsh, laborious, work and cruel treatment from guards.
Although the intention of this camp was not the death of the prisoners, many prisoners died due to the harsh treatment, work conditions, and overall living conditions.
To put into perspective the difference between a concentration camp, Dachau, and a death camp, Auschwitz; there were roughly 200,000 prisoners at Dachau from open to close and out 30,000 documented deaths. Of the 1.6 million prisoners who went through Auschwitz, 1.3 million were murdered.
Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp was the most educational and moving experience of my trip. The importance of keeping camps like these open for visiting is to not only keep the memory alive of those who were murdered but, to keep their memory alive in the fight against such tragedy every happening again.