Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Palaces & Concentration Camps

27 & 28 May

The problem with Munich is that it's catholic. And the problem isn't theological (although there's that too). Because it's catholic, everything closes on Sundays. The main tourist attractions are open, as are the restaurants in the main tourist areas and the public transport. But grocery stores, souvenir shops, bakeries, markets, snack bars, restaurants outside of tourist areas are all closed. This is also the case on catholic public holidays. Of course, we were in Munich on Saturday, Sunday, and a catholic public holiday Monday. Fortunately on Saturday we bought pre-made sandwiches at the grocery store and kept them in the fridge at home for our explorations on Sunday. But it made finding other food a bit harder, especially cheap meals.

On Sunday morning we decided to visit Hofbrauhaus to actually go inside. André got a beer and we bought a large heart-shaped gingerbread biscuit which we saved for lunch. The inside of the building is entertaining to see too, as the ceiling is covered in murals and they often have oompah bands playing, such as when we were there. It's also interesting to see the stamptisch signs hanging over certain tables. Stamptisch is a permanent reservation for locals, which gives them the right to kick out whoever may be sitting at their table. To gain a stamptisch in a beer hall, a local must drink in the same establishment three times a week for fifteen years. Then you get a sign with your name on it to hang over a table as a permanent reservation!

After the Hofbrauhaus we caught a train out to see Schloss Nymphenburg. This was the palace the famous 'mad king' King Ludwig the second was born in. We had our sandwiches and gingerbread for lunch in the gardens before we went inside. The gardens are enormous, we saw only a fraction of them, but they were very pretty and the weather was wonderful for being outside.

Inside the palace actually ended up being a bit of a disappointment. There was an impressive elaborately decorated entry hall/ ballroom and two or three other fancy, beautifully furnished rooms, but otherwise it mainly displayed art collections (and not many) of the various kings who lived there. Our combination ticket also got us into another section of the palace to see a collection of carriages, sleighs, and horse equipment and one of the mini-palaces out in the gardens (a summer hunting lodge of one of the queens). On the whole I think someone would be better off, if they had the time, to take a daytrip out to one of the palaces Ludwig built himself in the Bavarian forests and mountains.

After Nymphenburg we took a tram back to one of the train stations to get a train to the Englischer Garten (English garden, or park). Here we took a walk and spent half an hour in a paddle boat on the lake in the middle of the (very large) park. The Englischer Garten is Munich's equivalent to central park in New York. We saw lots of ducks, geese and swans, but no squirrels to André's disappointment.

We returned back to Marienplatz to find dinner, and ate at the Augustiner beer hall, as we had been informed Augustiner was Munich's best beer and André had tried it once already and been very impressed. I has pork escalopes (scallops) with chips and side salad while André had venison with mushroom sauce and potato dumplings. My side salad was excellent (Germans and austrians know their salads!) but the pork was a bit average, but André said his meal was excellent.

The next day we intended to go out to the Dachau Concentration Camp. We were tossing up whether to go with a paid Sandeman's tour or by ourselves. We ended up going by ourselves as the tour was 5 hours long and we could do it cheaper ourselves too.

We realised why the tour took five hours. It takes half an hour just for the train out there, and we spent three hours there until closing and could have spent a fourth. We got lunch from a little snack bar right by the train platform (I was amazed it was open on the public holiday, I thought we would be stuck with McDonalds for lunch) before catching the bus to the concentration camp. We got a bit of a fright when the bus sign said the memorial was closed on Mondays, but we confirmed on the website it was definitely open every day except Christmas Eve (which is what I thought).

Entry to the memorial is free, but it's a good idea to get an audio guide if you don't have your own guide. They are only 3.50 so not expensive. Many of the buildings are original nazi constructions, including the watch towers, although the dormitory buildings were demolished by the liberating forces, so two have been reconstructed. The Americans also used the other buildings for their own purposes after liberation, so in many parts layers of paint have been removed to return sections of the buildings to the condition they were in the 30s and early 40s. Aside from Nazism, modern German history and WW2 in general, the memorial also tells the stories of many individuals who were imprisoned at Dachau, which was the first concentration camp built by the nazis.

We spent the rest of the day there until it closed at 5. We had our last dinner in Munich at the Augustiner again where André had a platter of German sausages with mashed potato and sauerkraut and I had a grilled half-chicken with side salad. André was not impressed with their sauerkraut but everything else was very good.

No comments:

Post a Comment