Germany - Take 1, Act 3

October 15th 2009
Published: October 24th 2009
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- Day 40 -
Day 40
Sunday 19th July
Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The lovely Danish couple Ilse and Jan woke us at 10am… They were off for the day and both wanted to say goodbye as well as give us our amended extension cord back. Craig had got talking to Jan the night before about our issues with the camping electricity outlets being different to the adapter we had, and kind Jan had a spare camping end and so wired up our lead for us. Very very kind and extremely helpful!

The weather that greeted us as we stirred our sleepy bodies was much better than the intermittent downpours throughout the night before. The skies still showed remnants of the overnight rain with patches of grey clouds, but these too cleared by lunchtime, revealing glorious blue skies.

The motor to Rothenberg was really busy, so after enduring a few kilometres of slow crawl as the traffic inched along the clogged highways, we took the next exit, in hope of Flo redirecting us onto a road less travelled. Unfortunately, we then got slightly geographically dislocated, with even Flo not really having any idea where we were… Pulling over to check the maps, we were approached by another driver who had seen us looking a little lost and had pulled over to see if he could help us on our way. After explaining where we wanted to go, he kindly offered for us to follow him as he was going in the same direction on his way to work. So nice!

So we followed the kindly chap for about 10km until he left us at an exit, waving us on in the other direction. Back on track, and after some nice lunch in a roadside park, we finally arrived at Rothenberg, a little fortified town, in the mid afternoon. The weather had fined up into a lovely day and so we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the stone streets, and having a drink overlooking the surrounding hills.

Back on the road again in the early evening, it was again more troubles as we struggled to find the Romantic Strasse. While we knew the towns the Strasse passed through, the actual designated road were poorly signed and so finding them was proving to be more difficult than

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we had anticipated. So we called it a night, finding a campground in a small town called Dinkelsbuhl. After an explore along the river and a play on the swings, we returned to camp to enjoy some chicken stir fry Craig had whipped up, before cramming into the tent for a movie and bed.

Day 41
Monday 20th July
Romantic Strasse and on to Munich

We were all awakened by the sun heating the tent, our first clear morning after the rain of the passed few days. We should have known that it wouldn’t last however, with the clouds blowing over in the time it took us to get up and out of the tent, and rain sprinkling down on us before long. So we broke all records packing up the tent, getting everything back in the relative dryness of the car in under15 minutes. Breakfast was enjoyed under the roof of the toilet block, before we once again hit the road, Dav taking the wheel for the day.

The Romantic Strasse once again proved elusive, and after a few hours of weaving on and off

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the designated, poorly signed roads, we gave up, deciding to bypass Augsburg and heading straight up to Munch. Once again we found ourselves slightly lost (not having a great run lately), ending up near a KFC around lunchtime… Slightly suss now that I think about it, given who the driver was..!

So after a few hours in the house of KFC, eating our greasy meals off proper ceramic plates (interesting!) and utilising the free wi-fi, we made our way to the campground and set up our mobile homes for the night.

We set off for town at about 4pm, catching the free shuttle bus to the nearest train station. There we had a lot of assistance from a bunch of lovely teenagers who not only helped us select the cheapest ticket option for our evening exploring Munich, but also held the train up while we ran to get on, then also jumped off the train at the next station to validate our tickets for us. We have definitely found German people to be nothing if not exceptionally helpful, especially in the last couple of days.

Arriving at the central station in

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the city, we jumped on the escalator which pushed us up into the big main central square, where we were suddenly surrounded by glorious massive buildings. Into the information centre where the lady was again ridiculously helpful, recruiting all the other staff to help answer our multitude of questions.

Our first stop in our exploration of Munich was the showroom at ‘BMW World’, where we were able to drool over a select few of their prize models, as well as play around on their interactive displays on the mechanics of the cars.

It was then onto the Munich Olympic Park as we hoped to see where Peter competed (Dav and Lucretia’s dad) during the Olympics in 1972. Unfortunately we didn’t get many details off Peter or Werner as planned, so all we had to go on was the vague details given to us from the information lady as to the building she thought the gymnastics events were held. So we wandered around the park towards the building she had recommended… We eventually found it and took a heap of photos, trying to imagine what it would have been like during the Olympics… until we

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asked a guy who was leaving the building and he seemed to think that it was more likely that the gymnastics were competed in yet another building. So over we went, with the second building seeming to have a lot more promise, especially given the massive statue of a gymnast out the front… So again we took more photos there, before having a walk around the building, peering in as much as we could, again trying to imagine Peter competing there.

Subnote: Thanks so a great miniature model of the Munich Olympic Park at the National Museum in Berlin, we later learned that all our attempts were wrong, with neither of the buildings we visited being the venue for the gymnastic competition… On a positive note, we did pass the building where Peter had competed, we just didn’t know it at the time.

Leaving the Olympic Park, we got slightly lost again (can you see a pattern developing here…), even managing somehow to get on the wrong train which suddenly veered off in the wrong direction - so another waste of time, so completely typical of our travels in the last couple of days! - Three steps forwards, then walk the three steps back and continue on the right path!

So after a quick reshuffle, we eventually made our way onto the right train and into one of the more popular eating areas in Munich as recommended by the lady in the reception at our camp ground. We checked out the Siegestor, a Munich arc of triumph in the middle of the road, before ducking into the Englicher Garten where we stumbled upon a massive Asian inspired tower in amongst a massive beer garden. And so we had found our place for the night! We grabbed ourselves a tray and helped ourselves to some German delights - a hearty serving of bratwurst and chips, all washed down with 1L stein of beer (or apple juice in my case) at one of the hundreds of tables and bench chairs all lined up around the tower. And so the evening was spent eating and drinking and playing cards, and generally enjoying a multitude of German traditions in the home of the Oktoberfest.

By the time we decided to call it a night, it was 10.30pm and the free shuttle that ran from the train station back to the camping ground was no longer running. Full of bravado, and energy, we all decided to just walk back to the campground - which was a great idea except that we had no idea where the campground was, none of us having payed much attention to the route taken by the shuttle bus ride earlier in the evening… So we found ourselves in quite a sticky situation - given the late hour, no shops were open, between us we didn’t have a mobile phone with any credit, and we had no idea what the phone number was for taxis anyway… Luckily after about a 10 minute wait on the side of the road as we mulled over our options, a taxi did drive past and we were able to flag it down. The driver then took us the five minute drive back to campground and, safely back home and a night on the streets avoided, we rewarded the driver quite handsomely for saving our skins!

Into a very quick shower, refusing to pay the 1E per shower for hot water, then off to bed after having a great day.

Guilty admission… we still have a great memento from the night in the shape of our massive steins! Forfeiting our 1 euro deposit on each glass was a small price to pay for such a cool souvenir of our night in Munich.

And to wrap up the day, a little tid-bit of trivia… Germans drink an average of 130 litres of beer each year, with Munich residents pretty much responsible for bumping this number so high, being at the high end of the bell-curve. Although I’m sure the Australian backpacker gives them a run for their money when October rolls around!

Day 42
Tuesday 21st July
Dachau Concentration Camp

Up and away by 10am, we swung by the Schloss Nymphenburg, a massive palace on the outskirts of Munich that was the royal family’s summer home, on our way to the Dachau Concentration Camp. Arriving at 11.30am, we just missed out on the English documentary presentation, and so grabbed an audio-guide each and set about exploring the compound.

The actual camp was built in 1933, just weeks after
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Adolf Hitler came into power, and it formed the basis for the hundreds of other concentration camps built during his reign. Initially it was used for political prisoners (ie anyone who opposed him and his party - somewhat undermining the basis of a democracy), but as time went on it was then also used for other minority groups deemed ‘un-pure’, such as homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, then on to the Jews as his Arian ball kept rolling.

In the 12 years of ‘operation’ until the end of the war in April 1945, an unbelievable 200,000 people were imprisoned in the Dachau camp alone, with more than 43,000 of them dying… I found it really hard, and extremely confronting, to wrap my mind around that idea, especially while walking around the very compound where such atrocities occurred.

The camp area accessible today is a major section of what made up the original concentration camp, and was set up as a memorial and education centre in 1965 based on the initiative and plans of survivors. Most of the original buildings have since been demolished, but the haunting parade ground remains, as do certain buildings that have
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been recreated to give an idea of the conditions.

The old maintenance building was rebuilt into a museum, with each room devoted to the explanation of different aspects of the history; from how the Nazis came into power following, and perhaps because of, the First World War, to haunting photos and descriptions of what actually went on inside the camp grounds. From torture to murder to medical experiments and surgical practice, it was truly gut-wrenching.

After the documentary at 2pm, which was again a moving and haunting look at the camp’s history, Dav and I had pretty much had our emotional fill, then choosing to briefly finish the walk trough the museum, and to give the crematorium and bunker areas a complete miss.

All in all it was a gut-wrenching but fascinatingly educational experience and has definitely spurred me to be a bit more interested in international affairs. It also highlighted just how sneaky the Nazis were, completely fooling and manipulating the media, with even neighbouring towns to the camp were unaware of what atrocities were going on inside until the camp was liberated at the end of the war.
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After a quick lunch, and debrief, in the carpark, it was back on the road and off to Fussen by the mid afternoon. Unfortunately, there were two ‘Fussens’ in the satnav, with us travelling for nearly 100km out of our way before the mistake was realised, and that unless the sun had suddenly changed direction, we were heading in the wrong way… So after another emergency meeting , it was decided that we would drive on to Innsbruck in Austria, which was our next stop after Fussen but much closer to our current location, and double back into Germany to visit Fussen as a day trip the next day.

In Innsbruck we arrived at a campground in the early hours of the evening and checked-in. It was the most expensive campground we had encountered by far, and our designated campsite was not even any good, with our only views of a fence completely blocking out the spectacular alp view behind it. Add a million falling seeds off a nearby tree and rude staff, and we all decided that, even given the late hour, we were better off trying to find somewhere else. So, after getting
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our money back and being told that ‘if we wanted somewhere cheaper, we would have to drive back into Germany’ by the rude arrogant man at reception, it was back into the car and back on the road.

After a bit of a search and a little help from some friendly locals, we did end up finding a great little campground a little out of Innsbruck that was technically full, but after a bit of manoeuvring, we were able to finally set up camp for the night on the middle of their children’s playground. So after a late dinner, we all hit the sack after a long, emotional day. PS to first campground owner - the camp we ended up staying at had fantastic views, friendly staff and under half the price!

Additional photos below
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Olympic Park

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