Now, you may ask, how can I have two cities that stole my heart? They both have, for very different reasons. I previously wrote an article about a relatively unknown city, Ohrid; which stole my heart almost instantly. However, Munich was somewhere I yearned to go to after visiting Berlin when I was fifteen and I inevitably fell in love with it. Ohrid holds a very different memory for me, being a place that I had never previously wanted to explore, it made the memories spontaneous; but also unexpected – the best kind of experience. Munich was somewhere I wanted to explore due to my interest in German history. So, hopping on a plane and sipping on two pint sized glasses of Bavarian beer seemed an ideal choice.
Now, the main reason I had for wanting to visit Munich (albeit a very morbid reason) was to visit the concentration camp in Dachau, a town situated just on the outskirts of the city. I feel as if declaring now that I’m a history student, may make it more acceptable for my interest in visiting this site. With an unusually sweltering temperature of 30 degrees on the day of our visit, it made the excursion a little less damp and dreary as you would probably expect it to be; but it didn’t take away the poisonous atmosphere that once fell upon the camp. We were reminded that Dachau, was not merely just the camp; but a town, which since the 1930s has attempted to distance itself from the camp’s awful reputation and remind the world that it was more than just the location for a labour camp. I was told by our guide, that prisoners would be forced to walk from the station all the way to the camp; which judging by the bus journey we took, it would have taken a good few hours before they were allowed any form of rest.
My first day in Munich was spent traipsing around the camp in blistering heat and the blinding sunshine – something which only stayed with us for the first day of the trip. It sounds arrogant of me to admit; but most of the information our guide shared with us, I had already learned in my A Level history lessons – obviously, I wasn’t going to show the guide up, because after all, it is his job. One memorial that particularly bemused the whole group, was the badges worn by the prisoners, allowing guards and warders to identify them. Now, this seems pretty straightforward; however, when someone pointed out a badge in the shape of the Star of David, adorning purple and yellow colours (identifying said prisoner as both a Jew and a Jehovah’s Witness), we all laughed; as we all knew that it just wasn’t possible to be both. Something which we found hard to understand was how the German guards at the time would also believe this. Another sombre moment of the tour, was nearer the end, when we were allowed to walk through the showers that were used to exterminate its prisoners. It was only fitting that they restricted visitors from taking photos inside, making the painful and horrific memory of its use to remain very prominent to this day.
The architecture was one of the things that caught my eye, its contrasting features reminded me of something that you’d build with Lego; whilst only metres away from old gothic churches. Although, to me, it seemed bizarre: it made the city all the more eclectic, something with which Munich prides itself. With its Olympic Park; in contrast to the Queen Elizabeth Park in London, seemed tiny. Also, the BMW Headquarters; Munich seems to merge together both its mixed history with the modern aspects of the Western world and the Nymphenburg Palace. All of which are located on the outskirts of the city. But, if you’re looking for a little bit of greenery inside the city, visit the English Gardens. Although, it rained on these days, it definitely didn’t ruin the trip; but, merely added to the adventure. With my dad and I hiding for shelter, getting a waft of beer every second of our trip. We also wandered through the Viktuanlienmarket near Marienplatz, for anyone looking to peruse amongst traditional Bavarian produce.
For a large (literally) glass of some of Munich’s own beer, the Hofbrau Beer Hall, hidden in Munich’s city centre, right across from the Hard Rock Café, you can find some traditional if not oh-so clichéd Bavarian culture. There’s employees adorned in lederhosen, a brass band playing, and patrons cheering with strangers on long wooden benches. But, don’t be under the illusion you’ll be short of places to find a drink, as the city has over 200 beer gardens alone. The cuisine is also rather peculiar, with the city priding itself on its own Weisswurst (literally a white sausage); which they served up at breakfast every morning. It’s not as odd-tasting as the colour implies!
As I said at the beginning of this article, Munich is somewhere I’ve wanted to explore ever since my trip to Berlin. Albeit a different experience, it allowed to me to get right into the fast-paced nature of the city during the day and the leisurely activities of drinking beer out of 2 pint tankards during the evening, whilst eating amongst music paraphernalia to appease my dad’s stubbornness and fussy nature when it came to food. It’s one of those places that puts you at ease, there’s no rush to do or see anything. You can just take your sweet time taking in your surroundings and enjoying every minute of your stay. I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think you would be either.