Friday, March 22, 2013


First of all I must apologize, this post is LONG and isn’t always cheerful. But these things need to be said.

I found this quote by Kurt Vonnegut a while ago,  and I think it is very true: “That is my principal objection to life, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.”

I did make a perfectly horrible mistake in Germany. I missed my train home. I have no one to blame except my self and stupid Europe not using a 12 hour clock system. So basically, I can only blame my self. 

My trip to Munich was slightly last minute, and outside of the journey home, wholly wonderful. Last week I found out my Uncle Pat would be in Munich. I didn’t have much going on, so I booked a ticket and went. 

The very first full day I was there, I went to Dachau Concentration Camp. As my uncle says, “It’s not one of those places you want to go, but you need to go there. It makes you a more well-rounded person.” I have read many, many holocaust books, and been to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., so nothing I learned or saw there was a surprise. All of my previous experiences showed me the human side of the immense suffering, but Dachau showed me the tyrannical inhumanity and coldness.

Many of the places, like the barracks and the entry gate, have been rebuilt because they were destroyed either by the Nazis or the United States Troops. Those places are a little bit easier to visit because you know that these were not the actual bunks people slept in, though they are identical. But the cremation area and gas chamber are authentic. And they are horrifying. I didn’t even want to go in them because I was on the verge of breaking down, but I made myself go. It was truly the worst place I’d ever been. Looking at the grates on the floor, knowing how many people had stood here, watching the gas seep in was just too much. The room was still, after all these years, heavy with the weight of lives cut shorts and families destroyed.

Dachau is a cold place, not simply because it was at freezing and they are stingy with the heat inside. Those things make you cold on the outside. It has a soul-chilling cold born of evil perpetrated there. The horrific acts done have left more than a physical mark upon the place. All around you, you see the barracks, the showers, the gas chambers, the physical instruments of suffering. But you feel even worse. The agony, the fear hits you in that place inside you, one we often ignore, that tells you we are all connected. Everything that happened there was done by people like you and happened to people like you. It’s a blackness upon all our pasts that can never be erased, ignored or fully healed but can be eased with love and kindness. This kind of place stays with you forever.

All of the prisoners had to wear a colored patched that showed why there were there

Another Memorial.

Fortunately, I can say the rest of my trip was much more mild and genuinely enjoyable. On the train from Dachau, I met some friends from Idaho (by “met,” I mean I eavesdropped on their conversation for a few minutes and then inserted myself into it. It’s kinda what you have to do if you want to meet people while traveling alone. Walking the “not being creepy” line here is very important!), and after an authentic German dinner with my Uncle Pat and his coworkers, I met them at Hofbräuhaus, conveniently located directly across the street from my hotel, for a beer.

I think that’s my favorite part about traveling by myself, talking to random people. Usually the conversation only lasts for a few minutes or a few hours, but I always gain a little perspective.

I spent the second day just walking around to the various sites in Munich that I will summarize in pictures:

Views from inside the New Town Hall Tower where the Glockenspiel is.

The third and final day I went to Neuschwanstein Castle. It is the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland. It was really interesting to see, and the inside is about as lavishly decorated as Versailles. The bridge where the iconic shots of it are from was closed because of snow, but I did get some other pictures.  

The whole area is beautiful

This isn't my picture but this is the "iconic" shot of it. And the perspective you see in Disney! 

That night I had dinner with my uncle and his coworkers in Hofbrauhaus. I knew my train didn’t leave until 11, so we had a long dinner. After dinner, I packed up the last of my things and went to the train station. Upon arriving, I immediately looked at the departures board. And the times I see are all 22:00 through 00:24.

I think:

Oh that’s weird, my train much be the last one leaving during the 21:00 hour. Because I know it’s leaving at 21:50.

But it’s not there. Hmm. I must be reading this incorrectly (<<< that thought happens to me more than I can even express with words.)

This is so weird. Because 21:00 is 9 p.m. and I know my train was leaving at 11. Except there’s nothing leaving for all of Italy during that hour. I should check my ticket.

Please read the following in slow motion because that’s how I experienced it.

Ooooohhhhhhh my.

Dear Lord Jesus, please tell me I am not this stupid. Please. Please. Pwease.

I spent about a minute just looking back and forth between the board and ticket waiting for something to magically change. And nothing did. I missed the train.

So I went to the information center, and I told the guy I missed my train.
He said, “Oh, that was a bad idea…”

But he told me my ticket would work on the next train leaving in an hour but would need to pay for a new reservation. My only defense is that I think I saw the “1” in “21” and my brain just automatically processed it as “11.” This is a legitimate way your brain handles information. If you don’t believe me, watch this video. It’s still a terrible excuse though. Don’t think too poorly of me please.

So I ended up stuck in a compartment with two Canadian girls, an Italian woman, a Brazilian guy and a Turkish guy. I thought maybe my adventure was over until people started getting racists on this train, starting with the customs/police people. It was a really sad thing for me to witness, especially so shortly after seeing Dachau.

The customs guy knocked on the door and asked for our passports. I handed mine to him first. He looked at the cover, saw “United States,” and said “OH American! Great!” and didn’t really even look at my passport and gave it back to me. He examined the Canadian girls' and Italian woman's passport and ticket without comment.

However the Turkish and Brazilian guy did not get such nice treatment. Instead of smiles and small talk, their documents were thoroughly scrutinized and the customs officials asked them leading questions, trying to get them to admit that had illegal substances. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing wrong with any thing in their luggage. And as if that wasn't bad enough the Italian woman woke up in the middle of the night and started yelling things I had no chance of understanding. The Brazilian guy looked at her really weirdly and turned to us and the other girls and said, I am not trying to steal from anyone. I was looking for a tissue in my pocket. So then, the Italian woman kept semi yelling (keep in mind it’s about 3 a.m. at this point) and miming that the Brazilian guy had been rifling through his own pocket. At which point, I summoned the very meanest, stop talking right now teacher look I could muster for this crazy, rude lady. If she had spoken English, I would have had more than a few choice words for her. And went back to sleep. But apparently this was too much for the Canadian girls and they got up and left. I was fine with this because they had been two of the most annoying people I had met in a long time.

This whole ordeal was really troublesome, and none of the problems were even directed at me. And I know that is truly is only a mild form of discrimination. Nothing really came of their bags being searched. But it shows a bigger problem. And I felt so helpless to stop it or make anything better.

All things considered, I really enjoyed my time in Germany and look forward to going back. I definitely saw a lot more of the world, not just physically, but about the state of the world. I met some really cool people from all over, but I saw how much progress we still need to make to say that we truly live in a better world.

Pictures are up on Google + and will be on Facebook shortly!

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