A Fine Farewell.

There is nothing I love more than dreaming. There is just something about living in an alternate reality where rules and laws don’t matter, nor make sense, that is so appealing to me. There is an intensity you feel within a dream that you rarely feel in the real world. The longer you are in the dream world the more complex the feeling becomes. Each minute you are sent deeper and deeper into this alternate world where you somehow understand everything and nothing at the same time.  The deeper the dream becomes the less the concept of time becomes tangible. A minute asleep is enough to live a life time in a dream, that is until you are instantly awoken by the sound of a crying baby.

I open my eyes to see that we are still on the road. I don’t know where we are but I know we are still moving. I lift my head off of the glass window and take a look around trying to figure out where exactly I am. I take off my glasses scratch the sandman’s remainders away and slowly come to the realization that I am still on the bus heading back from Neuschwanstein Castle.

I couldn’t tell you how long I was asleep for or even what I was dreaming about but somehow the intensity of my dream bleed into my reality. I felt my heart beating faster than normal and my senses were sharper than they  should be. I was hearing bits and parts of conversations several seats away from me while being able to pick out small details within the blur of passing streets. It took me a few more minutes for my body to come out of this deep state and by the time it did we were back in Munich.

We eventually made it to the apartment and lounged about for a bit. Before I knew it an hour passed by and our stomachs started to rumble. It’s funny how easy it is to forget to eat. It took my stomach rumbling to realize that I really hadn’t eaten much today. I had spent the last 8 hours riding a bike, swimming in a lake and hiking to the top of a castle and the only thing I had eaten was an apple for breakfast, and a beer and macaroni and cheese for lunch. But I’m pretty sure the bulk of my nutrients came from the beer. Since I already had such a healthy diet today I decided to keep it up by finding the next healthiest thing—Chinese food. All I could picture was a nice heavy carton of boneless spare ribs and fried rice. That’s all that I wanted. It’s my go to for Chinese food and it would be amazing to have a little greasy taste of home.

Of course there was no chance of finding my American version of Chinese20150626_223928 food out in Germany so I settled for some chicken and broccoli sounding thing. But of course it was in German and as we all know Chinese food already has one of the vaguest descriptions for its food possible. For example, chicken and broccoli is usually described as chicken and broccoli. It never goes to describe what kind of sauce is being used whether it comes with or without rice let alone what kind of rice it would be. This was no different. On top of that it was in German and had words that Miranda and Google translate didn’t know.  I mean truthfully I was of no help here and if Google couldn’t answer it than the battle has been lost. I decide to throw in the white flag and say “what the hell”, I decided it couldn’t be bad, and even if it was I’d eat it anyway.

Surprisingly, and I say that meaning that I truly had very little hope in whatever I had ordered, it turned out pretty good. It was greasy, had rice, chicken and broccoli. What else could a man’s stomach ask for? The more we had the more tired we became. As I felt myself drifting off to sleep I made sure we set our alarms. We had a big day tomorrow.

My eyes open as I roll over to check the time. Its three minutes until my alarm was to go off. Somehow I always manage to wake up minutes before my alarm. I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse but either way I lean forward to stretch out and crack my back. We set the alarms as late as we possibly could so now we are in a rush to get ready. I jump in the shower and Miranda gets her things together. Once we are all set we finally head out the door.

We arrive early to the shop which is a good thing. It gave us a few more minutes to relax before having to catch the bus. Today we are heading to Dachau, the first concentration camp opened up in Germany—originally designed to hold political prisoners. I feel weird saying I am looking forward to this but this will be the first time I’ve seen anything related to Nazi’s. My whole life I had learned and known about it but considering the nearest establishment is thousands of miles away I never had the opportunity.

As we stepped off the bus it’s hard not to see the grey clouds overhead. I think the universe works in a funny way some times. This entire trip I’ve had nearly perfect weather, but here I am at a concentration camp and the weather is in gray scale. It’s just adds a whole different dynamic to the impact this place had on thousands of lives.

We spent the next five hours exploring and learning about the devastation that occurred here. There were over 30,000 documented deaths and an unknown number of undocumented ones. What stood out the most to me was not the sheer number of deaths but the fact that this was the first place of its kind. Dachau was used as a blue print for all other concentration camps. Here I was standing in a blueprint for genocide.

Since this camp was built to contain political prisoners, although over time it opened its gates to everyone, it was important to distinguish each prisoner by a badge to signify the nature of the crime they had ‘committed’. Political prisoners were to wear a red badge—Communists, democrats, and any other political party considered to be an enemy of the stat.  ‘Professional’ criminals who were sent by the courts were to wear green, those who fell outside of German heritage were deemed as “race polluters” and given a blue badge, Jehovah’s Witnesses were given purple, Gypsies were given brown, pink for homosexuals, and anyone who did not have a permanent address or refused to work were given black badges. These were considered to be the basis for their badges but secondary badges could be added for even more accuracy. The Star of David was used to signify Jews, a bar matching the color above their badge indicated that they were a repeat offender, and the black dot meant that they were to be punished by labor.

As I walked around listening to the information being given I couldn’t help but get lost in thought. I just stared at the wooden bunks trying to imagine what it must have been like to sleep five in each. How being on the top bunk meant you had the luxury of being able to look out the window only to see the men that beat and starved you earlier. Each step I took made it harder and harder to believe that it actually happened.

Although a lot of the camp had been knocked down or rebuilt we were able to see a few of the original structures that had lasted throughout the war. One structure we were able to explore was the inside of the jail cells where political or other high value prisoners were held. This is the area where you could see what kind of conditions the prisoners actually lived in. Not only was each room bare it was easily 10 degrees cooler which made it hard to differentiate whether it was the temperature or the despair that sent chills down my spine.

After viewing the prison cells we were brought to the cremation and gas chambers. Although there was no written documentation that these gas chambers had been used, there was more than enough evidence that the cremation chambers had been fully active. This was one of the last things we saw before heading back to our bus in the pouring rain. By this time of the tour was over everyone was left speechless—not even a single person complain about the rain.

The entire ride back I couldn’t help but think why I hadn’t felt the need earlier to learn about the holocaust. I always was interested in it but I think it was the sheer idea that i’d be learning about death that was off-putting to me. It’s hard to convince yourself, or should I say to sit myself down and learn about something depressing. After taking this trip I learned that it’s selfish to think about myself when learning about it. I needed to learn about it because it is a way of honoring those who died so that we will never forget and let this happened again.

Once we arrived in Munich we decided we needed something to counter act the somber feeling we had and both decided that food was the best option. Since I was in Germany I wanted to check out as many beer halls and restaurants as I could. We decided to eat at one of Munich’s most famous beer halls—Augustiner.

It bothers me how Europe works when it comes to restaurants. It’s a seat yourself culture. Coming from working in restaurants my entire working career it’s against everything I’ve known. The amount of times I’ve complained about customers who just sat themselves completely throwing off the dance that is the serving industry. Now I am one of them! Or at least it feels that way. Either way we sit down and wait for our waitress to arrive. While holding several liter beers she manages to drop off our menus and pirouette toward the table behind her to drop off the beers then side stepped to the next table to take their order. Glad to see that this industry is just as chaotic 6,000 miles away.

I have been waiting all day to have a real meal and I’m excited now—but then it hits me. I am a hundred percent clueless. The entire menu is in German and I’m afraid that if I randomly pick something it would be the genitals of some pig sautéed to perfection. Thankfully the table next to us had just received their food and I knew what I wanted. I wasn’t quite sure what I was staring at but it looked delicious. I played investigator trying to figure out what it was until I resorted to Miranda translating for me. It was a Spinatknödel—spinach dumpling. I ordered that and a half liter of Dunkel, which is a dark beer. I forgot how nice it was to eat out. It’s a life style I’d like but my wallet would hate.

We finish eating and head back to her apartment. It’s about 6 pm now and we are beyond exhausted. Not only are we experiencing a food coma we have been running around like crazy for the last few days. We walk up the stairs in her apartment building and unlock her door. With 5 minutes of actually being in the apartment we are both lying in bed getting ready to take a nap. I embrace the idea of falling asleep for the rest of eternity, but then remember we have Lauren, one of Miranda’s coworkers, birthday to attend to tonight and that’s worth waking up for.

A few hours go by and we slowly force ourselves out of bed. It’s about 8 pm now and we have to start getting ready. I jump in the shower and decide the only way I am waking up is with a blast of cold water.  Plus, it makes for a quick shower. After that were both out the door and in the metro. The place Lauren rented out is only a few stations away and surrounded by restaurants. We stop by this Italian place, and order a few small meals. The food was absolutely delicious, for some reason I had doubts that there would be good Italian food in Germany until I realized that Germany is actually attached to Italy and is a hell of a lot closer to Italy than any Italian restaurant I’ve been to in the states.

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By the time we reached the party everyone was well into it. I got introduced to a whole bunch of people who’s names I’ll never remember and began the routine of small talk. I absolutely love small talk. Most people hate it but I could never understand why. Ah, I take that back. You have to enjoy a strangers company to enjoy small talk. I can see how it’s pretty intimidating for most people who are naturally shy. I’ve always loved it though, even when I was a shy child so long as the initial flow was started by someone else, I could carry it anywhere.

As we make our rounds I realize how strange it is that I am here. Not because the only person I know is Miranda, but the fact that I am in the middle of Munich at a party filled with English speaking people from all over the world. What made it even stranger was that if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew that this was Germany it would have felt like I was back home on the island. It’s a strange thing to realize once it hits you.

Although I talked to a bunch of people and was having a great time, something felt a little off. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I was feeling very self-conscious and couldn’t really break into a comfortable mindset. I think it was the fact that I was really half way across the world that was getting to me. I felt shy, I felt intimidated, and I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself. Even when I tried to break out of it I felt like it wasn’t natural. I felt like I was made of glass and my effort could be seen through by everyone around me. I was having a moment of doublethink. I knew that this wasn’t true and that no one was able to see that I was feeling like a timid high school kid again but at the same time I believed it. It was a reminder that I still had so much to overcome. This entire trip is about stepping out of my boundaries both inner and outer.

By the end of the night a few beers later I was feeling much more comfortable. I joked around, danced and played the loveable fool persona I felt most comfortable in. Before we knew it was half past two and we needed to leave. The party wasn’t quite over although it did die down, but there was a sense of urgency for us leaving. The metro stops at 3 am. It was a good thing we looked at the clock otherwise a nice pricey taxi would have been our plan. Finally we made it home and collapsed into our beds yet again. Tomorrow was another big day for us.

After about 5 hours of sleep we crawled out of bed and began to get ready. Miranda had a nice 12 hour shift ahead of her while I was about to embark on a 7 hour bike tour throughout all of Munich. As much as I was interested in this my body was dreading it. We walked through the streets to the metro uttering only a few words. We were both zombies preparing ourselves for the day.

I woke up a bit by the time we reached the shop and was able to relax on the couch there until the tour started. Ironically enough one of the guys I was talking to the night before, who was still there as we left, was our tour guide.  In the last week I had ridden a bike more times than I have in the last several years. Today alone was about to add on 7 hours to that which would easily be more than if I were to combine the amount of hours I’ve rode a bike since high school.

It ended up being a blast! Time flew by and I was really able to see Munich for what it was. We managed to go to a laundry list of places including Olympia park where the 1972 Summer Olympics were held, the famous Nationaltheather, Isar River and the people who surf the river, Maximilianeum, these are just a few of the many places. The world’s largest beer garden Hirschgarten and the worlds second largest beer garden Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) which is located in the English Gardens.

When we stopped at the Hirschgarten we were able to grab a bite to eat and some food. Again everything was in German with very few translations. This time I didn’t have Miranda to translate for me but I did have the benefit of being able to see what kind of food they had through the window. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to eat but I decide on some meat with a bone sticking out of it. It looked crispy and that, in my experience means good.

I took it back to the table we were all sitting at with a nice liter of beer and a plate full of food. I sat down and joined conversation with everyone. Right before I took a bite of my food I decided to ask what it was exactly I was eating. The tour guide laughed and said “you have no idea what you ordered?” I laughed saying “nope it looked good so I pointed at it”. Finally he told me that I ordered pig knuckle. Which explains why when I chose the meat that they had to take a butcher knife to cut it in half. Oh well if this is something someone else would eat then it can’t be that bad. It actually was delicious. It reminded me of extremely crispy bacon wrapped in ham.

By the end of the tour Miranda still had a few hours left of her shift and I decided to keep her company. Before I went out the night before I was smart enough to pack up all of my things and brought it to the shop. After she got off we were going to go to her boyfriends since he lived walking distance from the train station. I would finally get a chance to meet Leif, the man she moved across the globe for.

We arrived at Leif’s apartment and I introduced myself. We spent the next few hours relaxing, watching TV and eventually ordered some pizza. By the time the food was finished Miranda was already asleep on the couch. I said my goodbye’s to her since she would be working by the time I had to wake up for my train. The rest of the night we talked about everything from politics to music. It was a good way to end Munich. I’ve seen everything that I could possibly have asked for.  I saw one of my best friends for the first time in two years, I experienced what it was like to witness a concentration camp, I saw what inspired Walt Disney and what brought Miranda 6,000 miles. There was no better way I could have experienced Munich. Tomorrow morning I will be off to a campsite in country number six, Switzerland.

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Eisbach surfers

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English Gardens

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Chinischer Turn Beer Garden

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Siegestor

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Olympia Park

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Nymphenburg Palace

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Nymphenburg Palace

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Nymphenburg Palace

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Dachau

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Dachau

Dachau

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