November 29, 2014

Sightseeing in Downtown Munich

We are in Octoberfest Capital: Munich, Bavaria. Where beer gardens are plenty, where the music is oompah, and people are dressed up in weird garbs such as dirndl and lederhosen.

We enter the pedestrian zone through Karlstor (in its core from year 1300)
and find the shops already dressed up for Christmas.

The New Town Hall on Marienplatz

At Viktualien Markt, a daily gourmet farmer's market. 
 Italian Antipasti!
 Horse meat anyone?
 We rather go with veggies.
 Or better: with cake and chocolate truffles  ;-)

A very rare Condor A580, a post WWII Swiss Army bike with flat engine and drive shaft. We found it in immaculate condition.

There are many architectural gems in Munich...

However, this likely being the most popular one: Think beer! The Hofbräu Haus, founded 1589.

A walk in the park: Englischer Garten, one of the largest urban parks in the world, larger than New York Central Park.

Underground at Münchner Freiheit in Schwabing close to the Englische Garten

Roland having his traditionally fully chocolate loaded birthday cake.

Munich is a beautiful place, a wonderfully clean and safe city, with plenty of cultural and culinary options. It won't be the last time visiting...

One final Ride

Unfortunately I had been down with the flu the better part of November, as a matter of fact I am still a bit unwell, however I am functioning, I go to work, and I travel, therefore I can also go for a ride (my doctor would beg to differ).

Insurance is going to expire in the next couple of days, and today was the only option left to deliver my Sportster to its hibernation spot. I waited until noon for the temperature gauge to climb up but it never got past 5°C (41F), so eventually I donned my gear, calculating that three layers should be enough. Well, my Michelin-Man outfit wasn't good enough today. Humidity was high, and I was frozen by the time I arrived at the garage, a mere forty clicks away from home. Thankfully Ursel, the shop manager was already waiting with a hot cuppa tea. Needless to say that I was the only two-wheeled customer today...

The bike will be tucked away until March, that's when insurance is up and running again. In the meantime Dieter, the owner and head mechanic of the garage will take care of the maintenance, a tire change, and some additional cosmetics that should make next year's touring even more comfortable, among others forward controls, a proper luggage rack, and handlebar risers will be mounted. I even consider adding a windscreen, but it has to be quick snap, because I would only want to use it on longer tours involving highways.

Sleep well, my Rover.


Ein letzter Ausritt
Leider war ich die meiste Zeit im November krank, in der Tat fühle ich mich immer noch nicht 100%ig, aber ich bin arbeitsfähig und daher kann ich auch Motorradfahren (mein Arzt würde mir das Gegenteil konstatieren). 
Mein Bruchstrich sagt mir, dass die Harley ab Dezember eingemottet werden muss, und heute war die letzte Gelegenheit für den Transfer zur Werkstatt. Ich legte also meine Drei-Lagen-Ausrüstung an, fühlte mich dabei wie das Michelin-Männchen und machte mich auf den Weg. Dennoch war ich komplett durchgefroren, als ich nach vierzig Kilometern endlich dort ankam. Dankenswerterweise wartete Ursel, die Managerin, schon mit heißem Tee auf mich. Ich war übrigens die einzige Kundin, die auf zwei Rädern daher kam...
Die Sportster wird nun bis März in der Werkstatt überwintern und während dessen eine Inspektion, einen Reifenwechsel und einige kosmetische Feinheiten verpasst bekommen. Ich will vorverlegte Fußrasten, einen ordentlichen Gepäckträger, den Lenker noch etwas höher legen und evtl. sogar eine Windschutzscheibe (quick-snap) für die längeren Touren montieren. Schlaf gut, mein Rover.

November 27, 2014

Tourist Destination Number One in Germany

We had spent the last weekend in Munich in order to celebrate Roland's birthday. It was a special birthday, one of those ending in a big zero, and it had to be celebrated royally.

It was all fogged up when we started our journey, however with the ascent into the mountains the view became clearer. Our short trip took us through the Bavarian hinterland towards one of the most popular tourist destinations of Germany, if not Europe.

By the time we arrived in Hohenschwangau the weather was stunning, although quite nippy. We were obviously here for one main reason: Insert 'royal' here! Because here is where you will find Disney's inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle: The famous Castle Neuschwanstein, the refuge of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

An annual 1.4 million visitors from all over the world come to see German Kitsch at its best. Even on this November day, the place was packed with tourist crowds.

In order to get our 'money shot' we decided to hike up the hill while most tourists take a tour bus or a horse carriage. It was the best way to enjoy the various vistas on the castle.

The ideal photo op is undeniably from Marienbrücke (Mary's bridge) for the panoramic shot of the castle and the lakes. Picture perfect!

After the hike down we had definitely earned some refreshments at lake Alpsee. Bavaria doesn't get better than this: Yes, it was November (!), and we were sitting outside (!) in a beer garden (!) enjoying an alcoholic beverage (!) in public (!).

Later back in Munich we strolled around in the park of Nymphenburg Palace, a five minutes walk from our hotel. The palace and the surrounding park area are a very crowded refuge for the locals, full with runners, photographers, lovers, dog walkers, wedding parties and - of course - tourists. The evening sky was just fantastic, and we enjoyed the beautiful light.

November 26, 2014

A Dark Lesson in History

Located about 20km northwest of Munich lies the former concentration camp of Dachau. Established by the Nazis in 1933 the camp served to imprison people of different political stance (communists, social democrats, trade unionists), or anybody of different beliefs (jews, catholics, Jehovah's witnesses) as well as repeat criminal offenders, male homosexuals, gypsies, homeless, disabled, prisoners of war, and basically anybody else who did not fit the Aryan profile.

KZ Dachau was the first camp of its kind and its set up became a prototype for all later concentration camps. Also, it served as training facility for the SS guards. Here they learned their "tools of the trade".

Death toll was high. Many people suffered and died during its twelve (!!!) years of operation through forced labour, torture, execution, malnutrition, disease, suicide and medical experiments.

The camp was surrounded by barbed wire fence, a double ditch, a wall and several guard towers which made it impossible to escape. 32 barracks housed ten thousands of prisoners, and two crematories were built to dispose of the countless bodies.

Liberation of the few survivors came with the American allies in 1945.

In 1965 the memorial site was founded through the initiative of former inmates, which got supported and financed by the Bavarian state government.

Although the sun was out, its rays didn't really enlighten the place. The atmosphere was somber. We walked the walk of the prisoners. When we entered through the gate we fell silent, we walked past the gathering place, and along the foundations of the barracks.

The barbed wire fence is rusty but very much intact, the watch towers must have provided an excellent overview for the snipers.

The crematories left us with a lump in our throats. First, people would have to undress, and get rid of their few belongings, then they were sent into the "showers" (Brausebad), in order to be gassed. Actually in Dachau the gas chambers were never used for mass killings, but the set up had been designed and invented here.

Another way of mass killing was the shooting area, a special area with a "blood ditch". 

Why could this happen, and how? We never got a satisfying answer out of our grandparents to these burning questions. "We didn't know." or "It wasn't us." were the stereotype responses.

There is nothing we can do to make this undone but it is up to all generations to follow keeping this memory alive, and to never let this happen again.