Eleventh Email- Munich, Dachau, and ski-jumping

Sent 16.1.06


You can read my earlier trip updates online at www.nd.edu/~dmcgee/abroad/; this is a continuation of my previous three emails. In addition, I'm glad to send this one out on a Monday morning so all of those coming into work after the weekend can delay starting a little bit longer. I also posted all of the remaining pictures from my trip online today, so be sure to take a look at those.

After touring the city on my own on the 1st of January, I decided to take advantage of the free tours offered in Munich, given by a company that is catering to all the broke college-age backpackers travelling Europe. The idea is that you just tip the tour guide at the end how ever much the tour was worth to you. Of course the weather hadn't gotten better, so most of the three hour tour took place under a light rain. It was a very interesting tour, seeing a lot of the touristy sights I had already seen (but didn't know a whole lot about), but also seeing stuff that is more out of the way and not regularly visited. I saw pictures of the Frauenkirche (a church) immediately after the war with all its bomb damage, and that starts to make you realize how much Munich and all of Germany had to be rebuilt after the war. After the tour, I had thought about going up to Dachau, but this was before I realized it was Monday, the day where most state-run visitor sites are closed in Germany. I ended up walking around more of the city, ducking inside a lot of the buildings to avoid the bad weather.

We now reach the night of the Fiesta Bowl, where I planned on going back to The Arc to see. They had both NASN (North American Sports Network) and AFN (Armed Forces Network), so there was a good chance of seeing the game. It actually ended up being on both channels, so there was no problem watching it. The result of the game can be found anywhere else, so I won't really go into that. It was funny to bump into some other ND guys there who had also read about the pub on the internet, so they came to watch as well. They were from the Rome Architecture program and where travelling over their break just as I was. None of us were too happy about the result of the game. I also watched most of the first half of the game with a receiver that played with Stanford in the early 1980's, who had John Elway as his quarterback. He had also been recruited by Notre Dame, but thought Dan Devine was one of the weirdest guys he had ever met so that turned him off a bit. He is now doing sports marketing in Europe.

I slept in the next day because I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep in a while. I then headed out to Dachau to visit the memorial site located on the former Concentration Camp. I visited a WWII cemetery in France two and a half years ago, but this was probably even more heavy with emotion than that. If you are ever in Munich for more than a day, take the four hours to go out to Dachau and see the site. The feeling you get while walking around and seeing the same buildings and fences and guard towers that prisoners did 60 years ago is hard to explain. You see the maintenance building that prisoners themselves built, along with the cremation chambers and the gas chambers. Most people think the gas chambers at Dachau were never used, but this is not to say prisoners were not killed here or sent somewhere else to die. It is something that was a big part of German history, and important to see, although holding this against the current generation of Germans is something that would be ridiculous. Because of this part of their history, I think citizens of Germany today would never let anything like this happen again.

After Dachau, I still had a good part of the day left. I headed over to Schloß Nymphenburg, a large palace just outside the centre of Munich. I had seen this once before, but it was in the Summer and looked quite different than the view I got when covered in snow. I then went across town to the Englischer Garten, one of the largest public parks in Europe. I saw a pretty crazy sight there, but it is quite normal to see in the Garten. The pictures page shows it best, but someone surfing in a park on an artificial river with snow on the banks has to be a little bit crazy. His wetsuit probably kept him quite warm though.

I then made my way back to the hostel, picking up some dinner and drink at the grocery store right around the corner. It is a good way to save money while you travel if you don't mind a simple sandwich for your meals. On the way in to the hostel, I noticed some very American-looking people in the hostel. It's something you get good at noticing while travelling for three weeks, especially when your goal is to not act that way so you don't look like an easy target to pickpocket. I went back down to the lobby a little while later to find out who they were and where they were from. It ended up being a big group of like 14 people from Virginia Tech who had just arrived that day in Europe, and would eventually be studying in a small city in Austria. Sounded great, except that I could tell within about two minutes of talking to them that none of them spoke more than two words of German (which is funny because I had already picked up more than that, and I'm not even studying there). They wanted to go out to a Brauhaus, so me being the Munich expert showed them the easiest way to get there. I hadn't actually drank at one yet, so I figured I'd go with them and see what it was like. We ended up going to the Augustiner Brauhaus, where I ordered a litre of dunkel (dark) beer. We sat next to two other Americans who had studied in Salzburg a year before and were back to visit for the holidays. They made the comment how American this whole group looked while walking in, which I found slightly humorous. It's not that it is bad to be American, it is just sometimes better that you don't have a big flashing light above your head indicating that. I had been asked numerous times in Munich for directions in German; I don't think this group would have ever had that happen to them. It was a fun night though.

I'm on a roll here, so I might as well talk about Innsbruck. I decided to head there next after Munich for two reasons. One, it is a nice little city tucked into the Alps, so it would be very pretty. Two, Zurich looked like it could have been quite expensive even to stay just one night, so I decided to put off my trip to Switzerland until later when I had done a little planning ahead of time. I got up early in Munich so I could catch an early train to Innsbruck and spend the day walking around and seeing the city. This ended up being a really smart plan. I arrived in Innsbruck and found a map of the city and started walking towards the nearest hostel. I didn't exactly take the shortest way there, but I saw a lot of the city along the way and eventually arrived. I then headed back out into the city and saw some of the bigger sights: the Hofgarten, the Golden Roof, the Dom, etc. I then decided I should see something a bit different and something that isn't in every other city, so I started walking toward the ski-jumping stadium. It is a bit of a walk south of town, but there was plenty to see along the way. About halfway there, I looked up at the ski-jumping hill and saw someone actually jumping. That was cool...and then I saw a poster about 10 steps later advertising the actual competition going on that day. I hadn't planned to see this, so this was unexpected. It ended up being awesome. My standing spot (there are no seats) put me right around where most of the jumpers were landing. I couldn't quite see the jump, but I could see most of the flight down the hill.

I hadn't come prepared like many of the Austrians had. Many of them brought something to put on top of the packed snow to stand or sit on, and of course wore all their warm ski clothes and thick boots. I was there for almost three hours in my jeans and tennis shoes, but it wasn't too cold of a day so I was fine. Austria (or Österreich as I heard many times that day) is really into its ski-jumping. There was music coming out of the speakers the whole time, TV cameras all over, the stands were nearly full, and many people had their flags out waving whenever a jumper from their country was coming over the hill. There was both a helicopter and blimp giving footage from the air. Even I was getting into the excitement of the day a bit. The best jumps of the day were just over 130 metres, which drew big reactions from the crowd.

The next email will finish up the trip, and talk a little about the new semester and the new group of students from ND that have arrived.

Keep in touch,

Dan McGee

Mobile: +353 87 056 4163