Let me start this out by saying I’ve yet to write a book, but today just might be the day for that. So many things to cover from the weekend!
—Fritag, 5. Juni
All of us decided to go to Dachau on Friday. That means we all boarded the train here in Bregenz early Friday morning, and arrived in München before lunch. We left the München Hbf (Hauptbahnhof) and went on to the city of Dachau.
For those that don’t know, Dachau isn’t just a former concentration camp. Much like several of the others that are scattered around various parts of Europe, it’s also a town. Dachau-KZ is unique; it’s situated on the outskirts of the town and in what can be understood as various states of decay. I use the term decay carefully, because instead of rebuilding everything that was destroyed they have only finished some sections. They have left Dachau as more of a blend between a graveyard and a memorial ground.
To better explain, here is a short video (0:15) that I took via Instagram while I was there.
Dr. Zimmerman got one of the fancy little audio tour guides to help us through the Memorial grounds, as there aren’t really ‘tours’ in the proper sense of the word. The first part of the tour is, obviously, the entrance to the Memorial Grounds. Most of us had already walked down the gravel path to the actual entrance to Dachau so we all met up down there. Here’s the first few things we saw on our way down the path.
The following is the quote from the Memorial Site Entrance Sign in both German and English.
Dachau – die Bedeutung diese Namens ist aus der Deutschen Geschichte night auszulöschen. Er steht für alle Konzentrationslager, die Nationalsozialisten in ihrem Herrschaftsbereich errichtet haben.
Dachau – the significance of this name will never be erased from German history. It stands for all concentration camps which the Nazis established in their territory.
– Eugen Kogon
Shortly after that sign, another was posted again in both German and English offering a welcome, and a request for how to act while on the grounds. A few of these things stood out to me:
Today’s memorial is a commemorative site to remember the people who suffered in Dachau concentration camp and the 41,500 prisoners who died there. It has the character of a cemetery, a place of sorrow and remembrance.
Please do not touch the camp relics or exhibition objects. They are of irreplaceable value.
It is not permitted to disturb the peace of the dead in any ways. It is not permitted to violate in any way the human dignity of others because of their origins, skin color, or religion.
There were things inside the museum half of Dachau that have been through the test of time, and while they are constant reminders of a rather terrible mark in history, it’s best that they not be disturbed. I wouldn’t even know how to respond to someone trying to mock, make fun of, or … well, yeah. But then again, I feel like we were exceptionally respectable. I promise, this will make sense with pictures, but instead, I want to tell this story in order.
For some background on this particular camp, there are several places you can find it. I’ll paraphrase the short and sweet version here — Dachau was a political prisoner camp, and it took only men at first. It was opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler and later expanded to be a forced labor camp. This particular camp included the imprisonment of Jews, regular German and Austrian criminals, and nationals from countries that Germany either occupied or invaded. Over it’s lifetime (from 1933 to the liberation by the American forces on 29 April, 1945) Dachau grew to include almost 100 sub-camps in the nearby area. These were almost all forced work camps, not extermination camps.
If you want to read more on the history of Dachau you’ll find a lot of information here >> http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/
Some of this information is reflected here as they offer a ‘virtual tour’ of sorts.
The first part of the former concentration camp we saw was The Jourhaus and Bridge over the Würm (river) channel. Just outside of the Jourhaus, looking towards the camp, are the remnants of train tracks, from where this picture was taken.
Just take a second and imagine this, imagine what this might have felt like.
Follow that with the image that greets you at the gate in the Jourhaus.
Auschwitz isn’t the only place that had these words emblazoned on a gate, or above a walkway. This was a common phrase used in several of the concentration camps.
Arbeit macht Frei means simply, Work makes (you) free.
Walking through the gate was intense, the emotion that I wasn’t sure was going to hit started to trickle through.
The area past the gate was empty. It stretched all the way to the other wall, and using our handy little audio guides we were told that this was the Roll-Call Square. This is where prisoners would stand to be counted, or to watch the punishment of another prisoner, or to wait for the arrival of more prisoners.
Walking through that expanse of empty space gave new meaning to the size of these camps. We can watch, read, or think we know what it was like — I know I did — but it’s not really comprehended until you’re there.
The Roll-Call Square is flanked by the two rebuilt barracks on the left hand side and the maintenance building that is now the museum. Where the prisoners stood and looked at the maintenance building, the following was painted on the roof for all to see: “There is one path to freedom. Its milestones are: obedience, honesty, cleanliness, sobriety, diligence, orderliness, self-sacrifice, truthfulness, love of the fatherland” and it can be seen below from one of the many signs posted around Dachau.
There is one path to freedom.
Its milestones are: obedience, honesty, cleanliness,
sobriety, diligence, orderliness, self-sacrifice,
truthfulness, love of the fatherland
Well that hit me square in the face.
The first part of the International Monument you see is below.
The information given from The Dachau Memorial website on the inscription is as follows. “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because of their fight against National Socialism unite the living in their defense of peace and freedom and in reverence of human dignity.” followed by this explanation of the monument “[it] was created under the assumption that the visitor would take the same path that prisoners had once walked, entering through what used to be the Jourhaus. This entrance that the prisoners were forced to use was to be the entrance that survivors would later re-enter as free people”
Walking past this and towards the center of Roll-Call Square presented another sculpture.
This sculpture was created by Nandor Gild.
At first glance it appears flat, and a bit confusing. By no means am I a modern art critique but it’s baffling to really look at.
The sculpture is made of a dark bronze, and it is made to symbolize the emaciated bodies of the prisoners who died of starvation and malnutrition inside Dachau. The second image I saw is the way the bodies seem to make up the idea of barbed wire strung between posts. Apparently this was intended.
On either side of the sculpture are concrete fence posts which closely resemble the ones actually used to support the barbed wire fence around the camp. Information Found Here
Directly to the right of this part of the monument are five chains linked together. They have the different badges, in their respective colors, of those who were imprisoned in Dachau over its lifetime as a concentration camp. This site offers a better description of the types of triangles that are shown on this monument,
“The vast majority of the prisoners at Dachau were political prisoners from other countries, primarily Communists and illegal combatants who continued to fight after their countries were conquered; they wore a red triangle, pointing downward.”
I had to take a moment and realize what exactly was in front of me. The stone slab that looks a little out of place, but the gravity of this stone has weighed heavy on my mind. From the Dachau Memorial website it explains that the stone has “[a]n urn with the ashes of the unknown concentration camp prisoner lies before it and recalls the fate of the thousands of people whose corpses were burnt in the crematorium. It was buried here in May 1967. … ‘This monument was erected in honor of the tens of thousands of martyrs, who died here as victims of National Socialist tyranny and was dedicated on September 8, 1968 by the Comité International de Dachau.'”
Instead of giving a step by step overview of the rest of the camp, I’m going to instead just share a few more pictures.
This image comes from “The Death Strip” which is what part of the camp separated the prisoners from the wall. The first defense against escapees was a ditch line, then the barbed wire fences, then another space between the barbed wire and the walls — which is specifically called The Death Strip as this was the place that was constantly watched by guards and from the walls, guard towers, and patrols — and then finally the wall separating the camp from the road.
The other image is looking down the road between the barracks away from Roll-Call Square towards what are now churches and towards the crematorium. There were originally 34 barracks that occupied this space, but since they were destroyed previously the foundations have been reconstructed to show only their location.
There is a full museum in the Maintenance Building that gives an excellent overview of not just Dachau, but of most everything that took place during the Nazi regime. The further you get into the museum the more specific it gets to what took place in Dachau.
Page after page after page of names.
These names aren’t just those who died in Dachau, but anyone who was recorded as at Dachau regardless of where they ended up.
It lists their name, their birthdate, their hometown, their reason for imprisonment, and when or where they died.
This was the one thing that almost completely broke me. I’ve done quite a bit of research on The Holocaust and I’ve talked to survivors, read the books, and been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. but I wasn’t prepared to see this book. It still weighs heavy on me.
—Fritag, 5. Juni
We left Dachau and headed back to München Hbf and from there everyone went their separate ways for the weekend. Maggie and I wanted to wander around München and go to Hofbräuhaus — So we did.
Ironically enough, Dr. J ended up going with us. We caught a lower level S-bahn to Marienplatz and didn’t realize that when we walked up the stairs we were actually going to be in the MIDDLE of Marienplatz! We snagged a selfie with Dr. J using my fancy little selfiestick that he liked to poke fun at. HEY, ITS USEFUL – sometimes…
The best part is they trusted me to navigate them through a city I’d never been in on a phone that was dying. Quickly.
I’m pretty sure Dr. J knew where we were headed, but he wanted to let Maggie and I stumble through it. Heh.
We did end up making it to the glorious three stories that is Hofbräuhaus — we just might have taken a slightly longer path to get there.
For those of you who don’t know what Hofbräuhaus is like in München let me explain. To start with, it’s HUGE. Really. It seats something like 1,300 people at the tables. I looked up some information on their website and some of the tables we walked past have been here since 1897 and have hundreds of names scratched into them. In the main room, where we sat, it’s where the beer was originally brewed. The massive number of Asian’s that had flooded the main room after us made it unable to get a good photo of how large the inside is. They have iPads they take photos with, and they take up the entire walkway. Instead, I have a rather awesome, I think, photo of the outside.
While at Hofbräuhaus Maggie, Dr. J, and myself enjoyed a beer and some really fantastic wurst. The atmosphere of this place is pretty great too. Bustling, lots of people sitting together, and a few different women walking around selling pretzels – giant ones – out of baskets. I should have bought a pretzel, but I opted to not.
Maggie and I later shared a piece of Apfelstrudel which was equally delicious as every single piece I’ve had here. It’s better than what I make at home, but I think I can edit my recipe to match this. Yum!
Dr. J left us at Hofbräuhaus because he had a train to catch, and Maggie and I enjoyed our last little bit of dessert and went to find our train too. We got a teeny tiny bit lost in the train station and ended up waiting at the wrong track to start with, then we found the right one, and realized we were standing on the wrong side. Holy crapola Marienplatz is a busy station.
We made our way back to the München Hbf and found our next train that was taking us allllll the way to Salzburg, Austria. It was just a few hours, and it was a relatively enjoyable train ride. I’m not going to lie, there was a really attractive bearded man sitting a few seats away from us (sorry Jesse <3) and both Maggie and I stared at him from time to time. I was half tempted to try and snap a picture but I decided against it.
A few hours later we met up with Julia, Shane, and Candice in Salzburg. We had a pretty great hotel room, courtesy of Candice, and it was funny having all of us in one hotel room. We had some good times.
—Samstag, 6. Juni
Maggie and I had decided before going to Salzburg that we wanted to take a Sound of Music Tour and because of that we got extra early on Saturday morning to figure out our options. We ended up paying €40 for this tour, but hey, we were on an air conditioned bus that promised singing, and it was just over 4 hours long. It was worth the €40. Trust me.
Maggie and I sang our little Sound of Music hearts out and ended up entertaining our tour guide. He was the sweetest little old man, and I even had an actual conversation with him in German. It wasn’t anything super fancy, just some simple questions while we were walking — mostly about where he was from, how long he had been a part of this tour, and what he liked about Salzburg the most — but I felt accomplished.
The first place we went outside of the city was the filming location for the Von Trapp mansion, and guess what, this wasn’t where they actually filmed most of the exterior. This is the Schloss Leopoldskron. This is where the falling-into-the-lake scene was filmed.
After this we came back through the city and passed by the Medival Fortress Festungs Hohensalzburg on the hill and Stifft Nonnberg. Did you know that they were actually permitted to film at Stifft Nonnberg?! Our dear little tour guide told us that there are still nuns there, and that they still sing their vespers at 5:30. Maggie and I made a mental note that if we were near there we needed to go to vespers. We passed by the actual filming area for the Von Trapp home, Schloss Frohnburg, and we couldn’t get out of the bus to go see it because it’s now a Mozart Music Academy. Instead, we stopped at Schloss Hellbrunn to see the Gazebo where Rolf and Leisl sing to one another.
Apparently the Von Trapp gazebo, used for Sixteen Going On Seventeen, once stood in the grounds of Leopoldskron, but constant trespassing resulted in it being moved and reconstructed in the ornamental gardens at Schloss Hellbrunn.
While at Schloss Hellbrunn Maggie’s tourist game was so strong. We were kind of mocking the other tourist who were like super into posing or matching what they were doing, so we both kind of did the same.
Maggie wins all the tourist points. Seriously, all of them.
We got back on the bus after about ten minutes for picture taking, and headed up into the mountains just outside of Salzburg and sang quite a few songs from Sound of Music. Well, Maggie and I did, not a lot of the other people on the tour did. They just kind of sort of hummed or something.
We stopped for a few minutes just outside of Mondsee up on the mountain looking down into the city. It’s so pretty.
We made our way down to Mondsee and stopped for roughly an hour and ten minutes to shop, enjoy some more Apfelstrudel if we wanted, and to look in the Mondsee Cathedral.
The first part of the cathedral you walk into is a little gift shop — go figure — but it was on our way out of the gift shop I noticed there was a much larger crowd than I expected. When presented with large crowds in these types of situations, I tend to move to the less crowded area, and I really like looking at the artwork in some of the cathedrals around here, so it’s kind of a win-win.
Then, someone was singing in English and it was loud. Like, really loud for a cathedral this size.
I walked back out to where the crowd had thinned out a little and realized that an actual wedding was going on WHILE WE WERE MEANDERING AROUND THE BACK OF THE CATHEDRAL. I felt so guilty. And then I took a few pictures because it was just so dang pretty.
There were a few ladies standing next to me talking in the complete opposite of hushed tones and asked “Is this a real wedding? Or is this part of the tour?!” to which, my sarcasm came flying out, and replied “Oh, it’s just part of the tour. They do this all day for people who participate in these tours.”
I just left here there and walked away. It was hilarious, and I had to have my absolute best poker face on because I almost lost it in the back of someones wedding.
I walked outside with Maggie and there was another bride and groom either waiting to go in, or just taking pictures in front of the cathedral, I’m not sure.
When we walked into Mondsee from the bus we made our way past a really cool shop that sold traditional Bavarian clothes. You know what I’m talking about, Lederhosen und Dirndl! I told Maggie that I had a cheap one at home, that wasn’t reeeeeeaaally real, but it was good enough — and then I saw a sale rack. I got a really great deal on one, so don’t freak out that I’m wasting money Dad.
After caving and buying this Dirndl Maggie and I headed back to where the bus left us. On our way, Maggie did a thing.
It’ll make you sing “The hiiilllls are aliiiive” and wish you were here.
—Samstag, 6. Juni
When we got back from our glorious Sound of Music experience, we stopped at the hotel to ‘freshen up’ which doesn’t last long in Salzburg. Everything is hot. Everywhere is hot. It’s unfun how much I sweat in Salzburg. We met up with Julia, Candice, and Shane in the Salzburg Cathedral. Well, technically right outside because I got distracted by ponies. They were really adorable and whatnot, so in my defense, I should have been distracted. Also, there was this really strange fountain that has the horses spitting out water through their noses and such. It was awkward.
Maggie curtsied in front of it.
See! I told you she did this thing!
We met up with our other travelers for a very late lunch, and decided to head up in the bahn thingy to the top of Festungs Hohensalzburg which I, in all seriousness, would never have walked UP to. It’s on top of a baby mountain. Like, seriously.
We made it to the top and of course, took selfies with the city of Salzburg below.
I mean, we were hardcore tourist-ing today, so why not keep it up.
Maggie and I had to take one too, of course. So we tried to pose with the tower in the background, let’s just say it took a few trial and error photos that will never be posted anywhere. I can’t do that to Maggie or myself.
We’ll stick with the awkward, and or cute, and or weird photos of us.
The fortress was really cool actually, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d like it, but it was actually pretty nifty. Minus the whole marionette museum inside it. Ugh, almost clowns. Nope. Hard pass.
I wandered away from the group, on accident, and ended up about a floor ahead of them. We did all meet back up so don’t worry Dr. J.
The different presentations in the museum were fascinating. I didn’t know that Salzburg was actually a star-fort at one point, and considering that this time in Europe I’m probably not going to get to see one, I’ll pretend Salzburg was one.
If you don’t know what a star fortress is, educate yourself. Seriously, these are one of the coolest things I’ve ever learned about.
I should feel a little bad about getting Shane to pose like this, but I don’t. not one bit. The guy that was nearby watching us looked rather confused — he’s probably forgotten about us by now.
We made it up to the fortress earlier than we thought, and while wandering around I asked Maggie if she still wanted to go to vespers at Stifft Nonnberg and she said yes. I had my second German-language experience of the day and had to ask for directions from the fortress to the abbey.
Let’s just say that the dear little Austrian man who helped me, didn’t tell me that we were basically climbing down the mountain side that the fortress was on.
In retrospect, I didn’t fall down the slope, I just tripped a few times and was afraid I was going to plummet to my death. In all seriousness, I don’t hike, and I don’t really climb mountains like ever, so I felt like I was falling the entire time I was walking down this hill. It started out as stairs, then more stairs that were steeper, then a slight hill, then another larger hill, then ANOTHER hill, it just kept going. Maggie and I finally made it to the ‘bottom’ where it leveled out, or so we though, and realized that no, it just turned and went down some more. Thanks Salzburg, not like my calves didn’t hurt enough. I told Maggie that if it we were tricked and that we had to go back up the mountain to get to the abbey I was just going to sit and quit at life for the day — she agreed. Thankfully though, it was only four steps up to the abbey and I got to experience something that I had never been a part of before — vespers.
It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. That’s the one thing that I’ve noticed about the cathedrals is you don’t need much sound and it carries everywhere it needs to be. I did ask Maggie what vespers are, and she explained that they are evening prayers and that they are the same prayers from last year, and the year before, and hundreds of years before as it’s a tradition. Listening to the voices of the nuns from high above and behind a wall was just invigorating.
When vespers were over we looked at some of the different things in the cathedral, and I walked outside because I felt like I was intruding a bit. Outside the abbey there was a bike-tour group, which I kind of thought would be fun to go on and then realized I am not in any kind of shape to bike for several hours, so I eavesdropped on their tour guides talking points.
The front door of the abbey asked for no guided tours to be inside the cathedral, and what did their guide do, walk right in and start talking. I kind of wanted them to get kicked out by a very angry nun, but I figured they might be used to it and not really want to care.
We met up with Julia, Candice, and Shane again outside the main cathedral and both of us wandered around to take some photos. The artwork in all of the cathedrals here are seriously intense. I’m in awe of how detailed and wonderfully they are all done. The blessing in this cathedral is it was extremely cool unlike the plaza right outside the door. We spent about half an hour in there and it was pretty amazing.
We decided to meander back to the hotel because all of us were hitting exhaustion and I know my feet were unhappy with me. While on our way across the walking bridge over the Salzach Candice, Julia, and Shane placed a little lock on the bridge.
The lock was engraved with ‘KIIS Summer 2015’ and it was pretty fantastic to be a part of this. Candice kept the keys for it, instead of throwing them into the river, and one of them was given to Dr. Z so that was he could feel like he was a part of it too. Such a bummer that locks only come with two keys, otherwise I’m sure we’d have given one to each instructor.
Later we took a detour into Mirabellgarten which was on our way to our hotel. This garden is really interestingly designed, and I could have just spent an hour staring at one of the fountains from a bench. It’s peaceful in all the right ways.
What happened next will eventually be put on YouTube, but as of right now it’s being processed. Lets just say that before we went to Salzburg we filled Shane in on the glories of The Sound of Music and told him that he should learn ‘The Hills Are Alive,’ and sing it randomly in Salzburg. Granted, we knew that this would likely upset some locals, but it would be worth it. Shane dedicated himself to this task and it was rather interesting.
We goofed off, that’s really the best way to put it, in part of the Mirabellgarten that had a stage that reminded me an awful lot of where we would hold Shakespeare in the Park at home. We videoed it all, us acting up and doing silly things. It is worth it, I promise. Now, if only YouTube won’t smack us with copyright infringement… that’d be nice.
Here’s a photo of almost all of us from the end of our shenanigans. I just happened to be holding a camera.
—Sonntag, 7. Juni
Most of Sunday was spent on a train. We didn’t reserve seats, oops, so that wasn’t as fun as it could have been, and we ended up in the Cafe car the entire time. That did give us some space to all be together though, which was comforting. We played cards, read books, edited the video that you’ll see eventually, talked and talked and talked … it was worth the four hours on the train.
We made it back to Bregenz before dinner was served at Gasthaus Goldener Hirschen and ended up being one of the only groups to even make it back in time.
Considering we had classes bright and early on Monday morning, I came up to my house pretty quickly and crashed hard.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.