ashley does germany (vol. 1): munich, dachau & nuremberg

Last week, one of my good friends came to visit me in Germany! Ashley and I worked two summers of Passport Camp together in 2008 and 2010. She is also from my old Kentucky home. She has just finished law school and planned to celebrate with a trip to Europe, and I was glad to welcome her to Munich to stay with me for a week!

We planned to do a lot. It was a good chance for me to see more cities and sights I hadn’t seen yet, as well as play the tourist here in Munich, which I don’t do too often these days.

Ashley flew in that Sunday morning after visiting another friend in Finland. We spent her first day in Munich just exploring the city center and the main sights. The Frauenkirche is one of the greatest landmarks in Munich, and one of the churches I hadn’t found the chance to visit yet.
Inside Frauenkirche in Munich 
Stained glass in Frauenkirche

After our day in Munich, we boarded a train the next morning and headed to Berlin! I was excited to experience the site of so much history in Germany’s capital city. I’m going to devote a whole post to Berlin – so for now – here are just a couple of pictures.

Me happy to be in COLD Berlin, in front of the Reichstag
Ashley and me in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

After four days in Berlin and returning late to Munich, we wanted to do something a little closer to “home base” on Friday. We slept in and then visited the Dachau Concentration Camp. This is something I knew I should see – an important part of this country’s and our world’s history – but also something I wasn’t totally excited about. I just expected that it would be depressing to go.

“Work sets you free” on the gate into the camp
It was heavy. We took an audio guide through the memorial and the camp grounds, that essentially walks visitors through the same path that the prisoners would have taken. Through the gate (above), into the main building where they were stripped of their possessions and dignity when they first arrived, across the square where they had to line up for role call each day, into the barracks where they were packed in for sleeping, and across the grounds into the crematorium where thousands of bodies were disposed. There were also gas chambers at Dachau, but unlike at other camps, they were never utilized for mass extermination. Many at Dachau died in “death marches” to and from the camp, or from disease or malnutrition.
 
The feeling around the camp was somber. Along with the museum, there is a large central memorial and several smaller religious memorials on the grounds (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish).
Part of the main memorial at Dachau
One of the walls in the memorial reads in Yiddish, French, English, German and Russian, in bold black letters, “Never Again.” That pretty much sums up why the visit to Dachau was important.
View of the grounds
Our trip to Dachau took most of the afternoon, and we went back home afterwards to dinner and then bed – getting ready for the big day to come in Nuremberg. We assembled a group and took the two hour train ride to Nuremberg on Saturday. We traveled on a “Bayernticket,” which lets a group of five travel all over the state of Bavaria for a day for about 38 Euros (combined). That makes traveling around here really affordable!
I had only been to Nuremberg for 45 minutes before during the famous Christmas market season. Back in December, it was cold and snowing hard and over-packed with an enormous crowd. So a sunny Saturday in March gave me a much more favorable view of the city.
On the River Pegnitz in Nuremberg
The Bowden Family on the Hauptmarkt in front of Frauenkirche

It was fun to be in Nuremberg on a beautiful Saturday, which is market day. The main square was filled with vendors (kind of like at the Christmas market) selling their wares and yummy foods. Of course, the non-vegetarians enjoyed Nuremberger Bratwurst – said to be the best in Germany. I took them for their word and stuck to my crepe.

Ashley and I couldn’t resist posing with these goofy aprons, which can be found anywhere tourists flock.
We spent most of our time walking around the medieval part of the city. It is completely walled in, and at the top of a big hill sits the medieval imperial castle.
View as we walked up toward the castle
Looking down at the city from the castle 

Ashley’s one wish upon planning her trip to Germany was to see the place where the Nuremberg trials took place after WWII. Since she is a soon-to-be-lawyer and spent a semester working in Africa for the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwandan genocide, she has a particular interest in this historical event.

Inside the Justizpalast, we got to sit in the courtroom where the trials took place and tour a museum that told in detail about the process of prosecuting and convicting the leaders of the Nazi party of their crimes against humanity. After seeing sights of destruction in Berlin and the concentration camp in Dachau, it was interesting for me to see the justice process that followed the horrors of the war.

On one hand, it all seemed woefully inadequate. A few guys were hung in exchange for the millions of lives they took. However, the trials seemed to be a huge undertaking – the way they organized the court with judges from each of the Allied countries, implemented the first ever live-interpretation/translation in court proceedings, and meted out punishment to those highly involved in planning and carrying out a genocide for the first time in history. The trials there serve as a precedent for international justice courts today in cases like the genocides and war crimes that have taken place in Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.

Inside Courtroom 600
After a great day in Nuremberg, we traveled back to Munich and spent the next two days seeing some sights at a more leisurely pace around here. We went with some of the girls from the Collegium Oecumenicum to Schloss Nymphenburg – the summer home to Bavarian royalty.
Ashley and me posing outside Nymphenburg
Nymphenburg is a palace of baroque splendor. I went in 2010, but had been wanting to return this time. The palace and the grounds are really beautiful, if not a bit extreme in their decor.
Ceiling in the stone hall
One of the most fun parts of the palace is the Gallery of Beauties. King Ludwig I loved beautiful women and had an artist paint portraits of dozens of beauties. He hung the portraits in the hall outside his wife’s bedroom. Interestingly enough, she was not pictured in one of the portraits.
Also interestingly, the women come from all walks of life and parts of Europe. My favorite beauty was the daughter of a common shoemaker who happened to make a delivery to the palace, was discovered by the king, and then “immortalized” in the gallery of beauties.
Some of the beauties in the gallery

On Ashley’s last night in Munich, we went to Augustiner Bräustuben – a traditional beer hall with long tables, a lively atmosphere, and good Munich beer and Bavarian food specialties. She had another friend in Munich who met up with us for dinner, which was a lot of fun.

Ashley enjoying the “Maximator” – Augustiner Starkbier

On her final day, we went to watch the Glockenspiel on Marienplatz, where crowds gather daily, rain or shine, to watch the figures dance around this huge clock as the bells play.

The Glockenspiel on the Neues Rathaus in Marienplatz

Afterwards, we grabbed some lunch then took it easy for the afternoon until Ashley had to leave on her night train for Paris. We said “Auf Wiedersehen,” and she was on her way.

Thanks for being my first visitor in Germany, Ashley!

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