11.20.2015 - 11.22.2015 40 °F
On the train to Budapest, and finally got a few minutes to make some notes about our trip. I'm thinking that this time I will just post one post per place, as the daily posts that I did in Vietnam were pretty time consuming. So, in this edition, I will cover our two days in Munich.
Rick had already been in Munich for a little over a week on business, and we had added this trip as an extension of his business trip so that we could take advantage of Lilly picking up one of the flights and we could save on miles. At the last minute, we invited Jerry to join us as a "thank you" for all of the work he has done for us at Hoyt and a celebration of being "finished" with Hoyt. (Well, we're not really FINISHED, but we are pretty close. Close, as in the carpet is in. That's pretty close.) As we could not find a flight on miles at the last minute for Jerry to join our itinerary, Jerry had to fly out a day earlier to Munich than the kids and me. So, when we arrived, Jerry had already been in Munich for a day as well.
Despite being alone with the kids for the flight over, it was pretty uneventful. Cary continues to amaze me at being such a great traveller. We had some words in the airport at Philadelphia, as he was being a bit of a hellion running around, tipping over people's suitcases, climbing under chairs, etc... but overall, he was really good. Maggie was, as usual, a perfect helper (although she has picked up my bad habit of being stressed out when she thinks we may be late for something). The flight from Philadelphia to Munich was an overnight flight (departing around 7pm and arriving around 9am), so it was important that we sleep the whole way. I gave both Maggie and Cary a nice dose of Benadryl, and they were out. There were almost no passengers on the flight, so we all got our own row to sleep in. It was heavenly. Apparently some things are better when you travel to Europe in the winter.
Despite the great sleep on the plane, we arrived in the airport jet lagged and exhausted. The plan was to meet Jerry and Rick at the airport and they would take us back to the AirBNB that they had already checked into the night before. Sure enough, they arrived right on time when we were walking out of baggage check. Cary was very happy to see Daddy, as he had been talking about "seeing Daddy in Germany" for a few weeks now.
We left the airport on the U-Bahn for the AirBNB. I should mention that this is our first time using AirBNB, and were somewhat using it as a "practice round" for our trip to Western Europe next summer. (For that trip, we will have Troy and Alyx with us, and will need to take advantage of apartments with 2+ bedrooms as we can't afford multiple hotel rooms in each stop.) Walking into the apartment, it was everything I expected and more. It was very pretty, had a spacious kitchen with all of the dishes/pans/fridge/stove you would need to cook meals. (This was also important, as we planned to cook breakfasts and perhaps some dinners in the apartment to save on budget.) Even though it was only a one-bedroom, there was adequate room for all 5 of us (although not ideal; had I not already booked - and pre-paid - for the apartments before deciding to bring Jerry, I would have booked all two-bedrooms). The only odd thing about it was that the host actually lived in the apartment so we kept seeing his clothes in the drawers/closets, but the place was clean and scrubbed of most personal items. The tram to the U-bahn was right outside the front door. All in all, it was an awesome start to the trip.
One of the things that Jerry and I wanted to do most in Munich was see Dachau. Dachau was one of the first concentration camps opened in Germany and is located in Munich, and over 32,000 people were killed there. Rick had already visited Dachau on a previous business trip (Lilly business, not concentration camp business!), so he agreed to stay home with the kids while Jerry and I went to Dachau for a few hours. I was exhausted, but bucked up and went anyway. We set off on the tram and the U-bahn for Dachau with only minimal directions from Rick. We made it though.
It was raining during our whole visit to Dachau, which was pretty fitting for the visit. Because it was raining and I was trying to keep my camera under the umbrella, I didn't take many pictures, but will post what I have. When arriving at the front gates, you are "greeted" by a thick iron front door with the inscription above (in German) "Work will set you free".
The place is laid out with rows of barracks that the inhabitants lived in. Only a row or two were still standing, but the foundations of the original buildings were still intact so you could understand the enormity of the place. In each building, there were wooden bunk boxes (beds) they would fill with hay and cram 2+ people into each one. The prisoners spent most of their "free time" cleaning the bunkers, arranging the beds, and scrubbing the wood floors, which they were made to keep spotlessly clean under fear of death if a spot was found. The prison was originally designed to hold 6,000 prisoners, but at the time of liberation there were over 30,000 people packed into these barracks, with most of them sick and dying.
In the front of the camp, there was a row of buildings called "the bunker". This was the row of jail cells for prisoners who had committed offenses. The bunker was a much feared fate for the prisoners, as many of the prisoners were tortured there in various ways such as "pole hanging" (putting an individual's hands behind their back, and then hanging them by their wrists from a pole so that their arms basically popped out of their sockets), committing them for days in total darkness to "standing cells" where there was no room to sit, etc. Guards would enter at their leisure to further torture the prisoners, sometimes just pulling them outside to shoot and kill them. In the area between the bunker buildings, you could still see holes in the concrete where the bullets penetrated.
In the back of the camp were the crematoriums where the bodies were burned. There were two - an old one and a new one. The old one was the one that was used for most (all?) of the cremations.
The new one had been built right before the liberation, compete with a gas chamber that had been used at other concentration camps. It was never used here, though. The prisoners would enter via a "decontamination station", where something (not sure what, but not lethal) would come out of the shower heads in the ceiling.
After that, they would pass into a large room where they were informed of the "shower" procedure. They would strip off their clothing to go into the mass "shower" in the next room. In this room, which was fit with shower heads so that the people believed it was an actual shower, they were gassed with a type of cyanide gas.
The bodies would then be piled in the next room, which was an antechamber to the crematorium. They would then take them 2-3 at a time and shove them into the ovens.
On the other side of the oven room was another room, where they would pile the bodies of those who died in the camp, so these could be burned as well. The grounds around the crematorium had sites where firing squads would line up and shoot prisoners. It was an interesting site, because if not for the awful circumstances that were taking place, someone could feel like they were taking a relaxing walk down a beautiful wooded path.
As one can imagine, it was a very somber experience. The information was presented tastefully and was much less gory than I expected. I think the thing I took away from it most was being impressed by the tone that was used in the site. The Germans have sworn "never again" in relation to their country's role in these horrific events, and they presented the information in a way that was true and honest about what happened. There was no propaganda, no blaming of others. It was simply the truth, presented in a way that will ensure it never happens again.
After our Dachau visit (and a stop at the gift shop where Jerry bought a souvenir ring), Jerry and I returned to the apartment. It was still raining , so we didn't want to leave for dinner. Jerry and I went to the grocery store to find something to fix for dinner (I wanted to make spaghetti, but they didn't carry spaghetti sauce, so we settled for noodles and cheese and some microwave lasagna). We made dinner and sat as a family at the kitchen table, then I passed out hard.
The next day was our last day in Munich. It wasn't raining, so our plans for the day included a visit to Marienplatz and then the hash in the afternoon. We set off in the morning, dressed in our hash gear, and arrived at Marienplatz just as the glockenspiel was doing its noon dance.
We ran some "errands" there, including Maggie buying a new knit panda hat and Jerry stopping at a packed T-mobile store for help with his phone while the rest of us watched some street performers. Cary enjoyed giving the performers money and cried if he wasn't given coins to drop in their cases at each stop.
The Christmas Markets were starting to open in Munich, so we stopped to have a mug of hot mulled wine at one of the stands. I enjoyed mine, but Maggie didn't care much for the non-alcoholic version.
We then rode the subway to the start location at the Municher Freight stop. We had a bit of time left before the hash, so we stopped at a small cafe and had a beer and split a schnitzel three ways. Paying the bill took longer than expected, and we found ourselves running a bit late for the hash. We ran out of the cafe and headed for the start location, which was generally stated as "the train station". We expected to find flour around the train station taking us to the congregation area, but there was nothing. Jerry asked me if his drawstring bag (one of those yellow T-box ones from Chicago) was clearly hashing gear, and one of the passerbys heard him say "hash" and said, "on on"? Turns out he was a hasher looking for the start as well, and had some information about where they were congregating. Two points for Jerry, or we never would have found the start in the mess of streets.
The pack was basically on-out as soon as we arrived. Jerry saw the runners taking off and took off after them in his flannel-lined jeans, not realizing that the walker trail was hanging back. (HAHAHAHAHA) The walkers took off slightly later, including Rick, Maggie, Cary and me, who looked for Jewbacca the whole time, hoping he took off with the runners but equally afraid he had darted around the corner for a cigarette and was missing the whole trail.
Anyway, there was no actual flour on the walkers trail - the "hare" just led us straight to the beer check. There was another little boy on the trail who was riding a bike; Cary took to him instantly and ran around after him the whole time. The beer check was at a park, complete with a climbing rope thing and swings. The kids had fun while we waited for the runners to arrive. The beer arrived in about an hour by a non-hasher with a wagon-bike from California, and the runners arrived shortly thereafter. Jerry made it too, happy to have found the walker trail.
After the beer stop, we walked back to the start. Circle took forever. Jewbacca did find me a shopping cart in the parking lot that I took a picture in. All I remember from circle was being cold.
The on after was at an Indian restaurant where we ate great food but managed to make asses of ourselves by spilling everything in sight on ourselves and our neighboring table (Rick, his drink; me, a vase of flowers; Cary, his Sprite). Rick also managed to stick his butt in the neighboring tables' meal and she chewed him a new one for it. He was talking about offering to buy her meal until the other hashers convinced him that the woman wasn't worth it. I was thinking, "thank God, because this place is expensive!"...
We headed home after the on-after and packed our bags for the 8am train the next morning to Vienna.