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.
Are you looking to explore the world? I recommend:
In my December newsletter I said I wasn't going to write about Regina as much anymore and focus more on international locations, but after a friend of mine told me there was no "interesting history" in my city, I decided I had to write this just to prove them wrong!
Let me know in the comments if you know something I don't, or if I got something wrong! Historical facts seem to change overtime, after all!
I'm happy to present to you, on the 113 year of its existence, 100 Facts About Regina!
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.