Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Munich









Munich

Sunday August 12 2007

I got a ride from Kreuth to Munich with endurance rider Katrin Falke-Schmidt. She's been riding endurance for 11 years – her main horse has been performing the last 7 - but she didn't ride at Kreuth because they just did the German Championships 2 weeks ago. Instead, she volunteered to help at the Kreuth ride, in the secretary's office. It was very busy and crazy, she said, but it was good to see the other administrative side of an endurance ride. She kindly dropped me right off at my hotel north of the main city center.

Munich officially became a city in 1175 AD, and it's now Germany's third largest city with 1.3 million people. M√ľnchen, the German name for Munich, means “Monks,” but I reckon it could possibly also be synonymous with “beer.” Biggest attraction in Munich is possibly the Hofbrauhaus, probably the most famous beer hall in the world. Munich has a big Oktoberfest, first held in 1810 in honor of the Crown Prince's marriage. Today there's still LOTS of beer consumed during the annual Oktoberfest.

Like many big European cities – Athens, Barcelona, Vienna – crowds of people are out walking,
shopping, strolling, sitting at outdoor cafes. The U-bahn is a bit convoluted, but understandable enough... but not the fares! There are only vending machines (which take only coins, no bills), and even in English you aren't sure what you want. I mean, how am I supposed to know how many zones I'm travelling in? And nobody checks your ticket, you just wing it and buy one, and stamp it in the machine before you get on. Although nobody would know if you bought a ticket or not.

Lots of bikes everywhere (though not quite as outrageous as Amsterdam), bike lanes all over the city sidewalks, and I kept gravitating toward walking in the bike lanes. I got dingalinged at a lot (the bike form of honking). And whoops! I almost knocked a lady off her bike once when I swerved onto a bike lane.

The Schwabing area I stayed in must be the Apoteke Neighborhood because there was a pharmacy on every corner, and every other store in between! Kind of like Starbucks in the Pacific Northwest... and Munich had Starbucks too! Of course I had to sample, just to compare with other Starbucks around the world (I haven't reached any conclusion – must keep taste testing). Then there was what must have been the Wicca street near the city center.

What really deserves the biggest mention when you're talking about Munich, in my opinion, is Dachau, site of the former Nazi German concentration camp, about 10 miles outside of Munich. It was the first regular concentration camp started by the Nazis, in 1933, and the one after which others were designed.

Some 200,000 prisoners from 30 countries (“political prisoners”) were held here, 1/3 of them Jews. 35,000 prisoners are believed to have died. Dachau was the second camp to be liberated by Allied Forces in 1945, and was one of the first places the media exposed the horror of the camps to the Western world.

I didn't go there this time, but I did 18 years ago, and I remember it graphically. This is what I wrote about it in 1989: “I don’t care to write much about the place, and I took only one photograph of the sculpture there at the entrance. We all watched the horrific film, then we all split up and experienced the concentration camp of Dachau. It’s all so hard to believe this all happened 50 yrs ago, or that it could have happened at all. But when you're here you know it was real, and people really did this to other people. What was really shocking now, 50 years later, was the absolute stillness of the place – no sound, no birds, no nothing, as if everything was still full of death.”

Just a thought: have we really learned much from that period of recent history?



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