Sunday, March 30, 2008


Above: Waiting in the huge buffet line at the Hofbrauhaus is accompanied by great entertainment.
Above: Singing in German.
Above: Dancing in German.
Above: Europe dads with their new favourite lady.
Above: Bakers of Neuschwanstein
Above: Triplets of Neuschwanstein.
Above: At the entrance to the castle.
Above: Mary and the Christ child looking out over Bavaria.
Above: Mack and Karsten are so excited to be visiting Neuschwanstein.

Above: Dachau - the grass represents the first line of imprisonment. If prisoners were to place one foot on the grass, they would be shot by snipers in the guard towers, no questions asked.
Above: We listen to Claudia with the guard tower in the distance.
Above: One of the punishment devices.
Above: In the barracks.
Above: Ludwig II's famous Neuschwanstein.

Munich is the capital of Bavaria, the fun-loving, beer-swilling (this is where Oktoberfest takes place), mostly Catholic southern part of Germany (as opposed to the very conservative, mostly Protestant north). Munich is also home to a major international airport, and as such is the end of many trips to Europe.

Our hostel, the Easy Palace, is great as far as hostels go. The girl at the front desk with pretty good English struggled a bit to let me know that “Smoking in any part of the building is strictly forbidden”. “Great!” I said. We’ve been in enough smoky places. Sitting in the lobby updating the blog on the free wireless internet, I met lots of people, most of whom were American students studying in Italy or Spain traveling around Europe on their three week Easter break. I know some former LFMSS Europe trippers have gone on to study abroad – what a great opportunity.

Our day in the Munich area started at Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, and the model for all the others to follow. Dachau opened in 1933, and had over 200 000 prisoners live and die here until the Americans liberated it in 1945. It was never an extermination camp like Auschwitz, but rather a slave labour camp where Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists, homosexuals, Catholic priests, and any others who Hitler and his ilk didn’t like were worked, often to death. Our tour guide, Claudia, did an excellent job of explaining the camp’s functions and history. This very solemn and sad place always has a strong impact on me, and many of the parents and students also were deeply affected by the visit.

We left Dachau, eating our VERY LAST LUNCHPACKET (I know everyone will miss their bun and cheese, bun and meat, Corny bar, apple, and juicebox) heading to a site that represents a very different part of German history, Neuschwanstein. “Mad” King Ludwig’s 19th century castle dedicated to the operas of Richard Wagner is always a treat. From the sweeping views at Marienbruch to Ludwig’s 5 MILLION dollar bed, it is over the top like Versailles but in a German style. Ludwig died under mysterious circumstances a few months after he moved into this castle, and the vast majority of it remains unfinished. The tour takes us through the finished rooms, from the 2 million-tile-mosaic-floor throne room to the concert hall built for personal performances for the king (and finished only a few days before his death at age 40). Our very German tour guide loosened up a bit and challenged us to count how many swans, the main motif of the castle whose name means new swan stone, there were in the appropriately named Swan Room. The closest guess was 42, but there are actually 96 he told us.

After we returned to Munich proper, I gave everyone 20 minutes to get ready and reload the bus for our trip down to the Hofbrauhaus. I had invited Rens to park the coach and join us by walking the 20 or so minutes through Munich to get there, but not feeling well, he declined this year and offered to drive us to the city centre instead. When twenty minutes was up, I went out to the bus to discover the back of the bus full and the front of the bus empty. Rens said, “Ja, Kreg, it is only the parents who are not here,” and laughed. The parents looked great and smelled fresh as they entered the bus for our last trip to an attraction in Europe (unless you count the Munich International Airport as an attraction). I missed out on the pork sausage fest as one of our kids was feeling a little under the weather and I took him back to the hostel basically as soon as we got there. It was no big deal to me; I ate dinner with Rens in the restaurant beside the hostel and enjoyed some quiet time to organize my final paperwork for the trip. I’m actually at the hostel right now writing this, and the group is, I’m sure, full of every pork product imaginable from the Bavarian buffet, and singing along with the traditional Bavarian musical entertainment, drinking down pint after pint of ice water, while the guests at the other tables drink their 1 LITRE mugs of beer. The Hofbrauhaus sells, on average, 10 000 of their 1L mugs a day. That’s a lot of beer! The room our group is in is mostly tourists and not too rowdy (although it is loud and jovial); you have to go downstairs to find the hardcore drinkers. It’s great for a group like ours as the focus is more on the Bavarian entertainment than the Bavarian beverages.

I know I’m going to miss this group – it is a very unique experience to travel through Europe with a group of kids you know well, and a group of parents you get to know during the trip. I’ll write another entry to end this blog, maybe on the plane ride home, or maybe after we get back. I can’t believe that we were in London just a couple weeks ago! We’ve seen so much, done so much, eaten so much… it’s hard to believe it was only 18 days.


1 comment:

Chris Baker said...

Amazing the tastes, smells, sounds, and sometimes absense of these things, that make a lasting memory. One of my favorite memories of travelling through Mexico in a VW bus is actually of nothing. We stopped in the desert one night and it was so dark and so extremely silent that it felt thick. Thank-you James and Craig for all your efforts, and all the lasting memories you have facilitated. From the pictures and dialogue the trip looks like it has been amazing!
Thank-you, Thank-you!