My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tours in Munich

My Australian friend Carolyn Arch
Jumped on the tram this morning after studying the machine and the maps - 4 stops later I was at the Hbf. Got some stamps for my postcards for Jack (giant pretzel) and Alex (soccer stadium) and mailed the postcards right away. When I got to the tour office, the lady I met on the bus yesterday was there, and we were going both tours today! Her name is Carolyn Arch and she's a really nice person who is also traveling alone for a month.

Our first tour of the day was out to Dachau for the Concentration Camp Memorial Tour. It's aptly named as most of the camp is gone. There are a couple of buildings left (including the crematorium), but the barracks are all gone.  A complete blog post about the Dachau tour follows.

While waiting for the train back to Munich after the Dachau tour, Caroline shared with me a sandwich made with Vegamite that she had brought from Australia. I know it's a real Aussie thing and I had never tried it before.  Pretty good, really; I thought it tasted a bit like cheese.

Back to the hotel briefly while waiting for the afternoon walking tour where I ate quite a chunk of the pretzel I bought last night.  Nutella is really popular here and there are packets of it at the breakfast buffet each morning so I had it on my pretzel.  Kept me filled nicely for the afternoon.

Former Gestapo HQ - now police headquarters
The afternoon walking tour was 'Birthplace of the Third Reich'. As a side note:  I had been considering several options for tomorrow because I have a lot of time to kill before my train to Amsterdam.  Some of my thoughts were Nuremberg, Salzburg, or Brechtesgarten. There are tours that go to all of them and I downloaded walking tours on my phone before leaving home just in case. In the end, though, I've decided to do none of them. Caroline has been to Brechtesgarten and they've turned it into a restaurant so there would be no atmosphere at all. Also, if the weather isn't good, you don't get any view of the Alps. A couple on our tour this morning had just come from Salzburg where the weather had been poor. Again, with poor weather you are denied the Alpine view for which the city is famous.  I've decided to just sleep in, have my breakfast at the hotel, stow my luggage at Hbf, and visit the museums.

So, the Third Reich Walking Tour: our tour guide was a young guy from Scotland named Keith. Very laid back and often funny.  We left Hbf via Underground as the tour started at Marienplatz.

World famous Hofbrauhaus
A side note:  there were a lot of Aussies in this afternoon tour and keith confirmed that a huge number come for Oktoberfest. As a matter of fact, Australia has no embassy in Munich but, for the 2 weeks of Oktoberfest, a temporary consulate is erected on the grounds of the British Embassy because so many revelers lose their passports during Oktoberfest. Sure am glad I'll be leaving before it starts!

Ribbons painted on ceiling to cover swastikas
Keith really knew a lot about the Third Reich as it related to Munich, which is probably good because the bombing obliterated most of the city. There are some critical locations still standing but Munich has tried to downplay any Nazi history. Here's an interesting thing, though:  the police occupy the building that served as Gestapo headquarters (also the old military barracks at Dachau). The logic: neo-nazis or anyone still holding beliefs cannot use or try to make it a 'shrine'.
I expected to hear beer drinking songs!

Interior of Hofbrauhaus
As part of the tour, we found the Hofbrauhaus where Hitler and the Nazis used to hold meetings. During that time period, there were swastikas painted on the ceiling, which have been turned into blue and white ribboned swirls. We took a break here and I swiped a couple of beer mats. Not sure if it's due to Oktoberfest or whether it's everyday garb, but I saw old men in the traditional Bavarian hats!

Keith had photos on his phone of many of the sites as they looked during the war, and one of a cat that looked like Adolf Hitler. We tried to guess the caption that ran with the photo in the London Times. It was "Mein Furr-er". Pretty funny.

Odeonsplatz from where Hitler made his speeches
The most interesting thing on the tour is part of something that isn't there anymore. In the Odeonsplatz is a big ornate amphitheatre kind of thing from which Hitler would rant to the crowds. On the side of that building there used to be a plaque to Nazi-ism with SS guards posted on either side. The public was required to give the Nazi salute when passing the sign.  Failure to do so would result in arrest.  There's an alley just before this spot that is marked (modestly like all references to the Third Reich in Munich) with paint on the street.  People would cut down this alley to avoid going past the sign and, eventually, the Gestapo caught on and posted people undercover.  If you cut down the alley too often, you could be arrested.

Really enjoyed the tour and headed back to my hotel, which took a bit of guessing -- I'm a bit lost without the GPS on my phone.

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