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Dachau Concentration Camp and Oktoberfest in Munich – Day 53
Tuesday 22nd September 2009 – Germany
Another sleepless night, I guess this is just the norm. I can always catch up on sleep when I get back anyway. I had a full day ahead of me today and was a day that I was looking forward to in many ways.
Today was a mixed bag. It was a feast of sights, and a mini roller coaster of emotions. It started as every day did, with me getting out of bed and showering. Breakfast was nice, bread or rolls with cheese, ham, or some other meat. There was cereal, coffee and ice tea. This was standard in all the hostels I’ve been In so far. After breakfast I planned out and booked the rest of my trip, right up to the plane home. I just needed to book the travelling, but I do this as I go. I felt better having it all sorted, so I know where I am now, and what I’m aiming for.
With this all done, I set out on my days adventures. First stop was the underground. I needed to get to a place called Dachau, but the ticket office was closed and I couldn’t remember what ticket it was I needed. They have zones here, you buy a ticket per zone, or for several zones. Some zones are special and require a particular ticket. It was all a little confusing for me so I retraced my steps back to the hostel where I gathered all the information I needed from the helpful staff at reception. Back to the underground, and I was soon on my way.
The reason for going to Dachau was because it is the sight of the first Concentration Camp in Germany, and the only one to stay in operation throughout Hitler’s Reign. It was operational from 1933 to April 29th 1945, when American troops liberated the survivors. More than 200,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned here, and through torture, over work, mall nutrition and meaningless execution, over 43,000 of these people died. The walk around the grounds and inside the buildings was truly chilling. Some original buildings still stand, and the vastness of the grounds inside the camp is overwhelming. To think that all this space was occupied by prisoners, who lived in fear each and every day of their lives here. There was DVD footage of interviews with some of the survivors, and the horrors they speak of is something I can only begin to understand.
One building where the prisoners slept was open to the public. Rows of bunk beds are still there, and lockers used by the people. A guide explained the strict routine each person went through day upon day, and the punishment and torture they endured for the tiniest of reasons. There is so much I could tell about what I learned here today, but it would take some time, and I wouldn’t be able to explain well enough.
The museum housed some artifacts recovered from the time, including a wooden whip, tools for shaving everyone down upon arrival into the camp, clothes and other items worn by some prisoners. There were signs and information boards to read as you navigated the rooms. One particular piece that choked me was an extract from a speech given to the prisoners as they entered the camp and stood in a room not knowing their fate. An officer told them they would be tortured and treated like shit, because that is what they are. The picture above was of rows of ordinary men, looking down at the ground by their feet. No-one can imagine what that must have felt like.
The day went on and the sun was beating down. The rest of the grounds were dedicated to memorial buildings, remembering the ones who suffered. There was also a crematorium building where thousands of bodies were burnt. The feeling of death was everywhere, almost making the very air around me heavy. Another building alongside with four furnaces and hanging poles was quite horrific. A step into the gas chamber was about as much as I could bare, even though this was never actually operational. By this point I had seen all I needed to see. I knew what went on here, but it is much harder to take in when you are there, seeing the pictures, reading the articles and sensing the atmosphere. I took the long walk through the grounds back out to the bus station, then back on the subway back to the hostel.
There are more and more people now pottering around with their Oktoberfest gear on. People of all ages, male and female. It is great to see and really good fun. Even on the buses and subways, and people riding their bikes around town. I love it. I wanted to experience some of it before I leave tomorrow, so I grabbed some food and headed in the direction of the festivities. It wasn’t long before I joined a steady stream of people headed in a particular direction. There are so many shops selling the outfits along the way.
As I arrived at the main entrance I was amazed at how many people there were. The place was a mass of partying people, all having a fantastic time. I couldn’t believe the amount of jaw droppingly beautiful women there were. Stunning women with great figures, long blonde hair and pretty faces, wearing outfits that pushed their chest right out for all to see. I tripped over my tongue so many times. There was a fair with rides unlike what you would get back in England. And all around were beer tents, and people being merry. It was all so much fun and I wished I had someone there to enjoy it with me. I could see it all but I couldn’t really experience it properly. This is a party that runs all day and night for weeks in September and October, and I wish we had something similar back home. I would love to come here next year with friends and spend some time here during the festival season. This place is huge, and the women, oh, the women!
After having a walk around the place, and taking in as much as I could, I knew I had to leave. I began the walk back, with others slightly intoxicated, but not drunk, as the sun slipped away and the dark drew in. Although its dark, and I’m walking the streets at night, I don’t feel threatened at all. It seems a lot safer here. Maybe I’m wrong but its what I picked up on. Its a place everyone can enjoy themselves.
I arrived at the hostel feeling very drained, and fell onto my bed, already missing the fun of Oktoberfest. I will miss Munich I think, but it has everything to do with the time of year. Outside the party season I don’t think there would be much to hold me here. I have really enjoyed my German stops on my travels.
Tomorrow I’m off to Vienna in Austria. I hope its as nice as all the stories say.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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