Picture of the skyline of Graz

This is a copy of my study abroad blog, moved here as a backup. The original post can be viewed here.

Spring Break 2015: Part II

April 14, 2015

4 April 2015 - 5 April 2015

Munich – Füssen – Dachau

Remember when I said I would try to make time to post the next update? Well turns out you can just set the posts to update at any specified time, so that’s what I did! Am doing? I’m not sure. In any case, I’m still sitting here in Vienna, and it’s actually only been about 5 minutes since I put up the last one. The descriptions of the next two days were originally written to include in the previous post, but then cut it out because it was getting too long. I feel a little bad for only covering two days worth here, but they’re both really long, and I’ve been sitting here for over 3 hours now editing these and I’m really tired. In any case, this one should hopefully go up sometime early in the week, and then part 3 will be written once I return from Berlin, despite the fact I haven’t left yet. Got that? Good. Let’s begin.

While we planned on staying in Munich for three nights, our two full days would consist of us doing day trips to nearby towns to see two world famous attractions. The first of which was Neuschwanstein (Noo-Schvan-Stein) Castle near Füssen, Germany. For any of you who are unfamiliar with the castle, it was the inspiration for Disney Castle, and is typically what people think of when they picture a castle. I just did a google image search for “castle” and it was the first one that popped up. Carlo and I originally planned on doing this trip by ourselves, but once we arrived at our hostel, we found that there were guided trips to the castle offered, so we met the tour guide at the nearby train station and signed up. Remember how I mentioned how I wasn’t prepared for any cold weather? Well this would be the day where that finally caught up with me. Before we even left Munich it was near to freezing, and the castle is located up in the mountains. Apparently, a large storm had gone through the area recently, so our train was unable to go the full expected route. Instead, we only rode the train part-way, then caught a bus for the rest of the journey, which ended up being about 2 hours in total. We didn’t see much of the town itself, but the streets at the bottom of the mountain basically only have pubs and souvenir shops, so it wasn’t too much to get excited over. The castle is renowned for having a very picturesque and scenic view as you walk the road up the mountain, staring in wonder as it towers over you. Of course, it was snowing, and incredibly foggy, so we weren’t able to see partway up the mountain, yet alone the castle. In fact, even once we got to the base of the castle itself, we couldn’t even see up to the top. So I hope you weren’t expecting any wonderful pictures of the castle, because I didn’t get any, just snowy pictures of a castle-ish shape. For an additional fee, you could’ve gone into the castle itself, but we were recommended not to go inside, as it was overpriced and the exterior is much more impressive. We didn’t anticipate it being snowy and having such low visibility, so while some of the group went inside the castle, we remained outside. That is, until we were chatting with one of the tour guides, who offered to give us an extra ticket he happened to have for free. Since Carlo is a much better person than I am, I took the ticket and got to go inside, while he spent the time going through the souvenir stores. The castle interior is very… interesting. The whole castle was built based on the fantasies of the king of the time, so very outlandishly decorated, and is based upon various operatic pieces. Most notable to me was how the king’s room was next to his dressing chambers, as could be expected, but the dressing chamber emptied into an artificial cave. He even had the entrance to his personal study located in a nook in the cave walls. Very interesting. By the time I was done with the tour, it was getting time to head back, so I leisurely made my way back down the mountain, found Carlo eating Schnitzel, and we made the trip back to Munich. We had dinner at a restaurant near to our hostel, where we watched the Bavarian soccer team win their game, and then returned to the hostel. We went out that night with the two roommates from earlier, who in fact were no longer our roommates, as they had switched rooms out of annoyance with the Swiss partiers. They were replaced with a brother-sister pair of American med students, who we got to know as well. The most notable thing about us going out that evening happened as we rode the metro across the city. We had just pulled into our stop, when we suddenly heard a very loud bang, which caused everyone to look around in confusion. Everyone cautiously got off the train and looked around nervously, unsure if it was a mechanical issue, or if someone was trying to attack the place. We thought we saw smoke, so we quickly decided we didn’t need to be there, so we went up the stairs and out of the underground. This turns out to be important for later, just you wait. We met up with some complete German strangers that the ex-roommates knew, and we spent the rest of the evening hanging out with them before we walked back to the hostel and got ready for the next day’s bus journey.

Again, we signed up for one of the tours that we found out about at the hostel, but where the trip to Neuschwanstein was a fun yet cold trip to a cool landmark, the next day’s trip would be much more somber. We decided to take the tour to visit the memorial for the Dachau Concentration Camp, located very close to Munich. Where the previous tour seemed to be very organized, meeting up with our tour guide seemed much more complicated the next day. We first met at the bus station, then we were walked across the city to Marienplatz and the Glockenspiel from before, where we waited for over a half hour for the English speaking tour guide to arrive. Why all the confusion you ask? Because the loud bang we heard the night before was actually the sound of the entire metro system of Munich breaking down, so traveling across the city was suddenly made incredibly difficult. Our tour guide himself was delayed, and then the collective tour guides were at a loss of how to get us to Dachau, so we had to run all over the city before we ended up back in the train station where we started the day to catch a train to Dachau. It was a short train ride, probably less than 30 minutes, and the tour guide claimed that the short ride somehow got us back on schedule, which makes no sense at all. Again, this day was rather cold, and there were even some light flurries in the early afternoon, but it eventually warmed up, so it was a bit more bearable than the day before. The Dachau camp is… probably the most somber place I have ever been in my life. The town itself is actually quite pretty, and the entrance has a modern looking information building complete with cafeteria and bookstore. However, after you pass that, you travel through the original entrance to the camp, where nearly all the buildings have been kept as original as possible (although someone recently stole the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign that originally hung over the entrance). Dachau was the first concentration camp built by the Nazis, and is probably the most infamous aside from Auschwitz. Past the entrance is a large open courtyard which used to feature the living quarters for the prisoners, all of which have been destroyed aside from two replicas. The other original buildings have been converted into museum set pieces for people to go through, and is more or less similar to any other museum, aside from being at the original location. To be honest, Dachau wasn’t as gruesome as I expected it to be. I remember seeing a picture of a room full of confiscated shoes and clothing taken from the prisoners that was still at one of the camp memorials (Auschwitz maybe), but there wasn’t anything like that. It was more the buildings themselves that were eerie, as it was completely obvious just by going inside what some of their purposes were. Aside from the museum buildings, there were several memorials or statues around for the survivors that had been built over the years. The final part of the tour took us actually outside the boundaries of the original camp to where the gas chambers and crematoriums were located. Despite never being used past testing stages, going inside the gas chamber was simply horrible. I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the camp, and I sure didn’t take any inside the gas chamber. We walked around and looked at the rest of the memorials, before making the trip back to Munich. While the weather was again nice enough to go around and do stuff, it was a Sunday, and Easter no less, so once again no shops were open. This was a common theme of the trip, there’s ups and downs for doing a trip over Easter break. That evening, we met up with our med student roommates and some other world travelers and went to one of the beer halls that are famously associated with Munich. I’m not that much into beer, but while in Rome… So we all got 1 liter jugs of beer for ourselves, as is typically served there, and had a nice evening before heading back to our hostel for the final night. Besides, in Germany beer is literally cheaper than water, which is why it’s the typical beverage everywhere you go.

One last thing that I’ve been meaning to mention is the differences between the names of places in German and English. While some places have the same name in either language (Graz, Salzburg), some of them have entirely different names in German, or as you will see later, Czech. I can’t remember if I ever described some of the more relevant ones, but here’s a quick cheat-sheet in case you happen to be living the exact same life I am.

English – German

Austria – Österreich
Styria – Steiermark – The state where Graz is located
Germany – Deutschland
Munich – Müchen
Nuremberg – Nürnberg
Bavaria – Bayern – The German state where
Munich and Nuremberg are located
Vienna – Wien
Prague – Prag – Praha (The Czech word for the city)

Alright there you have it, part 2 of my trip. See why I decided to cut this part off on its own? That would have been way too long. To be fair, this one is a little shorter than normal, so I could go and add another day’s description, but I’m tired. Below are the pictures taken at Neuschwanstein, Dachau, and anything left over in Munich. However, while they should (hopefully) appear below, they won’t be put into the gallery until later, as this post is being updated automatically, and I have to add pictures to the gallery manually. I imagine there is a way around this, but I don’t have enough interest to worry about it. They’ll be there eventually. I’m scheduled to return to Graz two days after this goes up, so expect the next part that weekend. That’s not set in stone, as that weekend was originally going to be when I posted part 1, but I had some time to kill. I also have no idea how many parts there will be, as I’ve already had to split the very first part in half, which doesn’t bode well for cutting down on my rambling. Tune in next time to hear about how more stores were closed, and we stayed in a really fancy hostel. Until then!

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