There are many aspects of Munich that I find incredibly intriguing: the infamous history rooted in WWII, the beautiful architecture, and of course my dad keeps reminding me it’s where the legendary Oktoberfest takes place. However, it’s also intimidating; I don’t know very much about the city and, after hearing about what I’ll be walking into, I feel pretty unprepared.
There are a few aspects of travelling to Munich that I’m still trying to mentally prepare for, but thankfully I have the great advice of CR alums. The difference of the culture of Germany itself compared to America will no doubt be a shock; that’s something that I have read about and Caroline of CR8 warned me of. I’m interested to see the different customs and slight subtleties in how they carry out everyday life; however, I am also eager not to come off like an obnoxious American. Visiting Dachau is another experience that I am anxiously anticipating. Caroline described the experience as “surreal” and “shocking”, and even her explanation and images elicited a strong combination of intense and confused emotions. I have never visited anywhere with such a marked historical significance, and I have no doubt that the experience will be unnerving.
While there are parts of Munich that I feel unprepared for, there are also parts that I feel like I was born to take on. I won’t get too into detail, but I went through a phase in eighth grade where I was obsessed with architecture, and Munich has a beautiful eclectic combination of modern and historical buildings that I can’t wait to observe. I’m also excited to find out what unique things my CR companions may know about the city; who knows, maybe someone else had a hidden eight grade passion for architecture too. I have no doubt that the things I learn about the people on this trip will be fascinating and I can’t wait to find out what hidden values everyone is bringing along. Also, while this relates more to just Germany in general, I am thrilled to learn more about the culture of the place where legends such as Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche spent their years. Perhaps spending time among the German customs will shed some light on Nietzchean philosophies? Or at least explain how Kafka got the idea to write a novel about a man turning into a giant insect? I suppose we’ll find out.
I don’t know everything there is to know about Munich; I’ve studied the architecture and the literature, but those things aren’t going to prepare me for the humbling experiences that lie ahead. I’m eager to experience the things that this city has in store, and more than anything, I’m prepared to be shaken.
Okay, to be completely honest, I was very intimidated when I discovered I would be writing about Munich. I will preface by saying, I am not a history kind of gal. I LOVE learning and can engage in any history that has a direct correlation to something I am genuinely interested in, like biblical or theatre history. However, when it comes to wars and policies, it’s generally a no-go for me. For some reason, I just can’t wrap my mind around all of it. The dates and people get all jumbled up, and I usually end up frustrated.
All that being said, I am about to embark on the historical journey of a lifetime, so I should probably just pull myself up by my bootstraps and give history a chance. Munich is a city that contains an incredibly vast and complex history. The center of the axis party during World War II, Germany has a history that is bloody to say the least. Munich in particular became the home of the Nazi Party in 1930, the base for Hitler’s schemes to imprison and annihilate those who opposed the Nazi regime. Dachau was the original concentration camp for these “political prisoners.”
I recently met with Lance Jewett–a TCU sophomore and CR9 alum–over dinner at the BLUU to talk with him about his experience in Munich. Unlike myself, Lance loves history and finds most of it genuinely fascinating. He knew a good deal about WWII before visiting Munich and was still overwhelmed during his time at Dachau. I wondered if his experience was one in which the students and Dr. P conversed and explored openly or if it was more personal. He confirmed that it was indeed a very private exploration. The suffering that took place in Dachau years ago became very real to the students once they were actually there. It seems like its the difference between watching a video of a rollercoaster and actually riding one… And as I listened to Lance, I found that his experience was definitely an emotional rollercoaster. He explained how he couldn’t grasp that such evil could have actually occurred in such a way as it did in Dachau. In one instance inside the refurbished concentration camp, he went off on his own and found a narrow hallway that ended with a wall… There was an opening in a corner between the wall and the ground, and it became clear to Lance that this was a place where prisoners were taken to be shot… Their blood would drain through the opening and their bodies later disposed of. I could tell this had been a very chilling experience for him, as he described as best he could how he felt when he stood alone against the wall of the hallway, as if he himself were in the place of a Dachau prisoner.
Lance recommended that, throughout CR10, I write down my experiences and feelings as soon as I get the chance. He has gained a lot from re-reading notes he took last year, whether it was a quick note of his current emotional state or a description of an experience, like his at Dachau. He also recommended I brush up on my knowledge of WWII (I agree…) and go into everything with an open and curious mind. I am so thrilled for this adventure though still a bit intimidated by such an experience as I know Dachau will be. I know there is more to be explored in Munich than Dachau alone (like castles and yummy German food!!), but my mind always returns to the concentration camps upon thinking about this city. This summer, I hope I am truly able to keep an open mind and an eagerness to learn from both the beauty and the horror of Munich, Germany.
All I remember from Munich is spaetzle, expensive bathrooms, and a glorious castle. My family went on a grand European trip 2 years ago, and we spent the night in Munich after getting in late from a train—we went to a restaurant near our Airbnb where I was able to experience the heavenly blessing of spaetzle, a soft egg noodle side dish (it tastes far better than it sounds. An alternate title for this post is “Munchin’ in München”). As an American, the idea of paying to go to the bathroom is absurd, but the Germans are intellectuals and know they can charge for the inelastic good of public bathrooms. We also visited Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the model for the castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom—despite the rainy weather, the castle lived up to our magical expectations. I have a twin brother, and one of our favorite hobbies is taking ridiculous pictures. Pictured below is us in front of the magnificent castle for your viewing pleasure. (Dear CR10, please take stupid pictures with me… even the infamous night train trip from Munich can be the perfect opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to look foolish and immortalize it forever?)
On a more serious note, I have always been fascinated by World War II. It has had a profound effect on our world, country, and my family since my grandfather and his family were interned in a Japanese American Internment Camp, Topaz. Munich is a city rich in World War II history as it is the birthplace of the Nazi Party and near Dachau Concentration Camp. Dr. P encouraged us to watch the Netflix show “Hitler’s Circle of Evil”. After watching the first episode, I realized I knew far less about World War II than I thought; our education system seems to focus more on what occurred during the war and how it ended, but I am highly interested in how it began and how we are still paying for it today. I had no idea that Hitler was not the original leader of the Nazi Party. When I asked Cole Harris about his experience in Munich on CR9, he said he could feel the history of the Nazi Party and sense the tension in the air, not to mention how impactful the visit to Dachau was. I know that being in the actual location of the beginnings, cruelties, and repercussions of the Nazis will be eye-opening and will be so much more powerful than reading about it in school or watching documentaries.
I can’t wait to get to Munich and dive in—Cole told me to have an open mind, so I am hoping to be able to take in as much information as possible about the city’s history, culture, and people and ultimately be changed by everything I learn and experience.