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Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Oh Bavaria

Bavaria is a crazy place.  It is the epitome of everything stereotypically German, although it is only one state and is far far different from the rest of Germany.  In fact, in many ways they are separate from the rest of Germany and have been discussing independence for years.  In fact, they were about to vote to make it a separate country when Hitler stormed into the meeting and screwed things over so it never happened.  He didn’t want Bavaria to become separate, or he would never have been able to spread his message throughout the rest of Germany.  In fact, the anniversary of this happening is in two days–9/11 (day then month.)  9/11 is a huge day in Germany not because of the trade towers etc but because so many momentous things have happened on that date in German history.

Speaking of German history, Germany as we know it today only became a united country in 1871, making it younger than the USA and Canada.  Shocking, innit.

Munich was the home of a little painter with bad mustache sensibilities when the crazy f***er decided to take over and make Munich the capital of his new movement.  It makes more sense to me now why he got so much support, though.  Look at it this way: Germany, crippled after WWI by impossible amounts of debt and other things specifically designed by the winning countries to prevent it ever gaining any power or wealth again, was in shambles.  Inflation was ridiculous.  They only printed their money on one side, because the cost of ink to ink both sides would have cost more than the money was actually work.  One US dollar was worth something like a trillion deutschmarks.  France was being a sassy neighbor and demanding money when they knew Germany didn’t have it.  One time Germany got behind on their payments, and France invaded.  Nice, eh?

So it was in this hopeless atmosphere that this crazy little man shows up with a plan and a way to save the country.  In a remarkably short amount of time, the Third Reich was born and Germany was back on its feet in a big way.

After the war, of course, things looked different.  But you can see why he got so much support.

Munich is one of the newest cities I’ve ever been in.  Everything is less than sixty years old, and I mean everything.  The place got the shit bombed out of them by the Americans and there was nothing left except for the towers of one church and the belltower of the Rathaus, which funnily enough is the German word for the government building.

But we must thank the Nazis, because not only did they photograph and document the entire city, they took all the valuables out of it and hid them up in the mountains.  So after the war, the entire city was rebuilt exactly how it was before, and the treasures were put back.  So it looks like an old city.  It”s hard to believe that everything here is so young.

 

Ok, now you can be impressed with how much I remembered from the walking tour I took yesterday.  It was kind of an accident.  I had just woken up and stumbled down to the reception because I had to change rooms, and there were some people from last night there waiting for the tour so I went with them, still in my pajamas, unawake.  It was good, though.

I also went to the Hofbrauhaus, probably the most famous beer hall in existence.  They sell beer by the liter and nice girl in a dirndl or whatever you call them will smilingly take all of your money.  I guess they”re famous and entitled to take 7 euro a liter–at Ireland prices that”s still cheap, but not worth it.

But today I am saying goodbye to Bavaria and heading off to Prague in an hour or two.  This should be interesting.  It’s the furthest east I’ve ever been.  I’ve heard the Czech people don’t speak much English, but I’ve also heard they all speak English, so we’ll see.  I’m pretty good at doing the sign language thing.  And what’s another language?

My Spanish is really improving.  I’ve been hanging out with a guy from Argentina for the past few days and despite the fact that he laughs at my accent I think I”m getting better.  I was actually able to carry on a decent conversation with some guys from Ecuador last night–of course, their Spanish is much easier to understand than Argentinian spanish.  And I was talking to somebody from Miami who speaks Spanish as their first language.  Haha, I never remember how big Spanish is in the States and that there are people born there who don”t speak English as a native language, but Spanish.  I tihnk everyone should be required to learn it in school.

Alright, I think I’ve spent enough time borrowing the laptop, so I am off to Prague and new adventures in a new country!  I’ve been in Germany for almost two weeks now but it’s time to leave western Europe and head off into the crazy Central Europe.  Because after Czech, it”s Croatia unless i decide to hop back up to Vienna and Salzburg.  I was going to go there after Munich but the hostels were all booked out.

Ciao

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I like this country. I’m in Bavaria now (Munich, the capital of Lederhosen) and today I ate a savage-looking pig hock. It is apparently a Bavarian specialty, but it makes you look absolutely barbaric to eat this big roasted chunk of bone and flesh. Yummmmy.

I also saw wee little Lederhosen today for wee little children. Poor kids. No doubt they’re traumatized by the event for the rest of their lives.

Bavarians aren’t generally that friendly, I’ve noticed. They just kind of stare at you. My German friends were right, this seems to be a very rural kind of agricultural region and some of the people–not all of them, mind you, but some–are rather isolated farmer-ish.

One delight I haven’t tried yet is the Bavarian beer hall, but if I can find some people to go with tonight I will definitely be adding that to my list.

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Which is why I haven’t updated the blog recently.  Berlin was an absolutely spectacular city.  The city itself wasn’t that attractive but the amount of history there is simply overwhelming, like the modern version of Rome, and the atmosphere of the place is brilliant.  It’s so lively.  I ended up staying until Tuesday because I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I must get to Bavaria and Munich. But honestly, Berlin is one of the only cities I’ve ever seen where you think after a day or two, eh this is just another city.  I don’t know quite what makes it different, but it is.

While in Berlin a group of us went to Legoland!  See, it wasn’t all WWII stuff, I did fun things too.  Legoland was fun.  We may or may not have had to push a lot of little kids out of the way, but we enjoyed Legoland a lot.  We watched the best 4-d movie ever there, about a Lego princess who saves the day and falls in love with the hero, and we made lego houses (mine was the best) and we went on a ride in this roller coaster thing.  Basically, the best thing to do in Berlin.

Yesterday morning I finally said adieu to Berlin, and went to Nuremberg.  It’s a nice little town of half a million people, with some excellent museums.  It was an important city during WWII, but after Berlin it just feels kind of blah.  I hear they have a world-famous Christmas Market, though.  In fact they’re already preparing for that with tinsel and wreaths and holiday lights.  I kind of feel like we’re in the holiday seasion already, even though we still have almost two months until Chirstmas.

Later today I am going to Munich, and we’ll see how that goes.  I’ve had people tell me they loved it as much as Berlin, and some say it’s not so great.  But I think it’ll be a great city if it’s even half as cool as berlin was.

 

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I got in late-ish last night and all today today I was at the Sachenhausen concentration camp, about an hour and a half outside of Berlin.  So although this is my second night here, I haven’t seen anything in the city yet.  I think I’m going to have to extend my stay, honestly, because there is just a staggering number of things to see and do here.

It’s scary to see the utterly efficient system that the Nazis had set up at the concentration camp.  I don’t know what to say about it, really.  I think it’s something everyone should be required to go see and learn about.  But I also think we should learn more in the American school system about what happened to Germany after the war.  That is jsut as important, but basically neglected. 

Today Germany is strong–the unofficial capital of Europe.  The people are more patriotic than other countries I’ve visited.  They’re proud of their country, as well they should be.  It is well-organized, an economic powerhouse; it’s wealthy and clean.  

There is a ton of public drinking, though.  I can’t get used to just seeing people walking down the street or on the u-bahn with bottles of beer in their hands.  There seems to be an inordinate amount of homeless people too, and they all sit together and have little homeless parties or something.  I don’t know how they get any begging done that way, but whatever. 

I like Germany a lot.  The people are (mostly) friendly and good-natured.  The women are tall, tall.  I feel very short.  They remind me of Americans (not in a bad way, don’t be offended Germany) in that they are confident–not confidence or arrogance exactly, but the unconscious knowledge that they come from a powerful country?  I’m not sure what it is– and have a directness to them.  They’re intense people.  I like that. 

The night before last I stayed with a German couple that I met in Ireland when I was there this spring.  They live in Bonn, a few minutes outside of Köln.  They showed me around.  Bonn is really a nice city.  It has a reputation for being bored and full of rules about everything, from when you can mow your lawn to where you can hang your wash.  I don’t know if that’s true but it’s a pretty town.  The central district is lively and pretty much pedestrian.  The buildings are attractive.  And it has a wealth of excellent museums.  I only had time to go to one, a museum on post-WWII German history, which was absolutely fascinating.  I could only spend two and a half hours there although I could have spent all day at least. 

And beyond that, I still never want to go home.  What am I going to do?

 

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I ran out of time yesterday so I couldn’t finish whatever I was talking about.  Anyways.  My birthday was yesterday!  And at first I thought it was going to be a terrible birthday despite the fact I am in Germany because I hadn’t met anyone, and how can you have a party without people?  But just as I had resigned myself to a night of blahness I met two Candians staying in my dorm room, and shortly thereafter three Spaniards (from Galicia first and foremost and Spain secondly though, they told me.)  For the second time in three days my Spanish skills were put to the test since only one of them had even the smallest amount of English.

The Canadians were meeting up with friends for dinner, so while they went to a beer hall I stayed at the hostel bar and talked to the Spaniards for a few hours.  Almost everyone I’ve met has wanted to talk about American politics with me.  Everyone is so happy that Obama is President, and I mean everyone.  I haven’t talked to one person who doesn’t think he is bringing America into a new and better era.  And everyone wants to talk about it with me.  ‘It’s ok to be American again,’ I got told more than once.

Politics and world opinion aside, most Europeans I’ve met would like to travel to the US but are afraid of getting shot.  I was told that there are two guns for every person in the States.  I don’t know if this is true but Europeans take it seriously.  It’s interesting to see the prejudgments that other cultures have about us.  California is the capital of America.  Everyone knows everything about California.  Everyone wants to go to San Fransisco.  And New York.  California and New York is America, for better or worse.

Anywho, when the Canadians got back from their scary beer hall experience (a whole pig leg!!)  we went out to a bar with three Brits.  We drank Kölsch, the beer of Cologne. It comes in these little narrow glasses, which at first I didn’t understand but I soon figured out the advantages to this.  First of all they’re cheap.  Secondly you can drink all your beer before it gets warm, which is good because warm German beer is just not that appetizing.  Thirdly, when you take a photograph of your table covered in Kölsch beer glasses it looks impressive but does not necessarily mean bad things are going to happen later on in the night.

Did you know that among the Brits was Richard the Lionhearted, King of England?  I don’t know when that happened but Richard finally revealed to us that he was royalty and for the rest of the night it stuck.  I met the King of England!

Later on a few very drunk but friendly German university students joined our party and we had a lot of fun trying to communicate.  That seems to be all you do when travelling, try to find ways to talk to people in a group when they all speak different languages with varying degrees of success.  No matter how well it technically works out, it’s a lot of fun.  The Germans were funny.

That was an excellent birthday although since we didn’t get back to our dorm until about 4 or 5 am, I’m kind of tired today.  I still took a day trip to Aachen to see the cathedral where Charlemagne was buried.

The cathedral itself was way more impressive than the Köln Dom although it was a lot smaller.  There was an interesting Byzantine influence.  But the best part were the holy relics.  I saw enough splinters of the Holy Cross to make about two of them.  I saw an actual real fragment of the crown of thorns, I saw Charlemagne’s femur bone AND his right arm bones.  I saw a chunk of hair from St. Peter, and all kinds of other fascinating things.  These Catholics really are one for scavenging bits.  As soon as Charlemagne was canonized, 400 years or something after his death, they dug him up and scattered his poor bones far and wide so everyone could look at them and feel properly religious.  I find that in kind of bad taste.

And now I am off to go find a hostel for Berlin for the weekend.  I’m really excited about going there, everyone who I’ve talked to raves about the city so I hope it lives up to expectations.

Prost!

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