I had been looking forward to this trip since I started my travels throughout Europe. My mind was focused on feasting until I felt miserable, drinking hot mulled wine, and being tantalized by shiny lights and market stalls.
In fact, my budget didn’t really seem to matter when it came to this trip. I was reminded of this while reflecting on a conversation I had with Jared Smith, who joined me in route to Germany:
Jared: I’m still going to be cautious with my spending though and I’m still bringing some food along by the sounds of it.
Lauren: why are you doing that!?
Lauren: Honey, we are in Germany GO INTO DEBT
Lauren: BY GOLLY WE ARE GOING TO THE LAND OF SAUSAGE!!!
Ok, so I may have had a bit of a problem obsessing over the potential food feats that I would conquer.
I was pretty excited to see Jared too
I took a final in 15 minutes, ran out the school door, picked up a cab, arrived at the airport, threw myself through security, and plopped myself on a chair, ready to board my plane to instant obesity.
But I didn’t board.
I waited 2.5 hours.
And each minute meant one less bratwurst. Which really hurt my heart.
Once I got there, I was so happy to see Jared that I did something irrational.
We ate dinner at McDonalds.
And yet again, it was disgustingly consistent with the United States that…well…
I liked it.
But moving on. (I’d rather not dwell on that act)
We arrived to our cute little hotel called Litty’s hotel which provided wifi, a group shower, and a delicious breakfast.
Group, meaning we shared it with 2 other rooms, not we had to take a group shower.
Just to clarify.
And after a good night’s sleep in a shady part of town that boasted of 18 Hookah shops, we were ready to tackle some Christmas markets.
And oh we did.
Our first stop was the most famous Marienplatz market. Strewn with stall after stall, I just started giggling and foaming at the mouth.
Luckily, Jared wiped it off for me.
We saw organic bratwurst.
Beautiful paper stars.
Amazing glass ornaments.
And I finally got my wine.
And it was exactly what I needed. It was sweet and very alcholic. It numbed my body from fully embracing the negative temperature. And for that, I was thankful. Plus, I got a very memorable mug.
And then I bought a Krapfen.
Because it looked good.
Jared said it was good too.
It’s gone now.
The Christmas beauty didn’t end.
Stores were full of hand painted Santas, wooden toys, and glass decorations.
Beautiful German Cuckoo clocks were hung neatly on a wall.
It was like someone was scared Christmas would pack up and leave so they stockpiled every possible Christmas decoration they could find and shoved it in an incredibly small area.
Oh, there was Lebkuchen! (German Gingerbread)
And beautiful handcrafted wooden toys.
And there were men frying potato pancakes in pure lard.
And absolutely beautiful restaurants covered in greenery and festive for the season.
We continued to walk to another Christmas market, which was housed in the Munchen Residence.
A nice little Santa and waving monkey even greeted us as we entered.
It was adorable. The amount of people was must less overwhelming and we were able to wander through each stall, being mystified by the festive offerings.
But little did we know, that our whole way of thinking about forest animals and angels would be turned completely upside-down.
Apparently someone long ago decided that portraying moving parts on fake animals would be entertaining to small children and adults who act like children (which is where Jared and I fit in).
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news.
But it really wasn’t.
It just made me want my mommy real bad.
The moose sang some type of German inspired tune.
Above, the deer moved it’s head up and down to some convoluted melody as the grandma and children portrayed signs of touretts.
This “angel” horribly mistreated her stuffed animal as she waved her arm up and down and stared at me strangely.
These fairy people attempted to tantalize us with their pixie dust and strangely over sized mustaches.
So we finally got out of there, and still stunned by the sights that we had just encountered, we decided to find a less mentally taxing Christmas market.
So we entered the medieval market in Odeonplatz.
There were peasants selling nuts.
And bratwurst cooking over oven fire, that we just couldn’t pass up.
So we didn’t.
The roll was amazing, had a rustic taste because of the fire, and was accompanied by a cheese filled brat.
And we also saw a giant pig roasting.
Then, we realized that we were hungry again, and I was desperate to get my abnormally large portions of sausage and potatoes.
Se selected the Augustiner restaurant, a famous beer hall/restaurant in Marienplatz.
After waiting patiently like Americans at the front of the restaurant, we were directed to “look around” for an open seat. So we scowered the premise like secret agents, dying to get our hands on a small slice of table.
I just needed sausage, I would eat on the floor.
But luckily, no one had to see that because we found a table.
And Lauren found the German pretzels, which boasted of a crunchy outside leading to a soft and delicious inside.
Jared ordered a pork roast with a gigantic potato dumpling and cabbage slaw.
Well I ordered the butcher’s specialty. Two meatballs, three types of sausage, mashed potatoes, gravy, and sauercraut.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I felt so miserably amazing afterwards.
Actually, I kind of felt like a man.
And then Jared found a hair.
But it was at that point, that I just didn’t care.
In fact, I appreciated the hair. It made me feel warm and full German home-cooking. That person probably cared about our food.
Actually, that hair was a gift…kind of like a token of love…
We left, feeling as if stomach pumps were in our near future, and we enjoyed Munich by night.
And we were even serenaded by a brass band in an outdoor patio (upper left) in the picture below.
Then we went back, and realized that eating animal crackers was necessary (soley because they were called Shaun das Schaf).
After resting and digesting, we were off to the Munich food market, where butchers, fruit stands, and fresh wreath stands abounded.
And because the potato lard dumplings tempted us the day before, we thought that it was vital for us to partake.
And served with applesauce, these potato cakes (laced with lard) where quite succulent. The apple sauce was a perfect compliment.
And then I bought an awkwardly large piece of fresh soft gingerbread.
But hey, I wasn’t complaining about the size.
And for dinner that evening, we decided that attempting to stuff ourselves into another beer hall would be unfutile. We instead found a precious German bakery and spotted this baby, an amazingly fresh pretzel that had been cut in half and stuffed with cream cheese and chives.
It was freaking mind blowing.
Like, best thing in Germany.
I’m considering a mail order. Maybe they sell in bulk?
The name of the bakery was Rischart and that German gibberish below…well, that can mean anything that you want it too.
I’ve learned that if you just add some strange sounds to the English langauge, you can fool most Chinese speaking people into thinking you are speaking German.
Except when I said “Donkey Kong” instead of “Dankeschön” to the security guy in the airport.
He said to me, what..are you speaking Chinese now?
I thought I was fooling people, but really, I was just fooling myself.
Which still, despite its embarrassment, caused me much entertainment.
And after all of this incredible fun, appreciating the large amount of fruit markets, and enjoying copious amounts of meat, Jared and I decided to do something a bit more sobering.
We visited Dachau, the concentration camp about 20 km outside of Munich. We booked a tour with an English speaking tour service and arrived at the camp. Our leader was extremely knowledgeable and took his time to explain personal experiences and small details.
The only words that I can honestly use to describe the camp is “cold.” Everything felt cold, like something just wasn’t right about the area. The wide expanse of open space in the middle of the barracks and the main buildings seemed as if it never would end. I could hardly walk across the area.
And as we entered through the gates that read, “work will set you free,” I was hit was feelings of unrest.
Could this be real?
Our tour guide mentioned that he has the opportunity to lead many young German students through Dachau as part of their schooling. He stated that he has to talk many of these students out of feeling guilty for what happened.
How unfathomably disgusting is that? But so real and so true.
For the German population, I feel so earnestly heartfelt for them. How are they to look to their past, how are they to look to there future?
The area of the camp that was the most difficult for me to handle was the crematorium, where gas chambers disguised as showers were built to strategically kill the concentration camp slaves.
Right after one entered the “dressing room” (where clothes would be removed in order to take a shower), there was a sign that read “Brausebad” above the door into the gas showers.
This word, literally meant “shower.” Words can’t describe my feelings.
Entering the next room, the “gas” shower heads were still visible.
After the victims had fallen due to the gas, they were taken directly to the next room where the crematory was held.
I can’t bring myself to share a picture of the crematory. I think that some things are better imprinted in your mind as a reminder of what evil can be done in this world. Some things need not a picture to be forever present.
Coldness. Dachau was full of coldness.
A coldness that no human words could ever express.
And, as our tour guide expressed, if you pretended to be a human while involved with the camp, it would be impossible to function. Prisoners had to convince themselves that they were less than human. Only after this realization where they able to work as if they were animals, slowly awaiting their death.
I think Dachau is something that everyone should experience at least once in their life. It’s sober, but it helps to bring to life the history and times of things that are taught all throughout our lives.
This memorial of tangled bodies in wire serves as a reminder of what happened in 1933, when the camp began ,to 1945, when the camp was liberated. It is a physical token of things that we can never understand, and it helps remind the present of how to avoid making the past the future.