16.09.2014 - 22.09.2014
We took the train from Prague to Munich which, after we slept for the first part, turned in to a beautiful countryside trip. We knew we had finally entered Germany as soon as we saw solar panels on top of every single house (even barns!) and wind turbines every which way. Amanda was in heaven! It was so relieving that some countries in this world are truly trying to make a difference. Our first night in Munich, Sean took us to the Augusteiner Brewhouse where we had our first German meal and beer out of real steins! Let’s just say, the steins led us to an interesting night filled with outdoor beer gardens, intense discussions and a slightly rougher than usual morning
The next day took us to the Dachau Concentration Camp. This was the first concentration camp Hitler constructed. He used it to show the Red Cross that it was for housing political prisoners, even though it eventually became a place of forced labour and torture of Jewish people, gypsies, emigrants, homosexuals, etc. Many times the Red Cross came through to this camp and each time, they states it was fit to continue its practice. If only they had seen what was really happening to these poor people. As we entered the infamous iron gates that read, “Arbeit Macht Frie”, or “Work will set you free” (which has recently been stolen from the camp), we were overcome with emotion.
It is truly hard to explain the feelings that envelop you when you’re standing in a place of such horror, a place where humans literally destroyed other humans. To walk the grounds where thousands of people were treated with such brutality was truly an eye opening experience. We were able to walk through the original buildings that the prisoners would have walked (Most are now part of a museum and exhibition). Where the prisoners would have met the guards, where all their belongings were stripped from them and taken away, sent to the bath houses where they were shaved and “cleaning” solution was used to wash the filth from their impure bodies and finally through old torture rooms where some prisoners were unfortunate enough to undergo medical testing.
We are so glad that this camp has become a memorial site. Though it is still difficult to know that something so appalling happened and that no apology will ever be enough for the millions of people who died and the families who were torn apart and lost, we as a society hopefully can learn from these atrocities so not to repeat them in the future.
Continuing with our WWII journey, the next day we decided to rent a car and drive to Berchtesgaden, where Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” has been maintained. This was a bit of a lighter day than the Dachau Concentration Camp and I really think the group needed it. Because we rented a car, we were able to experience what it was like to drive on the Autobahn and boy were the guys excited! I think they made it to 170km/hr in a Kia hatchback. We blasted some music and made an Autobahn chant where only the lucky few will get to hear it! We also rented the car because we knew we’d be able to enjoy the outstanding views and scenery of the Bavarian countryside. For those of you who have seen the Sound of Music, It looked identical to scene where they are escaping at the end of the movie and end up climbing the mountains (yep, movie reference number two!). There were massive mountains shooting up all around us, luscious green valley’s with gorgeous farms and animals everywhere we looked. Trees that looked so fluffy and bushy on the rolling hills and of course the clearest of blue skies to make it one of the most magnificent places we have ever been.
After a few stops and some amazing photo ops, we ended up in the parking lot where we had to take a bus up the steepest, most windy road I think we’ve ever been on. Not a road for the faint of heart, or those who were scared of heights, aka…all of us! When we reached the top, we found ourselves entering this cool, wet, brick cave that led us to the brass elevator which would take us up to the Eagle’s Nest.
We later found out that the building of this elevator, tunnel and retreat was an architectural masterpiece. The people working on this project did an incredible job, which is one of the reasons it still stands today. After a quick ride up, the doors opened to reveal….a restaurant! I (Lindsay) apparently didn’t do my homework and had no idea that this famous building where Hitler once ruled had been turned into a tourist restaurant. I (Sean) feel that Hitler would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what his retreat in the mountains has become. We left the restaurant, walked outside and up the mountain, enjoying the spectacular views from on top of the world. Hopefully our pictures can do justice!
On our last day before Oktoberfest, we thought we’d take in some more sights. So, into the Kia and on to the Autobahn we went again, this time reaching 190km/hr. The boys were giggling in the front seat at their accomplishment, not knowing the girls were in the back having just as much fun! We exited off the highway and onto the Romantic Road and enjoyed the countryside views until Amanda shouted, “I think that’s it!” And there it was, Schloss Neuschwanstein, or as it’s more famously known, The Disney Castle. This castle is perched high on a hill with mountains encompassing it.
This castle has been on my (Lindsay’s) bucket list for years and years and it was so exciting when we finally made it. Its’ white stone walls were shining in the sun and the pointed towers were so tall, protecting those who lived there. Surrounded by a magical forest that hid a magnificent waterfall and a swinging bridge, we were truly in a fantasy land and did not want to leave.
We even started singing songs in a Disney-like manner for our hike down the hill, well, the girls did at least! We made it down the hill to a cute little town with a large lake and another castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, where King Ludwig II actually spent most of his time. We only admired it from afar, but the entire place was absolutely beautiful.
It was a perfect day and a perfect fairy tale ending to southern Germany. Onto Oktoberfest!