Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Schwimm Schwimm Schwimm

It's a strange feeling... i know that i've only been in Germany for 12 days but it feels like alot longer. I don't mean that in a bad way at all because in another sense it has completely flown by! I guess i feel like i've covered alot of ground and done everything i wanted to do here. If anything i wish that i had spent more time in Berlin. The amount of history in that city is amazing and i think i only got a quick glance.

Frankfurt was nice... not too much to do besides eat but some of the buildings were cool and there is this massive park in the middle of the city that i found really nice. It's the financial capital of Germany so the reputation it holds is kind of dull. However, it has old buildings, a big lake that runs through the city, friendly people, and cute little markets.

Munich was a beautiful city! At first when we got there the streets were all dirty and i kind of got the impression that it was just a run down trashy big city. I guess i was just in the wrong spots! The area around the main train station is like that... not to mention very hard to find German food! Natalie and i met a couple Americans who were raving about an area called Marienplatz and said if we wanted to see a beautiful church and amazing buildings that we should go there. We did and they weren't exaggerating. The buildings were all massive! Lots of pillars and grand open space with courtyards in the middle of buildings. All cobblestone of course - it's definitely not normal to me yet and i think it won't start getting old any time soon! We didn't know what half of the buildings were but they were still just as impressive. We saw this one huge building that was an ugly yellow colour. The doors were dark brown and gigantic... i was starting to feel even shorter than i normally do. I felt as if the city was like one of those growing dinosaur toys i got when i was younger where all you do is put it in water and it grows! We saw a couple people enter from a side door so Nat and i decided to see what was inside. It was one of the most beautiful churches that i have ever seen! Totally different from the cathedrals i saw in England. It was all white on the inside! Walls complete with the most intricate details and bright stained glass windows. It seemed like most of the people who were in the church weren't there to stand with wide eyes and jaws dropped like we were. Most people were there to pray, light a candle, or just sit. We were very glad we decided to go see what was inside because that was easily the most beautiful church i've ever seen. Munich actually seemed like a very wealthy city. The shops were all brand name and very expensive. I was scared to look through the window incase i saw something break and had to pay for it.  Speaking of wealth... the cars here are amazing! There are so many Mercedes, Audis, and BMWs. Even the buses are Mercedes! I've seen so many Bentleys and Rols Royce cars it's ridiculous. Germans have a bit of an obsession with nice cars i think.

While in Munich i decided to go visit Dachau which was a former concentration camp. It was actually the first concentration camp that Hitler had up and running only 2 short weeks after he gained power of Germany. Visiting a concentration camp was one of the things i knew i definitely wanted to do while in Germany and i'm very glad i had the opportunity to go. It wasn't easy... i've heard tons of stories and learned all about the Holocaust growing up but to actually walk through the same places where prisoners walked only 60 ish years ago was completely different! Dachau was mainly a working camp... meaning that most of the prisoners died because they were literally worked to death. They were made to make amunitions for the war or farm and grow food for the soldiers. It also had a massive hospital and state of the art facilities for medical research with the newest and best of everything. They used it as propaganda in a way and invited the media to come through and look at the nice parts of the camp to try and persuade the public that they were doing a good thing. The clothes they were given were merely thin linen and they were forced to work outside in the cold German winter. Most original prisoners were political leaders or influencial men that stood against Hitler and what he believed in. Over the 12 years the camp was open from 1933-1945 other types of people were brought into the camp - criminals, homosexuals, mentally disabled, and the last 2 years women and children. The camp was meant to hold 5,000 people and in 1945 when it was liberated they found 80,000 were there. I got to walk through some of the old barracks, the showers, ovens where they burned the bodies, and gas chambers. It was a very sobering and real experience. It probably isn't as tough to go through as maybe Auschwitz, which was mainly an extermination camp... but very difficult nonetheless.

Berlin was another amazing city! I didn't realize all of the history involved or the fact that Berlin is Germany's capital. I mainly wanted to go so i could see what was left of the wall. I knew a bit of the history about east and west Berlin and east and west Germany but definitely learned a lot more walking around and seeing everything else there was to see. The wall was so different than i expected. I sort of pictured this thick tough wall that was mostly gone but crumbling down... maybe some barbed wire and graffitti. It was so much different and well preserved. Kind of tall... but thin walls with full chunks still intact. Covered in paintings that artists painted on after most of the walls were torn down. Pieces of the wall are all over the city probably just to remind the people where they've come from in just a short 20 years. The one big part that is still standing was about 1km long and i was able to walk along and take a million pictures. I also made it to the famous checkpoint charlie. I didn't find it all that exciting but it was cool to say i've been there. I walked through the monument for all the murdered Jewish people. It was also much different than i expected but very cool. It was a lot of blocks of concrete. All the same length and width but different heights and slants in rows on uneven ground. I'll have to put pictures up because i don't know how else to describe it. I got to see parliament and was actually there on the weekend that they celebrate German Unification day when the walls came down. Lots of streets were closed and i think there were probably more food vendors out than normal.

Overall, Germany was an amazing country. The trains were easy and made alot of sense. Most people could speak English very well and seemed to enjoy speaking with me. The food was awesome and the country has such a rich history - always something to do or go see!

Now i'm in Athens... and that will be for another day of typing. So far it seems like i've completely crossed the world and ended up in a foreign place when in reality i just hopped on a place for less than 3 hours.
Don't mind the change in weather :) Feels like home! I swear i was born in the wrong country.

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