Saturday, December 26, 2015

Munich- Part One

Before we drove to Munich from Heidelberg on July 12th, my travel group had an hour long pitstop in Augsburg. I ate at a traditional German restaurant and my waiter was a true country boy. I noted in Augsburg that the Germans from the south regions posses the same hospitality and charm that US southerners have. Though my waiter told me that he didn't drink, he declared Munich as the most beautiful city in the world. His high regards of the Bavarian city were not overhype;  of all the cities I visited in Germany, Munich was the one I wish I spent more time in. 

The first place I went in Munich was their newest museum- the Nazi Documentation Center. I had been excited to go there as I was curious to see how the Nazi Party would be represented.  

The Nazi  Documentation Center is located in the former site of the Nazi Party headquarters. It opened on April 30, the 70th anniversary of the liberation by the US troops and Hitler's suicide. The museum had four floors of rich content that covered the rise and fall of Nazism with a focus on Munich’s role. Inside, I noticed that the Germans that were there were reading the panels intensely. It was nice seeing them show such interest in their country’s history as Primo Levi- a chemist, writer, and survivor of the Holocaust- once said: “it happened, therefore it can happen again.” 

After the Documentation Center, I went to my hotel to freshen up and then walked around the English Garten. The English Garten is the largest park city on the European continent. Everyday you can find this place packed with locals and tourists, as well as surfers and nude sunbathers. The English Garten is four times the size of New York City’s Central Park. I stayed in there till midnight and never felt unsafe.  It was Sunday that day, and across the Atlantic Sundays are a day devoted to taking it easy and spending time with loved ones. Walking through the Garten, I saw a group of friends having a picnic with candles, blankets and wine; crowds salsa dancing in a gazebo;  middle aged couples playing bocce under fairy lights; and people in their finest clothes attending an outdoor Mozart and Bach tribute concert. 
Munich is a dream city for bikers. The strip of pathway closest to the street on a sidewalk is reserved for bikes. Bikers ring their cherry bells to warn pedestrians when they are in the way. If you don’t get out of the way, you can expect to be hit and receive no apologizes. No, this didn't happen to me, but it did happen to a drunk British tourist who wounded up with a gash on the top of his head. It was quite a sight before I went to bed! 

To add to my fist night in Munich, it was also Gay Pride Day! In the Marienplatz, the central square in Munich, there was an ABBA cover band performing and rainbow flags waving. Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Germany, seven decades ago it was a terrifying time to be gay in Munich. It is unclear how many of the 5,000 to 15,000 of homosexuals enslaved in concentrations camps perished, but scholar Rudiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%! Having visited the Documentation Center hours earlier, it was  beautiful seeing Germans not only own up to their past, but be fully embracive of a group that was severely ostracized by members of their country not too long ago. As 2015 comes to a close, I know I will look back on it as the gayest year. Having experienced less than a month before the trip America legalizing same-sex marriage, I could only hope that the rest of Germany would one day be able to celebrate those rights. 

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