Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Munich and a happy reunion!

The entry gate at Dachau Concentration Camp, "Work makes (you) free"

10-30-07 Update from along the Rhine in Bingen...Finally found an internet connection so will send this along...more to come on our last week's trip from here on to Amsterdam. BTW, spent day on a boat cruise along the Rhine leaf peepin' at fall color and castles. Incredible, too, that we saw first blue sky in over a week today.

Written: 10-28-07
We just left Munich, Germany, where it's still cold and drizzly, well, cold and damp at least, not too much drizzle today. It's beginning to feel a lot like winter, no snow here; but the raw damp is palpable, like it was in our Pennsylvania winters. Can't complain, though; we've had wonderful weather for most all of this trip, and we knew when we started back north toward Amsterdam the last week or two we might run into some bad weather. Like we gambled on a mild fall, and lost. Hasn't dampened our spirits, although it is taking its' toll on creaky joints and summer-oriented wardrobe.

Munich, of course, has had a long, colorful and prosperous history since it started as a monastery in the 12th century. It's the home of BMW and Siemens, the Octoberfest and so many other monuments, galleries and Royal Residences. More recently it's where Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party really got their start and became powerful. The Munchen Stadtmuseum (City Museum) had a wonderful exhibits about the history of Munich with a special section devoted to how the National Socialists came to power. We tend to forget that Hitler and the Nazis were freely elected, which should be a lesson for all democracies. The exhibit did a wonderful job of showing how conditions after the first World War, plus the Depression caused severe economic conditions in Germany creating lots of uncertainity in the population. More interesting was how the Nazis used these events, along with zealous nationalism and patriotism to establish an atmosphere of fear and distrust among the general populaton. The would then exploit these fears and prejudices against any perceived enemy of the party and the Fatherland which included the Jews, Jehovah'sWitnesses, homosexuals, political liberals, oppostion newspapers and anyone who stood to challenge or even question them. They created these scapegoats, and set about to establish a government where 'law and order' and safety were of highest priority. Tolerance was perceived as weakness. It was noted that minor city clerks were soon promoted to high city and later national posts because of their loyal membership in the National Sociatist Party. Competence and qualifications for a position gave way to loyalty and party activity and was first demonstrated in Munich.

We had lunch at the Hofbrau, a Munich beer hall where Adolph Hitler made many of his impassioned speeches. Just realizing that you were in the same room looking at the same walls, walking on the same floor, where Hitler and the Nazis drummed up support for their ideas, was sobering. I think this has impressed us both on this trip, being places where historical figures and happenings were, some from so long ago, like the Pantheon and Colesseum in Rome, and some recent like this. Makes them into real people in your mind somehow, whether it's Galileo, Hitler, Michelangelo or Julius Caesar.
We spent another day touring Dachau concentration camp and the accompanying museum. Such a sobering reminder of man's capacity for evil. It didn't help that the day was glowering, grey and bone chilling cold. To see the place and to see all the photos and a documentary film about it, and to realize that it wasn't even the worst of the camps was a wringing emotional experience. But, somehow, it didn't seem right to come here without acknowledging it, and bearing witness to all that was done there.

We also did a bus tour around Munich, saw the City Hall (Rathaus) with its incredible clock with two sets of animated figures move about, one set of lifesize dolls that dances in comemoration of the end of the Plague in the 16th century, and the other a full joust on horseback to comemorate a wedding where one of the principals from Austria was hit by the lance. The glockenspiel is being repaired, so while the figures dance, there is no music at the moment to accompany them, alas. Interesting, historical, free but still very cold! It's not that it is so incredible in this modern world of Walt Disney animations, but when you realize they are hundreds of years old, and represent a master's clockmaking art, it's pretty neat.

We've certainly come away from this trip with an appreciation of really good mass transit systems, that's for sure. While we haven't had opportunity to travel on one of the 'fast trains', we have seen several of them, and the local trains we have taken have been convenient, clean and easy to use. I can only imagine how much more liveable our US cities would be with more. You never have to wait more than a few minutes for a train or bus, and you can get absolutely anywhere easily on them. We had been going to drive out to Dachau, when we realized that we could get public transportation right from the corner down from the campground to the door of the camp, easily and quickly, for a few Euros, so we took the train and enjoyed a nice ride through the suburbs and out into the countryside outside Munich.

Also while in Munich, on a whim and a hunch Tom was able to find and make contact with his German "sisters and mother" from the time he lived with the family when he was an exchange student in Bolivia some 40 years ago. It was the greatest moment to meet up again after contact had been lost over 10 years ago. We visited, talked and remembered life and friends in SantaCruz, Bolivia so long ago, and what our lives were today. It was the first of hopefully many visits.

And now the time is getting short as are the days. We haven't seen the sun in over a week and must start the trip north to Amsterdam. Today we drove to the walled city of Rothenburg On Der Tauber, near Wurzburg in northern Bavaria. This was where not much ever happened, so nobody stormed the city walls or destroyed much, to the benefit of tourists today. The Reformation did happen here, as it was started not to far to the west in the early 16th century. The central cathedral here is Evangelical Lutheran today and has been since 1527 even though the rest of the Bayern State (Bavaria and Munich) are predominantly Roman Catholic. The city was beautiful to walk through, first the gate, then the narrow streets to the Market Platz, City Hall and public fountains, and later passed many small shops with art work, clothes, foods and gifts all with the tourist in mind. However, the majority of tourists here are German out for a Sunday drive. The campgrounds are nearly empty and the temperatures are near freezing nightly. What are we doing here???
That's it for now, on to the Rhine and then the Nederlands.

Happy trails from along the road.

1 comment:

Jaimie Hall said...

Neat that Tom could track down his "German family!"

It does sound gloomy and cold but still I'm sure you are seeing some incredible sights. Can't wait to see your photos and hear about the whole trip.