It all came about when our Europe director of training and education at EMC kindly asked me to join her annual team meeting, as a way to meet part of our extended team upon my move to London. This years team meeting destination; 3 days in Munich.
Naturally, Trev and I took this as a chance to explore a new city (and country at that; as we’d never visited Germany), and he joined me three days in advance of our meeting for a long weekend getaway.
Initially, we had a hard time planning out our three day stay, as there was so much we wanted to do. Germany is known for SO many things; beautiful landscapes, excellent food and beer, and of course, unending history; unending WW2 history at that. If you know Trev well, you know his unquenchable thirst for WW2 knowledge, in any form he can get it. So after much debate, we settled on two very different tours; one day we’d explore southern Bavaria and beautiful Neuscwhanstein Castle, and the next we’d join a tour of Dachau concentration camp and WW2 walking tour through the city.
Day 1: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Our first full day in Munich, we headed out of town, on a 1.5 hour bus journey with Mikes Bikes tours, bound for a glorious day in the mountains; and when I say glorious, I mean one of the most magical, postcard picturesque places we’ve ever seen with our own eyes. Upon our arrival, our group was offered the once in a lifetime opportunity to paraglide off the mountain ridge, over the castle. Thankfully, Trev and I were well-researched and quickly raised our hands, as they only had room for 3 of us that day. After gearing up in appropriate boots, body straps, etc, we made our ascent, via funicular, to the top of the mountain.
The views from the top were absolutely stunning! I had trouble paying attention to my instructors briefing, as I was so consumed by the scenery; however, I did catch the important parts: “when I say go, take big steps…and when I say run, RUN”. Ok, got it.
Ladies first! – or so they claimed. I anxiously stepped up to the foot of the wooden plank, extending out 10 feet with a straight drop off of the mountain, and waited for my signal. “Walk!”..1 step..2 step..3 step. “Run!”. The parachute yanked me backwards as the wind filled it overhead, and within 2 seconds, we were flying. Here’s a short clip from take-off:
The journey was magnificently thrilling as we took in aerial views of the alps, beautiful lakes, and of course Neuschwanstein Castle.
After our flight, we hopped into the restaurant for some traditional Bavarian spätzle and a German beer. Both delicious and fulfilling to the last drop.
To burn off the mass amount of calories we’d just consumed, we decided to take a ride up the road to Forggensee lake, on the road bikes provided for our use.. Go pro in hand, we took a dip off the dock and swam the crystal clear waters. This memory is particular is a fond one for Trev and I both – one of absolute beauty, serenity, and adventure. We’ve made a short (& silly) Youtube video of this part of our day, here:
Ending the day trip, was our tour of the castle itself. Rich with color and interesting history of King Ludwig, we walked room to room admiring the character and unique decor of each space. No photos were allowed inside, however, as beautiful as the interior of the castle is, you can see below that it just can’t compare to it’s surrounding beauty outdoors.
Thank you to Mikes bikes for an unforgettable adventure!
Day 2: Dachau and WW2 walking Tour
Our visit to Dachau concentration camp was much the way you might expect; powerful, quiet, sad, thought-provoking, prayerful. The grounds were eerily well-preserved and it was HOT out. The heat added to the intense realization of the conditions in which people struggled so hard to survive in WW2.
We walked room to room where people were once registered, stripped of their belongings, and given a uniform with patches which resembled their societal and religious status. All prisoners were treated badly, but depending on your patches, some much worse than others. Convicted felons usually had it the easiest, with Jews having it the most difficult. We viewed the barracks and saw photos of the impossibly little space people had to function, hundreds squeezed into small rooms, and several sleeping per twin bed.
The most powerful and deeply saddening area of our visit was of the gas chambers/crematorium and the firing range, where countless lives faced their last moments. We learned that as a German student, it is now mandatory for every child to visit a concentration camp in their youth, to understand the history of their culture and to ensure this never happens again.
By the time the city walking tour rolled around, we were quite hot, tired and struggling for energy, but adventure prevailed and we set out for 3 more hours of history in the sun. Munich was the capital of the Nazi movement and the birthplace of the Nazi party, and surprisingly there are still a countless number of ruins of the Third Reich scattered throughout the city. These include headquarter buildings, art museums which had displayed stolen artwork approved by Hitler, and city squares where the SS paraded through the cities as they conquered new territory.
Of all we saw and learned in Munich, what stuck with me the most is how much the German culture still reacts to the mention of this period of time. They still very much feel persecuted by the rest of the world for the decisions of their ancestors and they do NOT like to discuss any of it. They pass quickly by these places as if they didn’t exist; and scoff at tourists whom have stopped to pay their respects. Incredible how history has the ability to impact generations beyond it.
After our tour, we stopped in for dinner and a traditional German beir at the Hoffbrau Haus. Although touristy, this place is a load of fun and the food and drink are delicious. The women serve guests in traditional Dirndl dress, and live bands fill the beer hall with vibrant, upbeat music. A must-do experience, while visiting.
Our last day together was cut short, as Trev had an afternoon flight back to London, while I had to stay and prep for the upcoming work week in Munich. We grabbed coffee and pastries and headed for our last little adventure in town. There is a river that runs so swiftly through Munich, which surfers will line up on the bank at one end, waiting for their chance to jump in and take a brief ride.
Amazing site, and we stood there for a good 20 minutes watching the each take their turn. This same river extends through a beautiful park, and in the summer people jump in and get whisked away. Obviously, we had to experience this for ourselves, so go-pro in hand, we jumped into this high speed lazy river and held on for dear life. When we reached the end, the current was so powerful that I lost bits of my suit while trying to climb out, and snagged them at the last second before they disappeared leaving me to run back to the start in my birthday suit. 😳
Altogether this last little bit of our time in Munich was a blast. I’d definitely recommend visiting in summer as there is so much to enjoy outside, but maybe try to avoid the hottest of weeks. 😉