I forgot to report something in yesterday's entry. After we left Amsterdam there were murmurs on the coach of someone missing -- a couple, actually. I wasn't sure about it so I didn't write it down. Turns out it was true! We had lost two group members back in Amsterdam! When I went down stairs for a breakfast of salami, ham, toast, cereal and later, eggs, I heard more talking about this couple, but this time because they had been found!
Much like myself, the couple had forgotten to change their clocks when we left the U.K., they had walked around Amsterdam an hour longer than they were supposed to. Once they realized they missed the coach, they had to take 3 separate trains to get to St. Goar. I guess one of those *whooshes!* from the train last night was them.
Before we left for Munich we stopped at a Beer Stein store and saw steins that were made specifically for our tour group. The steins were very nice, but they were €88 each, which is a little bit too much for something I don't really need. I keep thinking I don't have enough euros as it is anyway, so I didn't buy it. I did however buy an "I love Germany" t-shirt. Just down the street from that store was also the world's biggest free-hanging cuckoo clock, which, oddly enough, wasn't all that big at all.
We left for Munich then. When most people think of Germany, they think of socialism, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi party, swastikas and the Holocaust. But, in reality, Germany is a beautiful country with an amazing history of revolutions, kings, judges and church-power. If anything, Germany has a longer history than the U.K. because it's so much closer to where the former Roman and Byzantine Empires. It's unfortunate that Germany is only well-known for the black-spot in its history under the Third Reich.
Once we arrived in Munich, we drove past residential schools and saw beautiful white houses with criss-crossing wood-work and stone saints scattered throughout their front and backyards. Then, we checked into our hotel, the Holiday Inn (what did you expect? The Oeansplatzstraße? Please...) and went for a tour of Munich, especially within the Old City Walls.
We got dropped off at Isartorplatz and were led to Marienplatz and saw some very old, but very beautiful gothic architecture.
We then met up with a male tour-guide who led us through the city and explained things to us, like about why some older buildings have details painted on instead of actually having detail (such as columns), or how badly the Treaty of Versailles damaged Germany after World War I (before the war, he said, 1 U.S. dollar could buy 4 German marks, but after the treaty was signed, 1 U.S. dollar could buy 4 trillion (4,000,000,000,000) German marks).
He also explained why people rub the gold lions outside of the Residenz (the German version of Buckingham Palace). He told us a story about a man who sent the King a letter explaining how his system was corrupt and needed to be fixed, or else. Not long later, the King's house was attacked by rioters. Once news got out about the attack, the man who sent the letter turned himself into the King and said he was not responsible for the attacks. The King however, would not believe him until he re-wrote the letter again from memory -- word for word. Once the man did, the King not only forgave him, but gave him a bag of gold for his honesty. When the man left the Residenz, he leaped for joy and rubbed three of the lions' heads. Now, for good luck, everybody walking past the old building rubs their heads. However, they only rub 3 of the 4 lion heads, said our tour guide, because rubbing all 4 means you are "greedy". The guide also said that rubbing 2 and a half lions' heads means you will have good sex. We were also told that inside the Residenz were more religious artifacts than inside the Vatican!
We toured around Munich some more and learned all about Hitler's rebellions, a crazy King's "mysterious suicide", how badly Munich was bombed by the Allies during World War II, how because of Hitler "open handed" gestures can get you arrested in Munich (although, ironically, the high-five was invented there) and, finally, a story about a general that was ashamed after leading a army into Russia and losing, redeemed himself after helping remove Napoleon from power.
At one point on the tour we were shown the Theatinerkirche (say "Tina Turner Church"). We were told that we could take pictures of the beautiful inside if there wasn't a service going on, but, of course, there was. However, after being told I couldn't take pictures inside the Anne Frank House and in the Red Light District, I took a few anyway. I suppose it is only fate that they all turned out blurry.
We saw the Hofgarten, the Theatremuseum (with unlawful swastikas on the ceiling) and the Hofgartenkaserne -- which was horribly destroyed by the Allies. The once stone wings of the former are now glass, and dedicated to the horrors of wars passed, the wars today and peace efforts of tomorrow instead of being a military base like before.
We ended our tour at the Hofbräuhaus, a famous bar. There we learned that real German beer doesn't cause hang-overs and can be sold by the liter inside. It was here we had supper. I had something called "Leberkase", which were 4 different types of sausages on a bed of sauerkraut and a half-liter of apfelschorle, which is apple juice mixed with carbonated mineral water. Here, we learned that the record for drinking a liter of beer is 4.8 seconds. One member of our group, Ryan (or later named Nine Stein Ryan) attempted to break it, but last I saw he could only get down to 6.2 seconds (which was still very impressive!).
I then separated from part of the group and gave them some money to pay for my portion of the bill, and then sat with some of the Japanese people in our group. They had become really close over the trip, which is probably because of the earthquake that had just hit their country a week before. One of them was Daisuke, the same person I took a cab back with in Amsterdam. I told him about my attempt to collect all the U.K. shield coins back in London. He checked his wallet and lone-behold, he had one piece of it that I didn't -- the 10 pence coin! Now I just need a 20 and a 50 pence coin and I'll have them all!
I left the Hofbräuhaus and walked the streets for a while. I found a hair-product sore that sold hair straighteners, but it was closed. I plan to go there tomorrow and see what I can find, although Mark's wife Don (who was a little bit pregnant) told me the curls gave me "character".
Speaking of curls, tonight my roommate is Josh, a very curly haired boy from Australia. Like Ralph in Amsterdam, however, he has yet to return back to the hotel from the nightlife.
Before I go to bed, I would like to enlighten you about one more German factoid: the history of orange pop. During the late 1930s, Coca-Cola was sending it's syrup to a bottling plant near Munich. However, the bottles had the Jewish kosher symbol on them. Only government members and military personal could afford Coke back then, so they told the man in charge of the bottling plant to remove the symbol. The man contacted Coca-Cola and asked them if they could remove it. The company said no, they would not remove it -- and they would no longer sell him syrup either! The man now had a bottling plant and no syrup, and as a result no income. He approached his neighbour, who happened to be an orange farmer for help. Together they produced orange-flavored syrup and, with the bottling plant, became rich! To add a touch of irony to the story, remember who now owns Orange Pop... Coca-Cola!
It's getting late and I need my energy for shopping in Munich and Innsbruck tomorrow. As they say in German, "Auf wiedersehen", or in English, "Goodbye", talk to you tomorrow!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Ever since visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg last summer, I've wanted to include more about First Nations culture on my blog. Being of European descent, I often feel I am culturally blind to First Nations culture, and I noticed a severe lack of it in my writing. In fact, I feel in past articles a lot of my focus has been on European history in the New World, with only a side note regarding First Nations history. Now, I am trying for there to be more equal representation in my blog.
To finish off my #BucketlistAB series, I thought this article would be the perfect place to flip the tables, and instead focus on First Nations culture, with a European side note. Sometimes it is impossible to talk about one without the other, but I tried to focus more on the First Nations people and their story in this article. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.