Thursday, May 25, 2017

Central Europe Days 1-3: Munich

The Taylor's are home from an amazing trip across the big pond. We spent 9 days in 4 countries...and have already started to plan our next trip!

Travel is so, so important (especially in this family), and it's something I think that everyone should do. The only thing I would change is not starting sooner in life, and when we have children, I hope to take them all over the world even from a young age. Travel teaches and changes you in ways that nothing else can. Exposure to new cultures, foods, languages, architectures, and just ways of life rounds you out in a way that no book, class, program, etc. can do. There's so much life outside our little boxes that we live in. Go see the world for yourself!

With that said, here's the first part of our trip! Days 1-3: Munich, Germany (Home of Oktoberfest)

Day 1

Our first stop after landing at the airport on Tuesday morning (we flew from Atlanta on Monday and had an overnight flight) in Munich was BMW Welt (BMW World in English). Munich is the home of BMW headquarters. We walked around and looked at current models of cars and bikes made by BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce. If you special order a car, BMW Welt gives you a dramatic buying experience...and this is where you would go to pick it up as it's brought to you on a elevated platform. Fancy place!

We ate lunch at the one of Munich's oldest beer halls, the famed Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. After the schnitzel and pork, we walked up the street and enjoyed our first (of many!) gelatos of the trip.

We did a driving tour and saw so much of what the city has to offer. Munich was heavily damaged and bombed during World War II, so a lot of what we saw was relatively new/repaired/restored. We saw Maximilian Street (think Fifth Avenue...Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.), the English Garden/Eisbach river wave (river surfing), several monuments, city gates, and squares, including Marienplatz and its famous Glockenspiel.

One of the prettiest places we saw was Schloss Nymphenburg, the summer residence of former Bavarian rulers and current home of Franz, Duke of Bavaria. This picture is only one little section of the palace from the back! I love the baroque architecture. We walked around the park of the palace for a little while.

Day 2

On Wednesday, we started our day by walking to and climbing the tower at St. Peter's, the oldest church in the city. We also walked to the Farmer's Market area for lunch.

The best panoramic view of the city! The weather was beautiful and so clear that you could see the Bavarian Alps along the horizon.

299 steps to the top. And the view was worth every step!

Marienplatz from the top of the tower. The building to the right is where the famous cuckoo clock is that we had previously seen. The large church in the left background with the two towers is the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady).

This afternoon came one of the most humbling and chilling experiences I've ever had. We went to Dachau. And I honestly am still looking for words...

Arbeit macht frei (German for "work makes you free") was the famous slogan at the entrance of different concentration camps.

For those unaware, Dachau was the first concentration camp that the Nazis opened in Germany and was used 1933-1945 for mostly political prisoners and POW's. I've studied and read a lot about World War II and watched numerous documentaries on Auschwitz and other camps...but there's nothing like standing there on that ground.

No prisoner could know if he would ever leave the concentration camp again. There really are no words to describe these humans having everything taken from them. Their possessions. Their clothes. Their life. Their story.

Brausebad is the former German word for shower. In this disrobing room, victims had to leave their clothes before going to the "shower"...the disguised gas chamber. (Note: It's controversial whether this particular gas chamber was ever used. Dachau was not primarily a death camp, unlike some of the other concentration camps such as Auschwitz & Birkenau. Regardless, the concept is inhumane...and all concentration camps, including Dachau, represent death and mass killing of prisoners.)

The building in the background was the original administrative building for the camp. Today it's the location of the museum. We both spent a while walking through and reading and trying to take it all in. The dark sculpture in the left center shows skeletons entangled in barb wire. It symbolizes the emaciated bodies of the prisoners who died at Dachau, mostly from starvation and disease.

Like I said, I am still trying to find words to adequately describe this experience...but I'm at a loss. It's been on my "list" to tour a concentration camp, and I'm grateful that I did. I was humbled to visit, learn, reflect, and pay my respects. I'm changed because we went to Dachau. The Holocaust was a tragic and dark time in history. We must remember it.

After the somber experience, we headed back to Munich and walked to dinner at Augustiner Keller, one of the city's oldest biergartens (beer gardens).

We enjoyed dinner under the chestnut trees and took in the Bavarian culture. It was really crowded, but from what I could tell, this was one of the first warm days in every one flocks to the beer gardens. The Germans do dinner atmosphere well!

Day 3
Thursday was a much happier day! We went to see Schloss Neuschwanstein in southern Germany near the Austrian border.

The palace in the left center background was commissioned in the 1860s by Ludwig II of Bavaria in honor of Richard Wagner.

We hiked up to Marienbrücke (Marie's Bridge) behind the castle for better views and pictures. So worth it! And listen, the pictures honestly don't do the view in person any justice.

After this little hike, we went back and toured the inside of the castle.

The entire property has a magical feel to it. (Note: The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland was inspired by Neuschwanstein.)

And we rounded out our day at Kloster Ettal (Ettal Abbey).

Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1330. It was very pretty on the inside & out! There's also a boarding school on the property, and the monastery runs several businesses...including a brewery, distillery, bookstore, and hotel.

I found it fascinating that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian that I have studied, spend some time there in the 1940's as a friend of the Abbot.

We headed back to Munich after leaving the abbey, walked to dinner, and then back to our room to pack up. Our first three days in Germany were incredible. But we had more of Europe to visit!

To see Days 4-5: Innsbruck & Venice, click here.

To see Days 6-8: Como, Lucerne, & Heidelberg, click here.

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